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Chrome is new but not so shiny

September 25, 2008|Jessica Guynn | Times Staff Writer

Shortly after Google Inc. unveiled Chrome, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said the new Web browser "represents some of the best Google can do." He encouraged everyone to try it.

But not many people are. Chrome gained market share within the first 24 hours of its release Sept. 2, but since then it has given back much of those small gains to the leaders, Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.

That's according to Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at Internet measurement firm Net Applications.

Chrome shot up to 1% of the market but has since fallen to 0.8% as of last week. Apple Inc.'s Safari was not affected since Google has yet to release a version to run on the Mac operating system. Chrome is currently duking it out with Opera for fourth place.

Net Applications tracks the browsers of unique visitors to 2 million websites.

"Chrome started off pretty fast and furious," Vizzaccaro said. "Within 24 hours they surpassed 1% of usage market share, which was shocking and impressive. Since then, they have been slowly fading."

Microsoft declined to comment other than to pump up its latest version of Internet Explorer as "faster, easier, more safe and reliable than ever before."

Mozilla's John Lilly said it was premature to draw any conclusions. "It's only been three weeks," he said. "We don't know anything about anything yet." But he added that Firefox was "seeing lots and lots of users come back."

So, if users are returning to Explorer and Firefox, why? Are they not convinced that Chrome offers the speed or features that would get them to ditch their current browsers? Are they concerned about privacy? It's hard to tell, although Chrome gets more usage at night than during the day when people are at work.

Google said: "We're pleased with the response we've gotten from users thus far."

To reverse the slide, Google will have to market Chrome, Vizzaccaro said. Thus far, Google has settled for promoting it on its home page and sponsoring links on the Google and Yahoo search engines.

So far, there have been no announcements about deals with vendors such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to get Chrome pre-loaded on PCs. (That's how Microsoft trounced Netscape during the first browser wars back in the 1990s, although Firefox has captured market share without crafting such deals.)

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jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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