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Speed (and adverts) make Google Chrome the UK's no 2 browser
[August 01, 2011]

Speed (and adverts) make Google Chrome the UK's no 2 browser

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Google's Chrome is Britain's second most popular browser, a sign of the internet giant's increasing grip on the UK search market.

Three years after launch, Chrome last month captured 22% of UK users and marginally overtook Mozilla's Firefox browser, according to the web metrics firm Statcounter. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is losing market share to Chrome but remains the most popular browser for UK users with 45% - although it has a head start by being pre-installed on almost all computers sold in Britain. Apple's Safari is UK number four, with a 9% share.

Google's rise in the browser market is in part down to nationwide advertising - Chrome is the first Google product advertised on British TV - but is largely attributed to its speed.

Lars Bak, the Google engineer responsible for Chrome, said the goal had never been to attract a huge user base, but to energise a dormant browser market: "Speed is a fundamental part of it, but it's also about the minimal design and the way it handles security. If you as a user try [to load] a webpage and it feels snappy, it's really hard to go back [to another browser]. It has shown that people spend more time interacting with the web." Unlike most of Google's talent based at its Mountain View headquarters in California, Bak works from a converted farmhouse in the Danish countryside two hours from Copenhagen. He has become obsessed with speed, and despite numerous tests that show Chrome outstrips all rivals, he thinks it could be much faster. "You should never be happy with [existing] speed," he said. "Of course it gets harder to make substantial gains, but it's all healthy competition. From the beginning we wanted everybody to be fast, and now all browsers are fast. I'm absolutely flabbergasted [by the improvements made by rival browsers]." Chrome is the number three worldwide, with a 20.65% market share according to Statcounter. But analysts expect it to edge ahead of Firefox, which has dipped since January. Microsoft's Internet Explorer has also fallen heavily, to 43%, with warnings about security vulnerabilities.

Google last month announced its Chromebook laptop, based on its browser and seen as another ambitious attack on Microsoft; it will be made by Samsung and Acer, companies that previously made computers running Microsoft's software.

Unlike most computers, the Chromebook has almost no capacity to store and hosts most data online in a "cloud". Bak said: "The Chromebook is really important because it tries to simplify the machine - it is basically no maintenance, which means you can cut the price. If all you are doing is using a browser it's a fantastic tool." Captions: 22% Chrome's share of the UK browser market; Internet Explorer stays top with 45%, while Firefox is third and Safari fourth (c) 2011 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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