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Google Chrome, Out of Beta. Will That Be Enough?

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null Google’s Chrome browser came out of beta today. Chrome is critical to the company’s overall cloud-centric computing vision, yet after more than three months in beta, its market share remains abysmally small. So while it might be the fastest beta-to-full launch offering from Google yet, will that be enough? (Full story below the fold.)Google’s V-P of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, ruined the official coming-out party of the Chrome browser when she said yesterday that the company would soon take it out of beta. She spoke a day too soon — must be the jet lag, as she’s been in Paris attending Le Web — for the release of Chrome’s final version takes place today. And while it might be the fastest beta-to-full launch offering from Google yet, the question remains: Is that enough?

On their blog, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Linus Upson talk about improvements such as more stability, better video playback performance, and massive gains in speed. The final version also has better bookmarking capability and privacy controls. What more’s, the company claims it’s developing an extension platform, along with support for Mac and Linux. It will need those versions in order to get broader adoption.

browsersDespite being available for more than three months in beta form, Chrome’s share of the browser market has remained abysmally small. According to some estimates, it has a market share of less than one percent, below Microsoft’s (s msft) Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple’s (s appl) Safari.

There have been some recent gains in the browser’s market share mostly because Google has been promoting the browser on its home page, according to browser tracker Net Applications’ Hitlink, even though it had “initially refused to place a one-word privacy link on their home page claiming a 28-word limit for the page.” Google Chrome is available only for Windows platform for now.

chartchromeshare2008The browser, it seems, has hit a bit of a plateau, a fact that’s reflected in its share of traffic on this blog. As you might remember, I wrote about the first one month of Chrome, noting that it had about 5.6 percent of the total traffic to GigaOM, and between 2.24 percent and 6.13 percent across our network of seven sites.

The information collected by Hitlink mirrors the plateau on Chrome’s share on GigaOM, and it seems to have actually slipped to about 5 percent. I guess Mozilla’s John Lilly was right in not worrying too much about Google.

The marginal growth in the browser’s market share is not good for Google, which needs the browser to grow as part of its overall cloud-centric computing vision. This desktop share is critical for the company if it hopes that Chrome is going to be a dominant player on mobiles and other alternative devices. Apple has shown this kind of desktop-to-mobile seamlessness (well almost) on its Safari browser.

Earlier this month, Google launched its extension framework for Chrome, which we pointed out was a way for the company to tie the browser into apps that run on Google’s App Engine. In other words, it was offering an entire ecosystem for cloud-based applications.

With the Chrome extensions, Google has made it possible for ISVs to launch ready-made niche applications for the cloud. It’s the same thing Facebook did with its API and Salesforce did with AppExchange; in Google’s case, ISVs now have a turnkey channel that can reach small businesses easily.

As we have noted time and again, Chrome is of critical importance to Google, but at its current market share, with moribund growth, the search giant isn’t going to realize many of its grand dreams anytime soon.

24 Responses to “Google Chrome, Out of Beta. Will That Be Enough?”


    Where is the god forsaken mac version of chrome.

    What is taking Google so long.

    I hope this moribund start teaches Google a lesson.

    Always start with Mac Users.

  2. Chrome has been my primary browser for about 6 weeks. It does what I need a browser to do better than IE7, IE8, Safari, and FF3. No doubt it’s imperfect…what software isn’t? I am an agnostic software user. No religious platform wars for me, thank you. Open source vs proprietary–Mac vs PC–Microsoft vs Google–on and on…I don’t care. I just use the best available products to do what I need to do. Chrome is simply the best browser I’ve ever used.

  3. A critical mistake by Google was to release it on Windows first and not the Mac. The early adopter crowd and the unencumbered geek elite are on macs nowadays Google. In fact prominent bloggers had to switch to virtualization / scurry around for a windows box to try the browser out.

    Sure I see why Google would be hesitant to put out another webkit browser on the mac, but not doing so turned out to be a big marketing failure.

    Once it catches on in the mac world then the real majority i.e. Windows users would start trying it because of the buzz. Anyway I see another bump for Chrome when the mac version releases, most people really interested in Chrome were on the mac anyway…

    But long term – Chrome needs to think about how they are different from Firefox. [email protected] hits it right on the head – Whats new for the user? Why should a user switch. I think there are some small features, just that Google has not done a good job of explaining about why people should switch

  4. Hmm, what constitutes a better browser?
    Mosaic was better then any X-Windows browser I had used because of inline graphics.
    IE just took over because it was free and came with the OS, while Netscape couldn’t figure out how to make money from it’s browser and how to build a paltform.
    FF is gaining ground because of neglect on Microsoft’s part for IE in terms of security and missing add-ons.
    My guess is people using FF because they can make it “better” for them because they can pick and choose which add-ons to use.
    Never used Chrome, why should I?
    What’s better for me, not Google?

  5. Robert Lindley

    I tried Chrome simply because the CEO of my company uses it. He’s one of the .01% of our traffic that uses it so we had to test it out. It’s sad that while i’m browsing 5 sites each site spawns a new process taking up 30,000K each while IE7 uses 38,000K for all the sites under its browser. Not saying IE8 did much better, but i’ll never use Chrome. We told the CEO to accept the lack of support as we don’t plan on considering it a viable browser anytime in the near future.

  6. @Erica and others,

    No one said that they need to get as big as IE – what is the issue right now is the slowing growth in its market share — they need to be thinking about that as well as fixing all sorts of problems and bugs and improvements they need to be making.

    I say this because as a company they have a mixed track record of being able to push things hard and make them a success.

    @Erica, I certainly hope they give Microsoft and others a run for their money. Nothing improves browsers than a real competitor. We say that happen with IE 4 when Netscape became bloatware, we say that with re-surgent Firefox and then Safari and now hopefully Chrome.

  7. I wouldn’t count Google out yet. IE 1.0 (yes, I actually used it!) was a terrible browser compared to Netscape. But by 4.0, they were about even in market share, and when IE released 5.0 and Netscape was still on 4.5, it was clear Microsoft had won.

    This is quite a decent 1.0 effort. If Google thinks it’s important enough to continue to commit developer time to, we may well see it eclipse other browsers by version 3 or 4.


  8. Personally, until Chrome releases an addon system that can either use the addons from FF or have addons for their browser, I won’t be making the switch. I simply can’t live without my addons from FireFox.

  9. The problems with Chrome that I experienced were:

    1) Crashing quite frequently.
    2) Failing to render all websites correctly – even sites that show up fine in IE6 & 7 and FF.

    Until they fix those there’s no point in Chrome.