New features push Chrome to 1% web usage share

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Chicago (IL) - Ever since Google launched Chrome in September, the browser has been struggling to reach and maintain a 1% market share. The company tried a short-cut to more downloads by pushing it on the Google homepage and YouTube with little success. But we are seeing some movement now: Version 0.4 introduced a new bookmark manager and Chrome's web usage share jumped to 1% for the first time since the days immediately following the browser’s debut.

Chrome has had a bumpy ride so far. The browser recorded a record 1.16% market share immediately after its launch in early September, but has been struggling to keep its traction since then: As the novelty wore off, users seemed to return to other browsers for everyday surfing. This trend resulted in a slow but constant decline of Chrome's web usage share. On October 15 and October 22 Chrome touched a low of 0.69%. Overall, Chrome has been hovering between 0.7% and 0.8% for most of October and November.

It was apparent that Google tried a few not so fair tactics to push its browser onto more computers, but it seems that what users are really looking for are more frequent updates and a new features.

Chrome on Google.com and YouTube

Google first added Chrome links on the Google homepage, hoping that exposure will translate into more Chrome users but that did not work. The move also sparked some controversy when Google re-buffed complaints about a one-word privacy link on its homepage by citing its own policy that restricts the homepage to 28 words. When Google added a nine-word Chrome download link on the homepage, watchdogs accused the company violating that rule as Chrome link broke the 28-words limit. The link appeared on and off on international Google homepages until it was permanently removed. Google  also experimented with a similar download link on YouTube, but recently decided to remove it as well.

New features push Chrome to 1% milestone on Thanksgiving

Although Chrome is an excellent browser, it lacks some features that are considered basic elements in rival browsers. Chrome 0.4.154.22, released on November 18, finally delivered a new bookmark manager, a refined pop-up blocker and several other tweaks. Apparently, users took notice: On November 18, all Chrome versions recorded an aggregated 0.81% web usage share, but Net Applications data sheds more light on the decline of version 0.3 and the surge of version 0.4 over the past two weeks: Version 0.3 dropped from 0.78% to 0.07% while version 0.4 climbed from 0.01% to 0.88% - which would be an indication of renewed interest from users who had used the software occasionally.

Chrome's average web usage share in November was 0.83%, up from 0.74% a month ago. It eclipsed Opera's 0.71% (down from 0.75% in October) and almost matched the 0.84% share posted by IE8 (beta 1 and 2) in November (up from 0.59% in October). The aggregated web usage share of all Chrome versions has been on the rise since version 0.4 was released and hit the 1% milestone on Thanksgiving for the first time since the days immediately following its launch. Like Chrome, rival consumer browsers like Firefox also show spikes on holidays and weekends, but Chrome's upward trend clearly coincides with the version 0.4 release. With that in mind, it is safe to assume that new features in Chrome 0.4 may have brought functionality some users have been waiting for.

We can argue over the question how much the extended weekend contributed to Chrome’s 1% hit. However, we believe that the combined effect of the download push, the new features and the holiday are responsible for the gains, with new features probably being the strongest factor that convinced people to give Chrome another spin.

For now, Google’s Chrome strategy should be clear: Update the software frequently.