All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS

22 May 12 Chrome Browser Usage Artificially Boosted

Tech blogs were abuzz yesterday over the news that Google Chrome had topped Internet Explorer in global browser market share. But the source for this story was StatCounter, which Microsoft has accused of using a somewhat flawed methodology. The other major traffic measurement site, Net Applications, reports IE as having a comfortable 54 percent of browser usage this month, with Firefox in second place with 20.20 percent and Chrome in third with 18.85 percent.

How can the results be so different? While StatCounter reported Chrome as being on top last week, even that traffic measuring site has IE back on top this week. But the real problem is just what StatCounter counts: pre-rendered Web pages that the user never saw. When a Chrome user types in a Google search, Chrome pre-loads an invisible tab in the background. StatCounter still counts this as a page view. By comparison, Net Applications removes these artificial results, as the company explained on its site.

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The Microsoft blog post also pointed out that Net Applications, unlike StatCounter, weights results by a country’s Internet-using population. Since these measuring companies depend on the number of sites using their service, this can be skewed by how many such installations exist in a given country. For example, in StatCounter’s data, Turkey is the number-two Internet-using country, and its results are based on that, while CIA data shows Turkey actually to be the fifteenth largest Internet-using country.

Another perhaps even more important factor is that StatCounter doesn’t count by unique browsers, but rather by sheer traffic volume. The volume can be artificially boosted by bots that generate huge amounts of Web traffic.

The rise in Google Chrome usage has certainly been meteoric, propelled by a button on Google’s market-dominating search site asking people to download it. And the writing may be on the wall for its ascendency. But it’s still too early to crown the only major browser without a Do Not Track feature as king of browser usage.

For more, see PCMag’s review of Chrome 18 (slideshow above), IE9, and Firefox 12.

For more from Michael, follow him on Twitter @mikemuch.

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