London – Ten years ago, Internet Explorer mercilessly vanquished the opposition in the browser wars when it achieved a staggering 95 percent share of the market.
Almost all our internet activity was seen through a Microsoft-branded window, and this unhealthy state of affairs eventually led to the United States vs Microsoft court case, in which Internet Explorer’s (IE) dominance was rigorously examined.
As it turned out, IE won the browser battle. Today in Europe it’s a three-horse race, with Firefox, IE and Google’s Chrome browser all on vaguely equal pegging. But worldwide – according to the website Statcounter – Chrome is pulling ahead. It reached pole position in March, and now it’s consistently ahead of Internet Explorer – a huge achievement for a piece of software that’s barely three years old. But with Google already having an effective monopoly over our search queries, do we really want it to preside over our browsing activity, too?
Geeks will argue fiercely about how good Chrome actually is. I’m a Chrome user myself; I love the Omnibox – which deduces whether you’re typing a URL or a search query – and it seems fast, secure and devoid of the glitches that have, over the years, caused me to drift away from Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox in turn.
But when Google scores a success, hand-wringing discussions about its information gathering habits inevitably follow. When Chrome offers us helpful suggestions based on what we’re typing into the Omnibox, what does it actually know about us? What information does it hold about the files we’ve downloaded? The answer to both questions, in the vast majority of cases, is “nothing worth worrying about”. We can even tweak Chrome’s settings to turn most data collection off. But it remains a concern for some.
Chrome’s market share is destined to grow as creaking old PC systems used across the US and Europe – including many in UK government departments – eventually get upgraded, and browsers such as the ancient and tottering IE6 are eventually abandoned. Chrome has seduced former IE users for two good reasons: it’s a great piece of software, and Google is promoting it heavily. But with Chrome reaching the top of the heap, Google’s awesome size and power increases further. And that will always prompt furrowed brows among the internet community. – The Independent
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