There's a new top dog among browser versions. Recent statistics show Google's latest Chrome browser has taken the No. 1 spot, bumping out the most popular version of Internet Explorer from Microsoft .
According to StatCounter.com data released Thursday, Chrome 15 now captures 24.55 percent of the world market, edging out IE8's 22.9 percent. Mozilla's Firefox 9.0 is at 14 percent, and IE9 is in fourth at 10.4 percent. Those rankings, covering the last half of November and the first week in December, are of particular release versions. \
When taken as a brand, with all versions combined, IE is still tops with 39.5 percent market share, Chrome is second at 26.5 percent, and Firefox takes a close third at 25.3 percent. As newer versions cycle in and older ones drop out, the brand rankings could begin to reflect the latest version rankings.
The Updating Mechanism
This is the first time since IE8 was released in early 2010 that it has not been in the top spot, and this is the first time any browser not developed by Microsoft has had the lead. In the U.S., IE8 still leads, at 27 percent for the week of December 5, compared with Chrome 15's 18.1 percent.
A key factor in the browser horse race appears to be the updating mechanism. Google released Chrome 16 Wednesday, which will automatically replace most users' Chrome 15 via the update mechanism. The auto-updating has been a feature of the browser since Chrome's introduction three years ago.
Mozilla has gotten some flak over its frequent update plan for Firefox, which involves user consent every six weeks to receive the latest incarnation. Firefox had previously had "silent updating," but that was dropped a year ago in favor of user notification and consent. Now, it will move back to automatic updating, expected to roll out in mid-2012.
"One of the negative side effects," wrote Mozilla developer Brian Bondy in October on his blog, "is that minor annoyances with software updates suddenly become much more noticeable. Most users don't want to think about software updates nor version numbers and now they are being forced to do so every six weeks."
On his blog, Mozilla Foundation Chairman Mitchell Baker wrote earlier this fall that users were alerted to Firefox updates "to make sure people are aware and in control of what's happening in their environment." But, he said, users are complaining of "update fatigue," because the "notifications are irritating."
The frequent updating has reportedly led to users of various browsers having to update browser-based apps on some cycle as well. But auto-upgrades are feeding the browser race, and Microsoft said Thursday it will start auto-upgrading IE in January, for users who have opted for auto-updates. Enterprises will still be able to control updates.
Previously, Microsoft had requested permission before updating, but now users will automatically receive the latest version available for that operating system version. The auto-updating for IE will start in Australia and Brazil first, and then roll out to other markets on a schedule to be announced.