New data suggests that users who spend the most time online have switched from Internet Explorer to Chrome or Firefox.
Google Chrome's rise in popularity has been remarkably fast and it's just hit a new milestone: more than 20% of all browser usage, according to StatCounter.
Chrome rose from only 2.8% in June 2009 to 20.7% worldwide in June 2011, while Microsoft's Internet Explorer fell from 59% to 44% in the same time frame. Firefox dropped only slightly in the past two years, from 30% to 28%.
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Chrome first hit 10% in August 2010 and was still at 19% in May before surpassing 20% in June.
If Chrome's numbers seem a bit high that's because StatCounter's method of tracking highlights Google's strength: attracting power users.
Net Applications, another usage tracker, shows Chrome rising fast as well, up to more than 13% usage compared to Microsoft's 54% and Firefox's 22%.
But the groups count differently. While Net Applications tracks a browser's total number of users, StatCounter measures the total number of website clicks. That means a Chrome user who surfs the Web more often than an Internet Explorer user has more weight in the StatCounter ranking.
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The discrepancy between the two groups' findings suggests that users who spend the most time online have switched from Internet Explorer to Chrome or Firefox.
"It is a superb achievement by Google to go from under 3% two years ago to over 20% today," StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said in a press release. "While Google has been highly effective in getting Chrome downloaded the real test is actual browser usage which our stats measure."
StatCounter measures 15 billion page views per month, including 4 billion from the United States across a network of more than three million websites.
Chrome's rise has been most pronounced in South America where it is the second-most used browser ahead of Firefox and behind Internet Explorer.
In the United States, "Chrome has risen to 16% behind market leader IE on 46.5% and Firefox on 24.7%," StatCounter said.
Data from Net Applications, which tracks unique visitors to 40,000 websites, show that IE usage dropped from 60.5% in August 2010 to 53.7% in June 2011, while Chrome rose from 7.5% to 13.1% in the same period.
Net Applications also tracks usage of mobile devices, and has found that more than 5% of all Web browsing is now occurring from smartphones and tablets. The trend toward mobile browsing is even more pronounced in the U.S., where 8.2% of all browsing takes place on mobile devices. Of that, 2.9% of U.S. Web browsing comes on the iPhone, 2.6% on Android devices, and 2.1% on the iPad with BlackBerry next at 0.57%.
That means Apple's iOS accounts for 5% of U.S. Web browsing, making it the most popular mobile platform. (See also: "iPad's Web browsing share 53 times greater than top Android tablets")
While Microsoft's share of the browser market has constantly declined over the past few years, there is some good news: Net Applications says Internet Explorer 9 is now the second most widely used browser on Windows 7, behind only IE8. In April, we noted that IE9 topped Firefox 4 on Windows 7, but was well behind the latest version of Chrome. Now IE9 is gaining a stronger foothold on Windows 7, accounting for 15.6% of users worldwide.