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Seven Reasons Why Google Chrome Could Take the Lead


Now that Firefox has dipped, Chrome could start gunning for Internet Explorer.

Firefox now has its own version of the Four-Minute Mile. The designated "alternative browser" to Microsoft's (MSFT) ever-dominant Internet Explorer has seen its market share steadily rise since its 2004 debut, but recent months it's shown a slight dip in popularity. November 2009 saw Mozilla's plucky program edge closest to a 25% share and start to fall -- failing to officially reach one in four Web users.

While the drop since then has been a fraction of a percentage point, one browser is showing noticeable gains since its release and could be a major reason why Firefox is losing users: Google Chrome (GOOG).

According to Ars Technica, Chrome was the only browser to show positive gains last month, though it's still far behind Firefox and IE at 5.61% of the market. However, recent developments have buoyed Chrome past Apple's (AAPL) Safari browser and could potentially put it within a stone's throw of Firefox in the future. And who knows? In a few years time, certain scenarios could make even Microsoft start to sweat.

Here are seven reasons why Chrome is picking up steam.

1. A trusted name.
People know Google, people use Google, people trust Google -- for the most part. The company behind the ubiquitous search engine and favorite email client is now capable of launching just about any app with an existing user base in the hundreds of millions. The average person probably couldn't give you the name of the company behind the Opera browser -- even if the answer's right in front of them -- but any person in a conscious state could tell you the most popular search engine of all time.

2. High-profile ad banners.
Take the number of people using Google's search engine and watching the latest OK Go video on YouTube and multiply that number by two. The answer is the number of eyeballs potentially seeing an ad for Google Chrome in the corner. As any marketing exec could assert, a consumer can only be inundated with a product so much until he surrenders. Or at least gives it a test run. And speaking of YouTube...

3. The switch to HTML5.

The gradual decline and imminent death of Adobe Flash (ADBE) will soon give way to HTML5 video. (See Google, IAC Begin Adobe Flash's Death March). Cleaner and more secure, HTML5 video is seeing early support in a number of browsers, but guess which ones are still hobbled by the code. Yep, Firefox and IE. Without any add-ons, the two browsers can't display HTML5 video with the proper codec, so naturally, Google implemented it into YouTube. As it stands, only Chrome and Safari support HTML5 video without a hitch, and IE requires an extension that mimics -- yep -- Google Chrome. And while we're on the subject...

4. The death of Internet Explorer 6.
A bane of every Web developer across the world, last month the nine-year-old IE6 commanded an inexcusable 20% share of users running any version of Microsoft's browser. So, acting in the best interest of users, developers, and itself, Google ceased allowing IE6 access to its line of Web apps this week and will end support on YouTube starting March 13. (See Microsoft's Old Browser Gets an Irish Funeral). Sure, the user will be prompted to upgrade their browser -- and more likely than not, that will just be a higher version of IE. However, there's still a disconnect between function and obsolescence that can persuade the user to a competitor.

5. Growing developer support.
Perhaps the main reason keeping Firefox devotees from jumping ship to Chrome was its lack of extensions. Firefox might be above average out of the box, but add-ons are what give it a personal touch. Once Chrome started supporting extensions like Adblock and Xmarks -- as well as add Mac support -- not only did this draw the attention of the user but also developers who have turned Chrome's extension library into one that can rival Firefox's. As the number of third-party developers grows, so will the user base.

6. Firefox's growing bloat.
There was a time when Firefox was the only viable alternative to Microsoft's reigning champion. But competitors have been working hard to design browsers to deliver sites the fastest and with a minimal memory footprint. Firefox, unfortunately, still bears the mark of a RAM hog, and recent speed tests show it lagging behind Chrome in load times. Given the choice between the two, the decision today is vastly different from when Chrome first premiered.

7. Chrome OS.
Sometime in the latter half of the year, Google will unveil its lightweight operating system -- appropriately named Chrome OS. While the cloud-based netbook interface will turn off many consumers, there are some who will gravitate to the notion of quick and easy Web apps over bloated desktop apps. And some analysts would argue that's where the industry is headed. If so, looks like Google has a lengthy head start.
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