By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated September 03, 2010.
Google's Chrome browser is now two years old, and the youngster -- and its proud parent -- are celebrating its steady rise in popularity. According to Net Applications, Chrome had 7.5 percent of the browser market in August -- putting it in third place behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox, and above Apple's Safari.
That market share is a slight rise from the 7.2 percent market share the browser had in July, while IE dropped 0.3 percent from last month and Firefox stayed even. In May, the search giant said Chrome had 70 million users worldwide.
To celebrate, Google is releasing Chrome version 6, which product manager Brian Rakowski described on the company blog as "even faster and more streamlined" than the previous version. Rakowski cited several changes in the new browser, including a "minimalist user interface," the combination of two menus into one, an adjustment of the color scheme, and other modifications.
Looking into the future, he said Google is planning to make the browser faster, to improve graphics performance through hardware acceleration, and to launch later this year The Chrome Web Store, with apps designed for use in standards-based browsers.
Google has indicated that Chrome was designed to be more of a platform for applications than other browsers. Both the browser and Google's in-progress Chrome operating system are derived from the Chromium open-source project.
Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, said the relationship between the Chrome browser and the Chromium project "was a bit of a mystery to me," although he suspects the core rendering engine was used in both.
Google is still trying to sort out the Chrome OS positioning against its open-source Android portable operating system, suggested Al Hilwa, program director for application development at industry research firm IDC. Android has enjoyed a huge rise in popularity, being used on a steadily increasing number of smartphones and tablets.
Hilwa noted that a key question about the Chrome 6 browser is "how good is the HTML5 implementation?" Compared to other browsers, Hilwa said, Chrome's implementation is speedy, but the "more important question" will be the strength of its privacy and security features.
Hammond said Chrome has more advanced support for HTML5 than other browsers, except perhaps Safari, "at least until [Internet Explorer] 9 comes out." Apple has been particularly vocal about promoting HTML5 technologies in lieu of Adobe's Flash, which it has prohibited from running on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.
As an application platform, Hammond said, the Chrome OS is appealing to many developers because it will be found on "a lot of devices, particularly a lot of mobile ones." He noted that, while the browser has about 7.5 percent of the market, it's the browser of choice for a much higher percentage of developers -- which he estimates at anywhere between 15 and 20 percent. "It's become a reasonable alternative to Firefox," he said, "for those who don't want to use IE."