Tag Archives: chrome

Google on innovation – or should that be copying?

Patrick Copeland, Google Director of Engineering, gave the keynote at QCon London this morning. His theme was innovation: how it works at Google and elsewhere.

I was expecting some background on Google’s famous 20% time, where employees spent up to one day a week on something not in their job description, but I don’t think Copeland even mentioned it. In fact, he almost argued against it. There is no shortage of bright ideas, he said, and Google has over 100,000 of them in a database; but what matters is not idea, but innovators who have the ability to take a good idea and make it into a product.

He added that whatever “it” may be, building the right “it” is more important than building “it” right. If what you build is the wrong thing, it will not succeed, whereas the right idea will sometimes succeed despite poor implementation. Twitter and its well-known fail whale comes to mind.

Google’s record on innovation is mixed. You can make a long list of Google projects that have failed, from Lively – a kind of Second Life clone – to Google Wave. “You want to fast fail when things aren’t working” said Copeland, making the best of it.

On the other hand, Copeland mentioned GMail as a positive example. I would quibble a bit with this: was GMail innovation, or simply Hotmail done right?

Copeland also mentioned two other examples. The Chrome browser, he said, had two goals: to streamline the user interface so less screen space was wasted, and to have a fast JavaScript engine to show off Google apps. He also observed that rival browsers have copied both ideas; and it is true that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9, which will be released on March 14, happens to have both these features.

What about Android? Copeland said that the Android strategy vs Apple is similar to that of the clone PCs vs IBM in the eighties. He tried to make a point of innovation here, observing that IBM could not compete with innovation from many independent vendors, but this seems to me a stretch. The point about the clone PCs was that they were kind-of the same as the IBM PC but cheaper and faster. It was more about copying than about innovating. I think you can see this playing out with Apple vs Android to some extent, in that there are customers who will end up with an Android smartphone or tablet because it is kind-of the same as an iPhone or iPad but cheaper or with better specifications.

On the other hand, Apple is doing a better job at differentiation than IBM achieved with its PC; and technically iPhone apps do not run on Android so the parallel is far from exact. Many of the same apps are available for both iPhone and Android, so from user’s perspective there is some similarity.

The quick summary then: most innovations fail, and you need innovators rather than simply bright idea. The implication is that successful innovation happens when you have a company with lots of money to spend on projects that will likely fail, and that has a culture which attracts innovators. Google ticks both boxes.

Incidentally, when I asked how Google identifies its innovators Copeland said that you do not need to. They make a nuisance of themselves, so if you have them, you know.

Google flexes its Chrome browser muscles, removes support for H.264 video – but what about Adobe Flash?

Google has announced that it will remove support for the H.264 video codec in its Chrome browser:

…we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 <video> support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

The reason given is that Google wishes to support open standards. That sounds good for open standards, but not so good for users who simply want a video to play.

Google’s position contrasts that of Microsoft with IE9:

In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows

Still, at least IE9 will play VP8 if the codec is installed, so that makes VP8 look a better option for content providers – which is the outcome Google is hoping for.

I have mixed feelings about this approach, because while it is good for open standards it is bad for compatibility. I am also not sure that it is consistent. Google announced in June that it is integrating Adobe Flash support into the browser; yet Flash is not an open standard.

That also suggests that H.264 video will still play in Chrome, provided it is in a Flash wrapper.

Maybe Google is learning from Apple how to deprecate technologies by removing support. Apple refuses to allow Java or Flash on iOS, and has stopped doing its own build of Java for OS X. Apple has also stated that these “optional” components may not be used in apps that are deployed in the Mac App Store, thus making a disincentive for developers considering those runtimes.

Apple has not squashed Flash though; and Google may find it equally hard to squash H.264, which is widely supported throughout the industry, has the best tools, and for which hardware is optimised. Apple supports H.264 but is unlikely to support WebM or Theora any time soon. Here’s what Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in April 2010:

To achieve long battery life when playing video, mobile devices must decode the video in hardware; decoding it in software uses too much power. Many of the chips used in modern mobile devices contain a decoder called H.264 – an industry standard that is used in every Blu-ray DVD player and has been adopted by Apple, Google (YouTube), Vimeo, Netflix and many other companies.

Although Flash has recently added support for H.264, the video on almost all Flash websites currently requires an older generation decoder that is not implemented in mobile chips and must be run in software. The difference is striking: on an iPhone, for example, H.264 videos play for up to 10 hours, while videos decoded in software play for less than 5 hours before the battery is fully drained.

When websites re-encode their videos using H.264, they can offer them without using Flash at all. They play perfectly in browsers like Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome without any plugins whatsoever, and look great on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

It seems Jobs spoke too soon when he said H.264 would play perfectly in Chrome.

Post updated to add Apple quote

Creating a Web Application for the Google Chrome Web Store

I noticed an old post here getting a lot of hits: My first Google Chrome Web Application. Unfortunately it was based on an early version of Chrome’s app format. Here is an update.

My web application in this example is this blog. I created a manifest in Notepad:


Next, using my artistic skills, I made an icon of the required size: 128×128. I used .png format.

Then I put the manifest and the icon into a folder called itwriting-app. I tested it by using Chrome’s Tools – Extensions – Load unpacked extension. It worked fine.


Next I compressed  the folder to a zip file. I just right-clicked in Windows and chose Send to – Compressed (zipped) folder.

Then I logged into the Developer Dashboard at the Chrome Web Store (I had to pay $5.00) and uploaded the app:


Next, I had to complete some metadata. I chose a couple of categories, uploaded the icon as the image for the app, and uploaded a screenshot of a sample article. Clicked Publish Changes and it was done.


If you click Install, you get an icon in the Chrome Apps list, which appears when you open a new tab.


Of course it is just a link to a web site. Why is this interesting?

A few reasons. One is that it is easy to get started, which promotes usage.

Next, you can charge for your app. Once the user has paid, you use the Licensing API to check whether the user has paid, or is a trial user, or has not paid. This also depends on the user’s Google ID, promoting Google’s identity system as well as its payment system. Users get single sign-on if they are already logged into Google. Developers do not have to worry about storing passwords, which can be an embarrassment.

Web Apps are also interesting if you request additional permissions. There are three at the moment: geolocation, notifications, and unlimited storage. These give additional capabilities to your app. You can also enable autoupdating.

Finally, Google wants us to accept that web applications are apps too, blurring the boundaries between desktop, mobile device, and web.

Ten big tech trends from 2010

This was an amazing year for tech. Here are some of the things that struck me as significant.

Sun Java became Oracle Java

Oracle acquired Sun and set about imposing its authority on Java. Java is still Java, but Oracle lacks Sun’s commitment to open source and community – though even in Sun days there was tension in this area. That was nothing to the fireworks we saw in 2010, with Java Community Process members resigning, IBM switching from its commitment to the Apache Harmony project to the official OpenJDK, and the Apache foundation waging a war of words against Oracle that was impassioned but, it seems, futile.

Microsoft got cloud religion

Only up to a point, of course. This is the Windows and Office company, after all. However – and this is a little subjective – this was the year when Microsoft convinced me it is serious about Windows Azure for hosting our applications and data. In addition, it seems to me that the company is willing to upset its partners if necessary for the sake of its hosted Exchange and SharePoint – BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite), soon to become Office 365.

This is a profound change for Microsoft, bearing in mind its business model. I spoke to a few partners when researching this article for the Register and was interested by the level of unease that was expressed.

Microsoft also announced some impressive customer wins for BPOS, especially in government, though the price the customers pay for these is never mentioned in the press releases.

Microsoft Silverlight shrank towards Windows-only

Silverlight is Microsoft’s browser plug-in which delivers multimedia and the .NET Framework to Windows and Mac; it is also the development platform for Windows Phone 7. It still works on a Mac, but in 2010 Microsoft made it clear that cross-platform Silverlight is no longer its strategy (if it ever was), and undermined the Mac version by adding Windows-specific features that interoperate with the local operating system. Silverlight is still an excellent runtime, powerful, relatively lightweight, easy to deploy, and supported by strong tools in Visual Studio 2010. If you have users who do not run Windows though, it now looks a brave choice.

The Apple iPad was a hit

I still have to pinch myself when thinking about how Microsoft now needs to catch up with Apple in tablet computing. I got my first tablet in 2003, yes seven years ago, and it ran Windows. Now despite seven years of product refinement it is obvious that Windows tablets miss the mark that Apple has hit with its first attempt – though drawing heavily on what it learnt with the equally successful iPhone. I see iPads all over the place, in business as well as elsewhere, and it seems to me that the success of a touch interface on this larger screen signifies a transition in personal computing that will have a big impact.

Google Android was a hit

Just when Apple seemed to have the future of mobile computing in its hands, Google’s Android alternative took off, benefiting from mass adoption by everyone-but-Apple among hardware manufacturers. Android is not as elegantly designed or as usable as Apple’s iOS, but it is close enough; and it is a relatively open platform that runs Adobe Flash and other apps that do not meet Apple’s approval. There are other contenders: Microsoft Windows Phone 7; RIM’s QNX-based OS in the PlayBook; HP’s Palm WebOS; Nokia Symbian and Intel/Nokia MeeGo – but how many mobile operating systems can succeed? Right now, all we can safely say is that Apple has real competition from Android.

HP fell out with Microsoft

Here is an interesting one. The year kicked off with a press release announcing that HP and Microsoft love each other to the extent of $250 million over three years – but if you looked closely, that turned out to be less than a similar deal in 2006. After that, the signs were even less friendly. HP acquired Palm in April, signalling its intent to compete with Windows Mobile rather than adopting it; and later this year HP announced that it was discontinuing its Windows Home Server range. Of course HP remains a strong partner for Windows servers, desktops and laptops; but these are obvious signs of strain.

The truth though is that these two companies need one another. I think they should kiss and make up.

eBook readers were a hit

I guess this is less developer-oriented; but 2010 was the year when electronic book publishing seemed to hit the mainstream. Like any book lover I have mixed feelings about this and its implications for bookshops. I doubt we will see books disappear to the same extent as records and CDs; but I do think that book downloads will grow rapidly over the next few years and that paper-and-ink sales will diminish. It is a fascinating tech battle too: Amazon Kindle vs Apple iPad vs the rest (Sony Reader, Barnes and Noble Nook, and others which share their EPUB format). I have a suspicion that converged devices like the iPad may win this one, but displays that are readable in sunlight have special requirements so I am not sure.

HTML 5 got real

2010 was a huge year for HTML 5 – partly because Microsoft announced its support in Internet Explorer 9, currently in beta; and partly because the continued growth of browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, and the WebKit-based Google Chrome, Apple Safari and numerous mobile browsers showed that HTML 5 would be an important platform with or without Microsoft. Yes, it is fragmented and unfinished; but more and more of HTML 5 is usable now or in the near future.

Adobe Flash survived Apple and HTML 5

2010 was the year of Steve Jobs’ notorious Thoughts on Flash as well as a big year for HTML 5, which encroaches on territory that used to require the services of a browser plug-in. Many people declared Adobe Flash dead, but the reality was different and the company had a great year. Apple’s focus on design and usability helps Adobe’s design-centric approach even while Apple’s refusal to allow Flash on its mobile computers opposes it.

Windows 7 was a hit

Huge relief in Redmond as Windows 7 sold and sold. The future belongs to mobile and cloud; but Windows is not going away soon, and version 7 is driving lots of upgrades as even XP diehards move over. I’m guessing that we will get first sight of Windows 8 in 2011. Another triumph, or another Vista?

Google’s web app vision: use our store

I’m at the Future of Web Applications conference in London, a crazy mixture of tips for web start-ups and general discussion about application development in a web context. The first session was from Google’s Michael Mahemoff who enthused about HTML5 and open web standards, while refusing to be pinned down on what HTML5 is, which standards are in and which may in the end be out.

Microsoft is here showing off IE9; but one of my reflections is that while the HTML5 support in IE9 is impressive in itself, there are going to be important parts of what, say, Google considers to be part of HTML5 that will not be in IE9, and given the pace of Microsoft’s browser development, probably will not turn up for some time. In other words, the pressure to switch to Chrome, Firefox or some other browser will likely continue.

I digress. Mahemoff identified four key features of web apps – by which he means something different than just an application on the web. These are:

  • Local storage – encompassing local storage API and also local SQL, though the latter is not yet well advanced
  • Application cache – Cache Manifest in HTML 5 that lets your app run offline
  • Local installation – interesting as this is something which is not yet widely used, but clearly part of Google’s vision for Chrome, and also in IE9 to some extent.
  • Payments

The last of these is interesting, and I sensed Mahemoff showing some discomfort as he steered his way between open web standards on the one hand, and Google-specific features on the other. He presented the forthcoming Chrome Web Store as the solution for taking payments for your web app, whether one-time or subscription.

I asked how this would work with regard to the payment provider – could you freely use PayPal, direct debits or other systems? He said that you could do if you wanted, but he anticipated that most users would use the system built into Chrome Web Store which I presume is Google Checkout. After all, he said, users will already be logged in, and this will offer the smoothest payment experience for them.

The side effect is that if Chrome Web Store takes off, Google gets to make a ton of money from being the web’s banker.

Outside in the exhibition area Vodafone is promoting its 360 app store, with payments going through the mobile operator, ie in this case Vodafone. Vodafone’s apps are for mobile not for web, but it is relevant because it is trying to draw users away from Google’s Android Marketplace and onto its own store. PayPal is here too, showing its developer API.

The app store and payment provider wars will be interesting to watch.

Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 beta is out

Head over to http://www.beautyoftheweb.com/ and you can download the beta of Internet Explorer 9, which is now up and running on my Windows 7 64-bit machine and looking good so far.

So what’s new? In terms of the rendering engine, this is like the last Platform Preview, but a little bit further along. During the briefing, we looked at at the experimental (and impressive) site put together by EMC, which shows 3D rotation of a motor vehicle along with other effects, put together entirely in HTML 5. At the time I only had the fourth platform preview installed, and the site did not work. Amusingly, I was advised to use Google Chrome, which worked fine. Now that I’ve installed the beta, the same site works in IE9, rather more smoothly than in Chrome.

What’s really new though is the user interface. The two things that jump out are the adoption of a single box for search and URL entry – many users do not understand the difference anyway – and the ability to drag tabs to the taskbar to pin them there like application shortcuts. Once pinned, they support Windows 7 Jump Lists, even when the site is not active:


If you squint at this screenshot, you’ll notice that the Discovery site, which is tweaked to use this feature, has a good-looking icon as well as a Jump List, whereas the icons adjacent to it look bad. That’s because you need to create a new large favicon to support this feature, as well as optionally adding metadata to create the Jump List. None of this is any use, of course, if you use Vista; and if you use XP you cannot even install IE9.

There’s also a download manager at last.

There’s no doubt that IE9 is miles better than IE8. Is it better than rivals like Chrome, from which a casual observer might think it has drawn inspiration? Too soon to say; but using the official native browser does have advantages, like integration with Windows Update as well integration with the OS.

That said, I’m not personally a big fan of the single box approach, and I’ll miss the permanent menus. If you press the Alt key the old File, Edit View etc magically appear, but I can’t see any way to make it persist.

Google Chrome Mac and Linux arrives – may hurt Firefox more than Safari

Today Google announced that Chrome for Mac and Linux is now fully released:

Since last December, we’ve been chipping away at bugs and building in new features to get the Mac and Linux versions caught up with the Windows version, and now we can finally announce that the Mac and Linux versions are ready for prime time.

The two big stories in the browser world right now are the decline of Microsoft Internet Explorer (though it still commands more than half the market  in most stats that I see) and the rise of Google Chrome. Why do users like it? From what I’ve seen, they like the performance and the usability. In fact, Chrome would make a great case study on why these factors count for more than features in user satisfaction. That said, I’ve been using Chrome on the Mac today and while it starts up more quickly than Safari, performance overall seems similar and I doubt there will be a huge rush to switch.

In the stats for ITWriting.com, I’ve seen steadily increasing Chrome usage:

  • July 2009: 4.2%
  • October 2009: 4.6%
  • January 2010: 9.6%
  • May 2010: 13.7%

So far this month, IE is down to 35.3% in the stats here, behind Firefox at 35.9%.

These figures are not representative of the internet as a whole, though I’d argue that it does represent a technical readership which may well be a leading indicator.

Chrome seems to be gradually taking market share from all the major browsers, though IE is doing so badly that any defections from Firefox to Chrome are more then made up by IE defectors to Firefox, if I’m interpreting the stats correctly. This won’t always be the case though, and Mozilla is vulnerable because unlike Microsoft or Apple the browser is the core of its business.

There is also a sense in which Chrome competes with Firefox for the user who has decided not to use the browser that comes with the operating system.

Chrome is strategically important to Google, not just as a browser, but as a platform for applications. It hooks into the Web Store announced at the recent Google I/O conference, and it will soon be easy to create browser applications that run offline. Google has the financial muscle to market Chrome. I’d also suggest that the momentum behind other projects, especially Android but also Google Apps, will indirectly benefit the browser.

On the Mac, it is worth noting that both Safari and Chrome use the same open source WebKit project, sponsored by Apple, which I guess is more interesting now that Google and Apple are competing fiercely in mobile.

My first Google Chrome Web Application

Update: this post is based on obsolete beta code. Please go to the updated version here.

When I read Patrick Aljord’s blog on how to create Chrome Apps I thought, “that looks easy”. So I installed the dev channel version of Chrome as advised here, though on a VM just to be safe, and set about creating my own.

Well, WordPress is a web application; so my example is this blog. I created a manifest in Notepad.


Next, using my artistic skills, I made two icons of the required size: 24×24 and 128×128.

I ran the dev. build of Chrome using the –enable-apps switch. On the Extensions tab there are tools for building a .crx, which is the container for a Chrome Web App. I built the app, then installed it.


You get a generic warning about the extension. I was surprised not to see a stronger complaint about my app having no authenticated signature – it could be from anywhere. I guess this may be changed for the final release.

After installing, the app appears in the Chrome New Tab page.


You can try my web app here.

The whole process is very simple, which I like. It is also almost the same thing as a bookmark or favourite link. The main differences that I can see:

  • Apps get pride of place on the default Chrome Home page.
  • Apps can be installed from the forthcoming Chrome Web Store, with user reviews, a payment model, and so on.
  • Apps can have extra permissions.
  • Apps can be locally installed as “serverless” apps – this is huge, especially for the forthcoming Chrome OS which has no other provision for local applications.

Incidentally, if you try installing an app into the current standard build of Chrome, it installs as an extension but does not do anything. I also had to omit the “permissions” section of the manifest, otherwise I got an invalid permissions error when installing. In the developer build all was fine.

I tried dragging my app from Chrome to the desktop to make a shortcut. It worked, but simply created a standard web shortcut, which opens in your default browser, not necessarily in Chrome.

It is all so easy that it will make sense for almost anyone to create a Chrome Web App from their web property. Which also means there will be plenty of junk web apps around.

I’m not clear exactly how the Web Store will work. While I would love to sell URLs for money, they are not inherently of any value, though a serverless app is different. Presumably the normal thing would be to sell some sort of subscription, which implies registration and user authentication. No doubt everything will work smoothly if you use a Google ID as your authentication provider, though I hope Google will also provide for alternative systems.

Google advances its platform – or should that be advances the Web?

Yesterday Google presented its latest platform innovations at the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. Its strategy is relatively clear: to improve web applications so that you can do everything you need in the browser. The client pieces are HTML 5 – though bear in mind that this is not yet a fixed standard – and especially the Chrome browser, whether installed on a traditional operating system or delivered on a Chrome OS device.

Chrome has always had lightning-fast JavaScript. We’re now seeing other pieces in the Chrome-as-application-platform story, including:

Integrated Adobe Flash

The  Native Client for secure native code, typically coded in C/C++, running in the browser

Announced yesterday, the WebM video and audio format. This includes VP8, acquired with On2 Technologies and now open source, as well as Vorbis audio and the Matroska multimedia container.

The Chrome Web Store, also announced yesterday, which will be an App Store equivalent for web applications.


Web Store apps are “installable” which may mean little more than a shortcut in the browser, similar to a bookmark or favourite link. However, there will be a payment infrastructure as well as ratings and user reviews.

Serverless apps. This is another aspect to the Web Store. A Web Store app can be designed to run offline, with all the necessary HTML and JavaScript bundled into the .crx format used by the store. Google calls these Serverless apps, and in many ways the concept is similar to that in Palm’s WebOS – HTML and JavaScript applications that run locally. This is interesting for Chrome OS as it makes it easy to create applications that work offline.

The Google Font API and Directory. This is big news. Most of us stick to the same old web fonts, or use images, or a plug-in like Flash or PDF, for going beyond the standard browser fonts. Using Google’s API, it is easy to include any font in the new directory, with nothing more than a specially crafted CSS link.

The Google Font API hides a lot of complexity behind the scenes. Google’s serving infrastructure takes care of converting the font into a format compatible with any modern browser (including Internet Explorer 6 and up), sends just the styles and weights you select, and the font files and CSS are tuned and optimized for web serving.

On the server side, there is Google App Engine for Business. Google is cooperating with VMware so that you can host Spring applications on its web application platform, App Engine. Spring Roo, a rapid application development tool for Spring, has been integrated with Google Web Toolkit (GWT) to make it easy to build browser-hosted clients for Spring applications. GWT lets you code in Java, but run in JavaScript. Using Spring gives you a choice of where to host your application: on-premise, on App Engine, on the Salesforce.com platform with VMforce, or on another platform such as Amazon EC2.

Spring’s Rod Johnson explains the goals here:

Until the announcement of VMforce and today’s announcement, Java developers lacked a PaaS destination to which they could easily deploy their applications. This was an important gap that threatened to become a danger to the long-term future of Java. I’m delighted that VMware/SpringSource is leading the charge to fill this gap.

Another feature worth highlighting is SQL for App Engine:

SQL database support on App Engine gives enterprise developers access to the full capabilities of a dedicated relational database, without the headache of managing it.

though Google adds that this is a “premium service” which may come at extra cost. According to the roadmap, this is coming in Q3 2010.

While there is a lot to take in, there is a consistent theme: making the web and browser platform more capable, and making desktop applications and on-premise servers less necessary.

Whereas Apple aims to lock us into its devices and App Store, Google’s approach is more open. It is happy to give away stuff like the WebM multimedia project and the Font API in order to improve the Web overall; though of course every time we use the Font API Google can record the traffic on our site and mine that data if it chooses to do so. It is in line with the strategy unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in February: a little bit of everything you do. Google will take its cut of any Web Store sales. What is Web and what is Google is deliberately blurred.

I still think that the forthcoming Chrome OS is an amazing experiment, and the new offline application support announced yesterday makes sense as an alternative to traditional local applications.

A good day for Adobe and Flash, or a bad one? Adobe’s Kevin Lynch demonstrated new HTML 5 capabilities in Dreamweaver, via an add-on pack. As expected, Adobe is becoming a little less Flash-focused in its PR. Google’s emerging platform is a tool opportunity for Adobe. Still, that is a lesser role than establishing Flash as the universal client, a possibility which Apple seems to have killed. Google is supporting Flash, of course, by building it into Chrome, but at the same time things like WebM, Font API, HTML5, and Native Client (shown as the natural client platform for browser-hosted games) undermine the need for Flash.

Apple is a problem for Google too. Will native client ever work on iPhone or iPad? WebM? The big question – who will marginalise whom?

Google Chrome usage growing fast; Apple ahead on mobile web

Looking at my browser stats for February one thing stands out: Google Chrome. The top five browsers are these:

  1. Internet Explorer 40.5%
  2. Firefox 34.1%
  3. Chrome 10.5%
  4. Safari 4.3%
  5. Opera 2.9%

Chrome usage has more than doubled in six months, on this site.

I don’t pretend this is representative of the web as a whole, though I suspect it is a good leading indicator because of the relatively technical readership. Note that although I post a lot about Microsoft, IE usage here is below that on the web as a whole. Here are the figures from NetMarketShare for February:

  1. Internet Explorer 61.58%
  2. Firefox 24.23%
  3. Chrome 5.61%
  4. Safari 4.45%
  5. Opera 2.35%

and from  statcounter:

  1. Internet Explorer 54.81%
  2. Firefox 31.29%
  3. Chrome 6.88%
  4. Safari 4.16%
  5. Opera 1.94%

There are sizeable variations (so distrust both), but similar trends: gradual decline for IE, Firefox growing slightly, Chrome growing dramatically. Safari I suspect tracks Mac usage closely, a little below because some Mac users use Firefox. Mobile is interesting too, here’s StatCounter:

  1. Opera 24.26
  2. iPhone 22.5
  3. Nokia 16.8
  4. Blackberry 11.29
  5. Android 6.27
  6. iTouch 10.87

Note that iPhone/iTouch would be top if combined. Note also the complete absence of IE: either Windows Mobile users don’t browse the web, or they use Opera to do so.

I’m most interested in how Chrome usage is gathering pace. There are implications for web applications, since Chrome has an exceptionally fast JavaScript engine. Firefox is fast too, but on my latest quick Sunspider test, Firefox 3.6 scored 998.2ms vs Chrome 4.0’s 588.4ms (lower is better). IE 8.0 is miserably slow on this of course; just for the record, 5075.2ms.

Why are people switching to Chrome? I’d suggest the following. First, it is quick and easy to install, and installs into the user’s home directory on Windows so does not require local administrative rights. Second, it starts in a blink, contributing to a positive impression. Third, Google is now promoting it vigorously – I frequently see it advertised. Finally, users just like it; it works as advertised, and generally does so quickly.