Google made big headlines last month with the launch of the Nexus One smartphone and its adventures in China. But the steady growth of its Chrome Web browser may turn out to be an equally important story, particularly with its browser-based Chrome OS on the way.
In January, Chrome climbed to 5.2 percent of the global browser market, up from 4.6 percent in December, according to Web metrics company NetApplications. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Internet Explorer fell from 62.7 percent to 62.2 percent of the market, and Mozilla saw Firefox slip from 24.6 percent to 24.4 percent.
Chrome, which launched in September 2008, has gained more than two percentage points over the last six months, climbing from 2.8 percent in September 2009. At the same time, Explorer has fallen from 67 percent, a loss of about five percentage points. Firefox has remained relatively steady at around 24 percent of the market -- but its momentum seems to have stalled as Chrome rises.
Google has pushed the browser with more advertising than it typically utilizes, and Chrome development is clearly a high priority. In Europe, Google has tapped advertising agency Omnicom to run a newspaper and billboard campaign for Chrome -- not a typical Google move.
A Google spokesperson told Reuters that, "Our recent marketing campaign is a part of this overall investment in browsers, through which we hope to help make the Web faster, more useful and more secure."
On Friday, the company released version 5 of Chrome to developers. Version 4 of the browser became widely available just one week earlier.
On Thursday, as part of its Chromium open source project, Google said that it will pay people to find bugs in the browser. "Our base reward for eligible bugs is $500," wrote Chris Evans, part of the Google Chrome security team, in a blog. "If the panel finds a particular bug particularly severe or particularly clever, we envisage rewards of $1337."
Mozilla employs a similar approach. Google's concept is not new, acknowledged Evens. "We'd like to give serious kudos to the folks at Mozilla for their long-running and successful vulnerability reward program."
Mozilla on Jan. 21 launched Firefox 3.6, which had been in testing since August and was expected to go live in November. But while 3.6 is a faster browser than its predecessor, it still pales in comparison to Chrome's speed.According to NetApplications, the Safari and Opera browsers held their ground in January, at 4.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.