Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome market share may not be growing as fast as originally thought as a researcher discovered the browser's prerendering technology may have been artificially inflating usage share.
Chrome's market share through February was about 18.9 percent, down from 18.94 percent in January and 19 1 percent in December, according to Net Applications.
However, the reason isn't because the popular browser is falling out of favor with users. The reason, according to Net Applications, was that the researcher was counting extra Chrome browsing share attributed to prerendering.
A predictive search technology, prerendering loads a hidden Web page while the user is typing search queries, which has the effect of loading the Web page faster when the user clicks on the link corresponding to that page.
Prerendering has inflated Chrome browser usage share by roughly 4.14 percent, Net Applications said.
Until discovering the effect prerendering had on Chrome share, Net Applications has been counting prerendered pages as visible to the user at one point, even when they had not been. This is not an accurate reflection of browser usage.
Chrome first released prerendering functionality in Chrome 13 last year. Chrome 17, the last stable release, leverages prerendering to accelerate results for search queries typed into the Omnibox, which will lead to more prerendering traffic in the future.
"Because prerendering can substantially misrepresent usage share numbers, it's important for analytics companies like ourselves to adjust for prerendering to provide accurate data on usage share to our customers," Net Applications explained in a note on its Website, which explains how prerendering works.
Going forward, for a prerendered page to count in usage share it must be visible to the user at some point, the researcher noted.
Outside of Chrome, Net Applications findings were pretty normal. Microsoft Internet Explorer saw a negligible share gain, while Mozilla's Firefox rose slightly. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari browser rose from 4.9 percent through January to 5.24 percent in February.
However, Net Applications also now counts mobile browser share. Thanks to its iPhones and iPads, Safari led the way with 61 percent share, up from 55 percent in January.
Android was No. 2 with 18.6 percent share, up from 17.8 percent share. Opera's Mini fell the most, dropping to 14.4 percent share from nearly 20 percent share in January.