Google Chrome Browser Hikes to 15.5%

Google's Chrome browser cracks the 15 percent market for its third birthday. Net Applications is now counting mobile device browser share separately, with Apple Safari leading.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome browser hit 15.5 percent market share through August, jumping more than a whole percentage point from the 14.3 percent the Web surfing software hit in July.

Chrome just turned three years old Sept. 1 and it's been a remarkable rise to this point, with the browser gaining share nearly every month for the last two years.

What's responsible for the latest share gains? It's tough to pinpoint, but it could be an uptick of Chromebook sales from Samsung and Acer. It could also be the rapid, six-week release cycles that pump out new features, such as voice recognition capabilities. Chrome also just received offline access for Gmail, Docs and Calendar.

In any event, Google celebrated Chrome's third birthday with this infographic of browser history and key Web technologies, created in HTML5.

When Chrome gains share, others tend to lose share and that held true through August, according to Net Applications. Microsoft Internet Explorer market share fell to 55.3 percent from 56 percent. Mozilla Firefox, like Chrome, an open-source Web browser, dipped to 22.6 percent from 22.8 percent in July.

Apple's Safari browser held pretty steady at 4.64 percent (from 4.63 percent last month).

Net Applications has made browser counting more interesting. For the first time, the researcher is separating browser, OS and search engine market share numbers into specific device categories, including desktop, mobile and tablet share. The researcher explained its methodology change:

"The combination of mobile and tablet usage has continued to rise dramatically and is now over 6 percent (and growing at an accelerating pace) of all browsing on the Internet. Because of this rise, mixing the device types reduced the value of the data."

"For example, there was no publicly available way to display the top mobile operating systems without having them mixed in with desktop and console operating systems. In the past, based on our report structure, it was difficult to determine the share of technologies on specific platform types and all share numbers were grouped into an overall category by default."

To wit, Net Applications now counts the "mobile/tablet browser market share" separately and the results as strikingly different.

Not surprisingly, Safari that leads the way, with an overwhelming 53 percent share on the strength of its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices.

Opera Mini follows with 20.8 percent share, with Android third at 15.7 percent. Fourth place Nokia's Symbian has 5.8 percent share, with Research In Motion's BlackBerry fifth at 2.9 percent.

Microsoft IE and Firefox don't even rate on Net App's chart. Chrome isn't available on mobile platforms (yet), as Google uses its Android platform for smartphones and tablets.

Why is tablet lumped in with mobile? Simple, said Net Applications: the lack of competition in the tablet market versus Apple's iPad. "However, in the future, we plan to also separate tablets into their own category," Net App qualified.

That's assuming Android "Honeycomb," RIM PlayBook, and other tablets begin to make a dent in the iPad's share.