Google Chrome Browser Tops 18%, or Possibly 25%

Google's Chrome browser hit 18.2 percent for November, up from 17.6 percent in October, according to Net Applications. StatCounter claims Chrome has over 25 percent share, vaulting Firefox.

Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chrome Web browser reached 18.2 percent market share through November, up from 17.6 percent through October, according to researcher Net Applications.

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Internet Explorer commanded 52.6 percent share, unchanged from October. Mozilla's Firefox browser had 22.1 percent share, down from 22.5 percent the prior month. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari browser fell to 5 percent from 5.4 percent in October.

Chrome is quickly gaining on Firefox and could catch up to its open-source rival early next year, thanks largely to its rapid release cycle. Since the summer of 2010, Google has pumped out a fresh version of Chrome every six weeks.

This proved to be a competitive advantage versus Mozilla, though the open-source company earlier this year also adopted a rapid release schedule for Firefox to better compete with the hard-working Chrome team.

Mobile/tablet browser share is a different story, according to Net Applications. Thanks to the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, Safari has 55 percent of smartphone/tablet browser share, down from 62 percent in October.

Opera Mini reclaimed the No. 2 position from Google's Android browser with 20 percent, up considerably from 13 percent the month prior. Android came in third with 16.4 percent, down from 18.6 percent in the previous period.

Chrome, which has been advertised on several top-brand Websites and on TV in 2011 as the company seeks to boost adoption for the browser and the Chrome OS-based Chromebooks, could have more market share than Firefox.

That is, if one believes StatCounter. The Web analytics researcher has markedly different calibrations from Net Applications of what the Web browser market is like.

StatCounter said Chrome commanded 25.7 percent of the worldwide market, compared with Firefox's 25.2 percent share. IE has 40.6 percent, according to the researcher.

"We can look forward to a fascinating battle between Microsoft and Google as the pace of growth of Chrome suggests that it will become a real rival to Internet Explorer globally," said StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen.

Perhaps, eventually, Chrome can challenge IE's throne. Industry watchers are less sanguine on Google's Chrome Operating System. Google had high hopes for Chrome OS as a lightweight operating system that would boost Chrome browser share.

However, the latest reports are that Chrome OS-based Chromebooks aren't selling well. Some argue whether Google should abandon the project altogether.

It's an interesting debate, considering that Chromebooks are rooted in the cloud, which is where Google's ghosts of its past, present and future haunt.