In our Top Consumer Products of 2011 list, we selected the Chrome web browser as our number 1 pick. Its market share has grown over 2011 and it's on track to surpass Firefox as the 2nd most popular browser on the desktop (exactly when it passes Firefox depends on whose statistics you read). Over 2011 Google has demonstrated, in both user numbers and technical innovation, that Chrome is the most significant challenge to Microsoft's dominance of the browser market since the days of Netscape Navigator in the late 90s.

Meanwhile, in the mobile browser market, Apple's Safari has risen over 12 percentage points to have a 62% share of that market, according to leading Internet statistics provider Net Applications. However, Apple will have to continue to look over its shoulder at Android, which has also gained over 2011. Let's look more closely at how the desktop and mobile browser markets changed over 2011.

In the desktop market, the main story is how Chrome has affected Firefox. Just three years ago, in our Top Consumer Products of 2008 list, we had Firefox at number 2, behind only Twitter. It goes to show how quickly things can change on the Web.

The latest data from Net Applications still shows Microsoft's Internet Explorer at over 50% market share on desktops (52.63%). Chrome (17.62%) is less than 5 percentage points below Firefox (22.52%), which hangs onto second spot for now. Safari has 5.43% and Opera 1.56%.

The trends data is more telling. Since December 2010, only Chrome and Safari have increased their market share. IE, Firefox and Opera all declined. Here are the gains and losses:

  • IE: -6.63%
  • Firefox: -1.17%
  • Chrome: +7.26%
  • Safari: +1.41%
  • Opera: -0.71%


Source: Net Applications

Our own browser statistics for ReadWriteWeb show an even bigger swing towards Chrome, which is understandable, as we have a much more tech-savvy audience compared to the data from Net Applications. Chrome became the number 1 browser among RWW readers during 2011. Last month it was about 36%, up 12% from last November. Firefox is our number 2 browser at about 29%, down nearly 4% over the year.

Among our own writers, most now use Chrome as their primary desktop browser. Very few use Firefox.

Of course in an increasingly multi-device world, mobile browser share is very important too. On that front, according to Net Applications, Safari has risen 12.86% to now have 62.03% of the mobile browser share. The next best is Android browser at 18.60%. So Safari on mobile is now almost the equivalent of IE on desktop.

The big losers over 2011 in the mobile browser market have been Opera Mini (-13.4%), Symbian (-4.94%) and Blackberry (-0.87%, but it only has 2.03% share overall). Opera, despite its constant innovation, is really struggling to keep hold of users on both its favored mobile platform and on the desktop.


Source: Net Applications

Google & Apple Have The Momentum Heading Into 2012

In Net Application's statistics, Firefox is holding grimly on in the desktop browser market. But Chrome has the momentum and, as Jon Mitchell pointed out, it has done much of the innovating in this market over 2011. ReadWriteWeb's own statistics have Chrome as a clear number 1, which is typically a good indicator of where the mainstream is heading. All of this suggests that Chrome will overtake Firefox as the number 2 browser very soon. Then Google is set to make a run at dethroning Microsoft from number 1, but that's still at least a couple of years away.

On the mobile browser side, Apple is becoming increasingly dominant. However the rapid growth of the Android platform will keep them on their toes, so it's unlikely that Apple will enjoy the monopoly that Microsoft had for over a decade in the desktop market.

Let us know in the comments what browsers you use on both desktop and mobile. Did you switch browsers during 2011? If so, tell us why.