Why is Chrome so popular all of a sudden?

Published by at 18th June 2010 10:12 pm

I don't know how or when it happened, but suddenly I've noticed that a hell of a lot of people I wouldn't normally expect to pay much attention when someone nags them to update their web browser are using Google Chrome. Non computer-savvy work colleagues are using it, and even my father has dumped Internet Explorer 8 in favour of Chrome - yet he wouldn't consider Firefox despite my years of virtually begging him to switch!

In May 2010, the statistics on W3Schools.com are quite telling. Google Chrome makes up 14.5% of the hits on the site, which is higher than either IE6 or IE7 - IE8 is the only version of Internet Explorer that's still ahead. Chrome is still behind Firefox, which takes up a huge 46.9% of the hits, but it's not bad for a browser that's been out for less than two years. More notably, Chrome has increased its market share by around 5% in the last six months, while IE6 has declined by a little over 3%. Granted, W3Schools is likely to be frequented mostly by web professionals who use more modern browsers, but in terms of the decline of IE6 at least, they're backed up by Statcounter, who have reported that IE6 usage has fallen below 5% for the first time.

This can't be a bad thing - Chrome's one of the fastest and most standards-compliant browsers around and has some of the best support for HTML5 and CSS3, as well as fast and efficient execution of JavaScript. It also has one of the best security records of any modern web browser - it's consistently been the only desktop web browser to survive the Pwn2Own contest unscathed.

But why is this happening? Accepted wisdom for some time has been that non-technical users just use whatever browser comes with their computer, thus giving IE a huge advantage, but the increasing popularity of Chrome runs counter to this, so it's clearly more complex than that. So much of its growth has been very recent that I don't think it's likely to be technically adept users, many of whom are already attached to Firefox or Safari (I still use Firefox sometimes myself, although for most things I've switched to Chrome).

I think part of the reason is the fact that Google are dropping IE6 support on their sites, particularly YouTube, which is a hugely popular site, thus forcing people to ditch IE6 for something else. Naturally, Google provide links to download Chrome on the site, so maybe people are just going for the first alternative they see that will work.

Have you noticed this? Why do you think some non-technical users are switching to Chrome when they wouldn't switch to Firefox?