Google takes second browser spot on the back of mobile

Company's desktop and mobile browsers combine to unseat Mozilla's Firefox from No. 2

Mobile browsing continued to post gains last month at the expense of personal computers, a trend that has put Google into the second spot behind Microsoft as the browser maker with the longest reach, a Web metrics company said Sunday.

According to Net Applications, an estimated 13.4% of all users accessed the Internet in August from a smartphone or tablet, breaking a six-month-old record. Most of the rest of the world's online users -- 85.8% -- went online with a desktop browser on a personal computer.

The increase in mobile browsing has pushed Google past Mozilla as the browser maker with the second-largest combined desktop-plus-mobile user share.

Google's combined user share of 17.5% was earned on the basis of its No. 2 spot in mobile generated by the Android and Chrome browsers. That's in contrast to Net Applications' estimate of Chrome's desktop share of 16%, down more than 1.7 percentage points in August.

Apple was the other browser maker that benefited most from mobile, with a combined user share of 12.2%, of which nearly two-thirds came from Safari on iOS, the mobile operating system that powers all iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and Mozilla's Firefox remain the two browsers whose usage shares have been hit hardest by the shift toward mobile, as Microsoft continues to struggle to post global gains in smartphones and tablets, and Mozilla has only recently gotten into the mobile market with its Firefox OS.

IE continued to dominate the desktop, with an August share of 57.6%, but its faint appearance in Net Applications' mobile statistics lowered its combined share to 49.6%. That's slightly up from March, when Computerworld last visited the subject, but the increase was due to a resurgent IE on traditional PCs, where the browser has returned to levels last seen in April 2011.

Firefox's total share again suffered from lack of any mobile punch: Mozilla has an Android version of Firefox in play, but its share was so small that Net Applications did not even note it. Mozilla's Firefox OS, a browser-based mobile operating system that has garnered support from carriers in China, Spain and elsewhere, has only recently started shipping on a limited number of phones. For August, Firefox's combined share was 16.1%, several percentage points lower than its desktop-only number and down from March's 17.7%.

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software bulked up its very small desktop user share with an almost-as-large contribution from its Opera Mini mobile browser. Opera's combined share for August was 2.5%.

Mobile browsing overall is on an upswing again after several months of stalled or declining share. August's 13.4% was a new record for mobile, cracking the February standard. Projections based on the three-month trends hint that mobile will probably account for 20% of all browsing by May 2014.

Net Applications measures browser usage on smartphones, tablets and personal computers by tabulating approximately 160 million unique visitors each month who browse to the sites it monitors for customers.

browser user shares
When desktop and mobile browser user shares are combined, Google takes the second spot from Mozilla, and Apple's Safari is a stronger fourth-place rival than its minor desktop presence indicates. (Data: Net Applications.)

This article, Google takes second browser spot on the back of mobile, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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