Google has unseated rival Microsoft as the leading browser maker in the U.S. for the first time, Adobe said last week, citing data from its analytics platform. The rise in Google's domestic fortunes followed Microsoft's reduction to second fiddle worldwide in May 2013.
According to the Adobe Digital Index (ADI), a measurement of browser usage based on tracking visits to the average U.S. website, Google's desktop and mobile browsers -- Chrome on both platforms, the aging Android browser on the latter only -- slipped past Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), which retained its premier position on the desktop but had little to show for its effort on smartphones.
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For April, Google accounted for 31.8 percent of all browser usage in the United States. Meanwhile, Microsoft owned a 30.9 percent share. Apple's Safari was in third place with a combined desktop and mobile share of 25 percent, while Mozilla's Firefox, which lacks a meaningful presence in mobile, was a distant fourth with just 8.7 percent.
The rise of Google's browsers, and to a lesser extent Apple's Safari, and the corresponding declines of both IE and Firefox, can be attributed to mobile browsing, primarily that conducted on smartphones. "Today, mobile [operating systems are] more important, giving Google and Apple a leg up with default status on Android and iOS," said ADI analyst Tyler White in a statement.
Adobe tallied visits, which in analytics parlance is synonymous with a session on a website, a period during which a user may view numerous pages before leaving, or before a time limit of inactivity expires. Adobe thus actually measures a type of "usage share," or how active users of each browser are on the Web.
Other analytic firms count differently. California-based Net Applications uses visitors, an expression of the number of unique individuals -- actually their browsers, as the tracking is done with cookies -- to measure "user share," which is analogous to the number of copies of each browser in use during a specific period.
Because Adobe drew its data only from consumer-facing sites -- some 10,000 of them during April -- it was little surprise that the Chrome/Android browsers outpaced IE. Microsoft's browser has a lock in businesses, where it's often mandated as the only allowed desktop browser, but it has a less-dedicated -- some would say less-coerced -- base among consumers. On mobile, IE accounted for just 1.8 percent of usage.
Google's climb to the top spot in the U.S. followed its push into that place globally by almost a year: Adobe's data had Google's Chrome/Android passing Microsoft's IE in May 2013 worldwide. "Outside the U.S., Google's browser share has grown even more rapidly," an Adobe spokesman said in an email Friday.
Adobe's take on the desktop versus mobile contest was in line with other, earlier calculations by Net Applications, in that while IE's strength was its desktop browser, the rise in mobile browsing caused its overall share to drop six percentage points in the last year. Meanwhile, Chrome/Android and Safari benefited from their primary positions in mobile on Android and iOS, respectively, the two most-used mobile operating systems on the planet.