After months of gaining Web browser market share, Google's Chrome Web browser numbers have gone down according to Net Applications. It's not however that Chrome has grown any less popular, it's how Net Applications is measuring Web browser usage.
Google's Web browser, starting with Chrome 13, uses a technique called 'pre-rendering' to speed up Web page loading. This pre-loads page or pages "while the user is typing in search queries in order to load that page faster when the user clicks on the associated search result link. Chrome pre-renders pages based on either HTTP headers inserted by the site creator or based on an algorithm that predicts the likelihood the user will click on the search result link." Google started using this technique more aggressively in the latest version of the browser, Chrome 17.
This results in faster page loads for users, but Net Applications believes "this traffic varies significantly by browser and should not be included in the usage share for the browsers." At this time, "Chrome is the only major desktop browser that currently has this feature, which creates un-viewed visits that should not be counted in Chrome's usage share. However, the pages that are eventually viewed by the user should be treated normally. Therefore, "Within the sites in our network, pre-rendering in February 2012 accounted for 4.3% of Chrome's daily unique visitors. These visits will now be excluded from Chrome's desktop browser share."
The bottom line is Chrome is still in third place, by Net Applications' measurement. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still in first with 52.84% market share, but it's also continuing to lose marketshare. IE is from 52.96% in January. Firefox kept second place position with 20.92%. After the penalty, Chrome is down to 18.90% from 18.94%. In short, even without the pre-rendering count, Chrome's popularity is still climbing. As for the minor-league browsers, Safari move up to 5.24%, up from 4.90% and Opera also climbed up to 1.71%, from 1.67%.
So, no matter how you measure it, it still seems a sure bet that Chrome will take over second place from Firefox sometime in 2012. And, who knows, maybe even IE will fall to it in time. Indeed, according to another Web browser popularity measurement company, StatCounter, the latest version of Chrome is already the single most popular Web browser in the world.