Google's Chrome vs. Microsoft's IE: How's that halo effect?

Google's Chrome vs. Microsoft's IE: How's that halo effect?

Summary: Both Google and Microsoft are advertising their browsers---two pieces of software that are free. Why? There's real ROI to driving platform usage.


Google's Chrome appears to be the most used browser as it passed Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, according to StatCounter. The larger question about the browser war revolves around whether there is a platform benefit to being top dog.

StatCounter's stats are based on a sample of 15 billion page views in the company's network. StatCounter’s browser usage data is notable, but I'd like to see a few others call the Chrome win before accepting the stats as gospel.

However, StatCounter’s data does give us an opportunity to zoom out a bit. Obviously, the browser wars mean something. Both Google and Microsoft are advertising their browsers---two pieces of software that are free.

A little more than a year ago, Google executives laid out their rationale for Chrome. It's worth noting what Google CFO Patrick Pichette said at that time.

There are really two stories on Chrome. There is a tactical question and there is a strategic question. Chrome is really pushing the Web, and it has a fantastic opportunity that, when people have adopted Chrome, they basically instead of looking for Google and looking for search, the omnibox gives them immediate access to Google search. So from a strategic perspective, it has that in Chrome OS. On a tactical basis, everybody that uses Chrome is a guaranteed locked-in user for us in terms of having access to Google.

Google's halo effect looks like this for Chrome:

  • More search results.
  • Lower traffic acquisition (TAC) costs.
  • The ability to integrate Google's other services easily.
  • A way to plug Google+ and integrate it into the browser.
  • The lifetime value of a Google Chrome user is higher.

At a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference May 8, Pichette elaborated. He said:

The core business continues to be healthy. It's a core focus of ours. But it's actually augments by a second set of priorities which is everybody knows the core platforms of Android, of Chrome, of YouTube, where you have the acceleration of an entire ecosystem which is both offensive by giving us these great platforms and also has a great defensive nature for the ecosystem to enable us to innovate. So, we continue to do that as well.

We have tools and means just like we did back then with the desktop to actually make sure that we manage our TAC so that in the desktop it was the same thing. We had toolbars and then we had Chrome. Chrome is a huge contributor to actually lowering TAC. It's not a static environment. It's a very dynamic environment. And mobile is nascent.

When a company's CFO is the biggest fan of Chrome it says something---there's real returns to be had.

Google clearly sees a monetary gain from Chrome. In a nutshell, the bigger Chrome gets the lower Google's TAC can be.

The Microsoft side of the ledger is similar, but the software giant hasn't pushed IE all that hard. Why? It has Windows.

Where Google sees its browser as a TAC saver, Microsoft positions IE as an extension of the OS.

Microsoft's halo effect looks like this:

  • Traffic to Bing.
  • Toolbars to drive usage to its other services.
  • A say HTML and standards.
  • A primary vehicle to highlight Windows 8 Metro apps.
  • Ultimately integration with Office 365 and promoting Microsoft services.

Since Microsoft had its run-in with the Department of Justice, the company is much less in your face about IE market share.

After Chrome's gains, Microsoft started advertising IE more. But IE never gets the time on earnings conference calls that Chrome gets. Google has focused heavily on promoting Chrome. The results are just now showing up.

Topics: Apps, Browser, Google, Microsoft

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  • Or not
    • This win is inconclusive

      Apparently Statcounter does not count pre-rendered pages on Google Chrome...So you can't use Statcounter to say Chrome beat IE. I think the Netmarketshare stats clearly show IE is on the rise.
      • Of course it's on the rise

        It's installed by default on most every OEM PC out there. With any other browser you have to go out of your way to download it.

        And since people have to go out of their way to download other browsers on to their machines, that should tell you a lot about IE.
      • You may not believe it, but Microsoft does.

        I've never seen Microsoft throw out a commercial for just IE before. Something must be up. (or down). Online Advertising and data gathering must be important enough to MS to warrant advertising for a singular product like IE.

        Google created a money machine that's effortless, clean and efficient. Everyone wants a piece of the action.
      • You need to look deeper DreyerSmit

        I've followed Net Applications for years. What use to be smooth lines showing trends, is now choppy and suspect. Their OS data is currently showing XP rising, after years of steady decline.
      • Of course it's on the rise...

        It's installed by default on most every OEM PC out there. With any other browser you have to go out of your way to download it.

        And since people have to go out of their way to download other browsers on to their machines, that should tell you a lot about IE.
    • Netmarketshare methodology

      They assign weights to countries. Coolest way to skew data, don't you think? Also their sample size is minuscule (40K websites). I do not trust their data.
      • Spot on, kirovs

        I've read somewhere else that the methodology is CIA approved, so the person who down voted your comment is in trouble (-1 as of this post).

        My constant access, hours every day, most days of the year, counts as a much as a goat herder in Uzbekistan, who come into town once a week, to check his email.
      • Apparently you never passed an introductory statistics course.

        Neither, it seems, did the people who run StatCounter. A representative sample can be used to draw inference about a population, even if the sample is small. A non-representative sample cannot be used to draw inference, no matter how big it is, unless the non-representative aspects are known and understood, and the sample is weighted accordingly.
    • NetApplications also use correct methodology

      The StatCounter data are nonsense. They count page hits rather than unique users and combine samples from different geographical regions without any weighting.

      The first flaw in the StatCounter methodology means that one nerd who uses Chrome to browse the web all day from his parents' basement counts for far more than several normal users.

      The second flaw in the StatCounter methodology means that, for example, since StatCounter collect more data from Canadian than Chinese sites, Canada's 28 million internet users count for more than China's 456 million internet users.

      On the whole, StatCounter's methodology is so flawed that the resulting data are meaningless. In contrast, NetApplications correctly count unique users and use proper geographical weighting, so their data actually mean something. Perhaps that's why full access to the NetApplications data isn't free. StatCounter give their data away because nobody in their right mind would pay for it.
      • and conversely person sitting all day using IE will have a countering affect. Do you think it is more likely that heavy internet users are more likely to use Chrome and rare users IE? If you think that, you need to wonder why.

        Still, there is some evidence that browsers do have different share by geography, but unless IE share is growing in the underrepresented countries, the trend is still valid.
      • But we can see it is Chrome users who generate far more hits

        An obvious explanation is that Google's platform is primarily web-based, whilst Microsoft's platform is primarily based on client/server applications. A Google user does almost everything with a browser (Google Mail, Google Docs, etc.). A Microsoft user does most things with client/server applications (Outlook/Exchange, MS Office, etc).
      • statscounter not on google websites

        You thoughts on google docs counting clicks and/or keystrokes on google docs users did sound plausible and it prompted me to ask the statscounter people and they responded surprisingly quickly. The gist of their response is that they do not have their counters on google docs websites. There are microsoft cloud sites (e.g. skydrive) too, but I doubt they have these statscounters either. I think cloud adoption is still small compared to the rest of the web usage.
      • Tracking Google Docs pages isn't particularly important

        The point is that Google users they are immersed in a web browser all day. Google Mail is far more popular than Google Docs, and Google's entire business model is based on ads. If people aren't clicking on the Google Mail ads, Google's business model isn't working. If they are, then they're almost certainly generating more web traffic than someone using Office.

        At any rate, the bigger flaw in the StatCounter methodology is the lack of geographical weighting, and that is probably behind the bulk of the difference between their data and NetApplications'. StatCounter sample much more heavily in some countries than others, and have particularly low sampling rates in countries like China, where IE is overwhelmingly dominant. China has more internet users than any other country, so StatCounter's ridiculously low sampling rate there is enough, on its own, to make their aggregate figures a nonsense.
      • Stats are skewed, but probably not as much as you think

        I went to the statCounter web site ( and looked at their data by country. The twelve most populated countries in the world are China (1.35B), India (1.21B), USA (313M), Indonesia (238M), Brazil (192M), Pakistan (180M), Nigeria (162M), Russia (143M), Bangladesh (142M), Japan (128M) and Philippines (98M). Obviously the two with the most influence are China and India by far. In China, IE stands around 76% and chrome a measly 11%. But, countering this to some degree is India with IE at 19% and Chrome at 42% (note Firefox at 35%). Working our way through the rest of the countries, we find IE ahead in China, USA and Japan. All the other countries are either Chrome or Firefox. Only in Russia is it difficult to see a trend for IE, but in all the others the trend for IE is lower.

        Since a relatively affluent Europe was not represented because of their country size being small, but the combined Europe could skew things, I looked at Germany, France, UK and Italy. Only UK had IE ahead, and interestingly, Germany (24%IE) looked like IE was trending slightly up. In any case, Europe seems to slightly skew IE lower, but probably not nearly enough to matter in this discussion.

        I believe IE usage is still higher worldwide, and the thus the results are skewed, but the trend is definitely towards a heterogeneous browser environment. I believe your point about China is correct, but probably not to the extent you think when you counter it with India.

        It will be interesting to see what happens.
      • The important number is not population, but internet users

        @ normcf

        If you're still reading, China and India are both big, but China is much more developed. Despite a population nearly as big as China's, India has only about a fifth as many internet users. Internet users, not population, is the figure that matters, so China's weight should be about five times India's. The countries with the second- and third-largest numbers of internet users are actually the US and Japan, with India only coming fourth. According to StatCounter, IE is the leading browser in the US and in Japan (with over half of Japanese hits from IE users).

        To understand what StatCounter's figures really say about global browser share, take a list of countries by internet users and multiply the number of internet users in each country by StatCounter's market share figure for that country. Then sum the figures over all countries, divide by the number of internet users in the world and compare the result with StatCounter's global figures.

        Using Wikipedia figures for internet users, I tried the above for the first 12 countries in StatCounter's list. IE alone had about 45 per cent market share in those countries. Even if there are no IE users in the remaining countries in the list, that would give IE almost 40 per cent of the global market, implying a large and clear lead in the global market for IE. If IE has 80 per cent share in the remaining countries (unlikely), its global share would be over 50 per cent.

        A 45 per cent global share for IE is not far from the NetApplications figure (54 per cent), and the rest of the difference could be explained by other flaws in the StatCounter methodology, e.g. counting hits instead of unique users. The overall picture, then, is not really that different from the one given by NetApplications, which is that IE continues to dominate globally, driven by its very high market share in East Asia, and relatively high market share in North America.
  • StatCounter is non-sense

    StatCounter is non-sense, and most of Chrome gains are on XP.
    • People like me tell MS users to go to Firefox or Chrome.

      Active-X is not supported on Chrome or Firefox. They are a more secure alternative because Active-X is still a problem for MS after all these years.

      People use Chrome and Firefox for increased security on any Windows. Microsofts' argument that IE-9 provides greater security is meaningless for XP users because MS purposely made it to exclude XP. Now, because of Microsofts' marketing actions, anyone using XP has only two choices for increased security: Firefox and Chrome.

      I have Chrome64, Chromium, Firefox, Opera, Lynx installed on 64-bit Linux Mint 12 w/cinnamon. Also, IE-6 can be installed. IE-6 works fine and is secure, but browser security isn't an issue with Linux even without AV because the OS source code is securely designed.
      • XP is dead

        A great OS in its time, but it's time to move on. MS has been wanting to kill XP for years.
      • RE: People like me tell MS users to go to Firefox or Chrome.

        Joe.Smetona wrote:
        [i]browser security isn't an issue with Linux even without AV because [u]the OS source code is securely designed[/u].[/i]

        You are confused. Linux is not OpenBSD.

        P.S. Google's Chrome browser is a better choice than IE on Windows XP as it is sandboxed. IE is not sandboxed on XP.
        Rabid Howler Monkey