For over a decade, Internet Explorer dominated the web browser landscape, with only Mozilla’s Firefox and the MacOS browser Safari offering it any sort of challenge after Microsoft effectively crushed Netscape. This has changed radically since the December 2008 introduction of Google’s Chrome, an open-source application that now claims over 40% of the browser market. Let’s look at why users and developers have embraced Chrome and why it’s overtaken Internet Explorer and Firefox in such a short time.

Why is Chrome so popular with users?

Speed is probably the single biggest factor in Chrome’s ascension. It starts up more quickly than IE or Firefox and uses a special JavaScript engine that means complex web pages render in less time. Not all websites will load quicker with Chrome, of course, but overall, it provides a faster, better experience.

Unlike the other browsers, which were created and released by software companies, Google applied a user-centric approach to Chrome. They’ve taken a lot of what they’ve learned about how users engage the web and made it easier to do the most common things. User studies show that most people find it a lot easier to use Chrome — the “omnibox” can be used for both web addresses and searches and the ability to pin your most-visited sites means that you can get started more quickly.

It’s also easy to synchronize, meaning that if you use Chrome at home and at work and on another computer, you’ll have the same extensions and browser history as long as you’re signed in with the same Google account. The advantages to this are obvious to anyone who’s ever spent ten minutes trying to remember a site they visited on another computer. All of your customizations such as extensions and color choices are consistent across the board, increasing user productivity and comfort.

All of these factors and others (such as Google’s Safe Browsing technology, automatic updates and heightened privacy) make it easy to understand why so many people have made the switch, which is fortunate because developers and designers have a lot to like about Chrome.

Why is Chrome popular with developers?

Google works very hard to follow the standards set by the W3C and other organizations which means that people using Chrome will see what the developers want more often. A good web browser should interpret and display HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript as accurately as possible. In a perfect world, a website developed correctly from the beginning would look the same on all browsers, but that’s simply not the case.

A benchmark test on HTML5test.com showed that Chrome scored 505 out of a possible 555 points. Firefox came in second with 458 and Internet Explorer trailed far behind with only 372 points. This test checks to see if a browser can perform common HTML5 operations such as drag-and-drop, rendering graphics and understanding the orientation of a device. With websites and users demanding faster and more robust experiences, having a high score on this test is paramount.

At the same time, Chrome has integrated developer tools that make it possible for people building websites to diagnose and repair issues before they’re released. Making testing easier means that development happens faster and that results in websites that meet user expectations.

Chrome shows no signs of losing its market share, especially as it’s become the gold standard for web browsers. While you should work to ensure that your site isn’t fundamentally broken in Internet Explorer or Firefox, Chrome offers the best combination of user engagement and developer tools. That’s why we use it here at Full Circle Design: to make sure our clients’ websites load quickly and offer the best possible user experience.