Usually, it’s the first place team that makes the headlines, but in the global Internet browser competition, second place can newsworthy too. That’s the case today, with new data showing that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is losing market share to Google’s Chrome, now the second most popular browser for Internet users in the United Kingdom.

Last month, Chrome overtook Mozilla Firefox by a hair with 22.1 percent of the U.K. market, according to the web metrics firm Statcounter. Firefox has 22.0 percent of the market. Internet Explorer remains the most popular browser with 45 percent. Apple’s Safari is number four, with a 9 percent share, according to the Statcounter study.

Chrome launched in the U.K three years ago and has gained share despite Internet Explorer’s advantage of coming pre-installed on almost all computers sold in Britain. Users are finding Chrome on their own or through Google’s advertising initiatives, including Chrome TV commercials. Chrome is the first Google product to be advertised on British TV.

Lars Bak, the Google engineer responsible for Chrome, says it’s Chrome’s speed that is attracting users. “Speed is a fundamental part of it,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “It’s also about the minimal design and the way it handles security. If you as a user try [to load] a webpage and it feels snappy, it’s really hard to go back. It has shown that people spend more time interacting with the web.”

Bak works from a farmhouse in the Danish countryside, two hours from Copenhagen. That rural location hasn’t affected Bak’s mentality. His interview with The Guardian reveals Bak is obsessed with speed. “You should never be happy with [existing] speed,” he said to The Guardian. “Of course it gets harder to make substantial gains, but it’s all healthy competition.”

In June Statcounter revealed that Chrome was the third most popular browser worldwide, with a 20.7 percent market share up from 2.8 percent in June 2009. Firefox and Internet Explorer have fallen steadily in rank during that time period. Internet Explorer dropped from 59 percent to 44 percent, and Firefox dropped from 30 percent to 28 percent.

In June, Google released Chromebook laptops from Amazon and Best Buy. The netbooks are manufactured by Samsung and Acer. Google is testing U.S. consumers with the release to see if they are interested in a new kind of operating system that is focused on web applications.

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