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chrome logo hairWhile Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is still the dominant Web browser, Google’s Chrome has been growing consistently, as is evident from a new report from NetApplications. The report shows that Chrome’s slice of the market more than doubled during the past year, from 4.63 percent in December 2009 to 9.98 percent in December 2010.

Browser market share is closely watched for several reasons: It’s seen as a sign of health for the Internet strategies of major companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple, as well as smaller operations like Mozilla and Opera Software. It also serves as a guide to developers on which browsers are worth catering to in building Web apps, since all of them have their quirks.

In the same time period, Microsoft’s IE browser was in a steady decline. IE had a 62.69 percent share in December 2009, but wrapped up 2010 with a 57.08 percent share, declining by over 5.5 percent.

Mozilla Firefox also took a bit of a hit, as its market share was 22.81 percent in December 2010, down nearly 2 percent from a year before. The open-source browser still hasn’t hit a 25 percent market share.

The other browser underdog that finished the year with a higher market share than it started with was Apple’s Safari, which had a 5.89 percent share in December 2010, compared with a 4.46 percent share in December 2009. Safari, originally designed only for Apple’s Mac computers, is now available for Windows, and Apple pushes users who download its iTunes store software to download Safari, too.

Opera, the browser made by the similarly named Norwegian software company, was flat at approximately 2.2 percent.

Once mighty, now all but forgotten and abandoned by its current owner AOL, Netscape has long since been relegated to having curiosity value only: Yes, it is still out there with a 0.78 percent market share.

Of all the different browser versions, IE 8 is dominates the scene with a 33.02 percent share. Microsoft’s upcoming IE 9, which is out as a public beta, has 0.49 percent.

Chrome is the youngest browser around, having been launched in 2008, and it has been making significant headway ever since, for example in the enterprise space. During 2009, the browser’s market share grew every month, with an insignificant lapse of 0.08% in July, before picking up speed again. And this won’t be the end of it: Chrome will surely continue its growth once the long-awaited and much-touted Chrome OS makes its official appearence.

[Photo credit: mayhem, homepage photo: Clive Darr]

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