How Google Chrome Became The #1 Browser

by Rishi Shah on August 20, 2012

In only 4 short years Google Chrome has dominated the browser market. Last Month Google Chrome over took IE as the top browser. This is a big deal. FireFox has been around for 9 years and has never over taken IE.

How did this happen?

How come FireFox couldn’t grab more market share in the 9 years they have been out? 

Is it because Chrome is a better browser?… Nope
Is it because Google buys a ton of TV ads?… No
Is it because they have massive DISTRIBUTION?… YES!!! They simply leverage all their other properties to destroy their competition.

Google’s Chrome “Recommendation” on IE7

Here is what you see when you go to Google.com (you know the most popular website in the world) in IE7.

You see similar types of “recommendations” when you go to YouTube, Gmail, or any other Google property when you are browsing in IE7. I’m a huge fan of all the Google products and it makes sense to leverage all their properties to dominate.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with the idea of massive distribution. If you know any other examples of companies doing it well, please let me know in the comments.

Update (Aug 31 2012): Dan Weiland just had an incredibly insightful comment:

Their main revenue stream is advertising. Advertising through Google.com, Gmail, GReader and many of their other web based products. They key here is the word “web based”.

Before Google Chrome, Google’s web based product performance was limited by the browsers people were using. Google.com could only go so fast (and by extension, serve so many ads) as IE would allow it. Undoubtedly one of the reasons they made Chrome was to force the other browser makers to innovate on speed. see the full comment here

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{ 16 comments }

Ronaldo August 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM

I had no idea Google did this in IE7 – that is brilliant!

Skymall has massive distribution. A simple deal with the airlines gains them access to millions of people that have money – these are people that can afford to fly.

Rishi Shah August 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Skymall is a great example – they created partnerships for their distribution.

Rich Collins August 20, 2012 at 3:03 PM

Not massive distribution but this guy had a great distribution hack: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2011/04/the-easiest-way-to-succeed-as-an-entrepreneur/

Awesome site in general. Unlike most, he’s happy to give away all the details and he skips the BS (afaics).

Rishi Shah August 20, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Awesome article Rich! Thanks for sharing it.

Kevin Thakkar August 20, 2012 at 6:02 PM

Microsoft’s distribution of Office was a stroke of genius. From a product perspective, its not a bad productivity suite, but by utilizing its distribution channel to force the product onto OEM manufacturers who had to have Windows to sell any machines, they negated any new entrants from really competing with them. Of course, the cloud has taken away some of that edge…

Rishi Shah August 21, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Awesome comment Kevin!

I never thought about Microsoft that way. But this is exactly why they simply dominated in the 90’s. This is why Internet Explorer is still so widely used. This is why Microsoft Outlook is still used by 28% of the total market vs 7% by GMail.

Check this out: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/will-it-work/email-clients/

Mike August 21, 2012 at 7:50 PM

Actually Chrome is a better browser technically. It has many performance gains over other browsers, especially in the Javascript engine and HTML rendering. It also enables a ton of network optimizations (it has it’s own DNS client for crying out loud!), and it works extremely well with Google sites because of the SPDY protocol. Tabs in Chrome are isolated processes, so if one tab crashes it doesn’t take the rest down (I think FF and IE switched to this model as well).

Once you start using Chrome, other browsers feel sluggish.

Dennis Moons August 22, 2012 at 12:32 AM

Your IE screenshot shows something extra I haven’t seen on many newer sites. Back from the land of the dead, the “Set this page as home” is back on google.com.

Rishi Shah August 22, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Good catch Dennis! Didn’t even notice that.

Looks like Google wants all the eye balls it can get. They have 2 offers:
1) Set Google as your homepage
2) Convert to Chrome

More offers = More Chance to Win

Abdul Hamid August 22, 2012 at 3:39 AM

Apple company is another such example they don’t need
ADs any Hollywood movie displays apple.
You can see celebrity pics using Apple products.

Rishi Shah August 22, 2012 at 11:29 AM

Hi Abdul – Awesome example of Distribution!.

I really never thought of Hollywood as a distribution channel – but it makes a lot of sense. Celebrities using your product can be HUGE and put you in front of millions of eyeballs.

Jenni August 22, 2012 at 8:23 AM

“Is it because Chrome is a better browser?… Nope”

Actually, it really is. It’s faster than other browsers and Firefox has become kind of clunky over the past year or so. While I think you’re right that Google leveraged their services to push Chrome, I would wager that word of mouth went a long way in their success… because as someone who switched to Chrome I push it on my friends now… and it was pushed on me.

Rishi Shah August 22, 2012 at 11:30 AM

I agree – Chrome is a lot better. Super fast and makes other browsers seem sluggish and slow. I also like how the update without you ever even knowing.

James August 24, 2012 at 12:37 AM

Because it’s developed by google, a big company with advanced technology and many young technicistes. Do you think such a company can produce a suck application?
Chrome is really fast although crash sometimes. Even in Avant browser,I still use the google chrome engine,LOL.

Dan Weiland August 31, 2012 at 2:55 PM

What’s really interesting to me isn’t how Google made Chrome as successful as it is, but rather why they made it to begin with.

Their main revenue stream is advertising. Advertising through Google.com, Gmail, GReader and many of their other web based products. They key here is the word “web based”.

Before Google Chrome, Google’s web based product performance was limited by the browsers people were using. Google.com could only go so fast (and by extension, serve so many ads) as IE would allow it. Undoubtedly one of the reasons they made Chrome was to force the other browser makers to innovate on speed.

Like many people here have already mentioned, Google Chrome is a great product from a technical standpoint. Chrome speeds when it was first released were well beyond existing browser performance. So in order to keep Chrome from dominating the browser market, other companies had to catch up to those speeds. Even if all the release of Chrome succeeded in was making the other browsers faster, that was in turn good for Google because their web based products would sing on the newly-improved-to-defend-against-Chrome IE, Firefox, etc.

Improving the entire browser market then, in turn, improved the user experience of Google products. Better Google web products leads to more Google usage, and more Google ads.

Going back to your original point, this strategy pushed more people to Google by keeping Google web products a great and consistent experience no matter the brower, which allowed Google to push more people to Chrome through their own Google.com Chrome ads.

In a way, IE improving its browser to compete with Chrome led to its own downfall TO Chrome. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

Good post Rishi. Keep it up!

Rishi Shah August 31, 2012 at 6:17 PM

Hi Dan,

This has been without a doubt one the most insightful comments on GMA.

This makes total sense and now the idea of creating a new browser seems like a no-brainer move for Google.

Problem: How do we get more people to see ads
Solution in 2003: Speed up our website

Problem: How do we get more people to see ads
Solution in 2012: Speed up the browser

AWESOME COMMENT DAN!
Rishi

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