For over a decade, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) absolutely dominated the market for Internet browsers with Internet Explorer, as it was bundled in with Windows. Considering how important browser choice is to the overall Web experience, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) was always destined to enter the market, which it did in September 2008 with Chrome.
Mozilla, which Google is the largest financial backer of, was seeing Firefox begin to take off at the time. Chrome overtook Firefox in December 2011, and then set its sights on toppling IE. Last year, Chrome finally beat out IE for the No. 1 title.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has never been a meaningful player with Safari. The Mac maker doesn't have much ambition in browsers, either, as it stopped developing its browser for Windows last year with Safari 6.0. Older versions still work, but this year's OS X 10.9 Mavericks release will include Safari 7.0, which won't be released for Windows. By ditching Windows, Apple cements that Safari won't make a meaningful dent in the browser market.
Seeing is believing
It took less than five years for Chrome to become the most popular browser in the world, according to StatCounter.
You can even see Chrome take over the world by country. StatCounter also provides maps that show the top browsers by geographical region. In July 2008, IE ruled the browser world with an iron fist, and Firefox was only beginning to gain traction.
A year later, Opera took over Russia, but it was still very much an IE world.
Fast forward to 2010, and Firefox muscled out Opera in Russia, and was halfway through its invasion of Europe. Technically speaking, Safari began to show up on the map, but not in any important countries. For instance, its highest browser market share at the time was 28% in the tiny Pacific island territory of Wallis and Futuna. Good luck finding that on the map.
Thus far, Chrome hadn't ranked as the top browser in any country. That all changed by July 2011 when Big G's browser started to grab South American countries and make gains in the Middle East.
It didn't take long for Chrome to quickly assault the rest of the world, overtaking the rest of South America and much of Asia just a year later. Interestingly, North America was still dominated by Microsoft for the most part.
Today, Chrome has largely replaced IE as the top browser throughout most parts of the globe.
IE still has a stronghold in China, where Google has clashed with the government on numerous occasions over censorship issues. Pirating Microsoft software has also become a national pastime, even within the enterprise. Firefox remains dominant in Africa, and Safari is still a non-player for all intents and purposes.
Well done, Google. That didn't take very long.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.