It is no secret that Chrome's market share varies dramatically in different geographic around the globe, but it has caught us by surprise that the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) browser is now the most popular one in at least four countries.

Chrome's global share continued to increase during the first 10 days of this month and stood at an average of 21.8%, which is a gain of more than 1 point over June. Firefox remained relatively stable at 28.2%, while it appears that IE lost the most users to Chrome this month, as the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) browser dropped sharply, from 43.6% in June to 42.6%.

Browser preferences vary significantly by region. For example, Chrome holds only about 18% in North America (and less than 17% in the U.S.), while Apple's Safari is much stronger on our shores than anywhere else in the world. Safari has about 11.2% in North America, compared with a global share of 5.2%. Firefox is popular in Europe (and is estimated to hold more than 55% market share in Germany), Opera is strong in the most parts of the former Soviet Union -- for example, in Russia (27.2%), Belarus (46.0%), and Kazakhstan (31.7%) -- and it appears that South America will be Chrome's fort. With about 162 million Internet users, South America is a much smaller market than North America (272 million), Europe (476 million), or Asia (922 million), but the trend is interesting nevertheless.

Chrome has been the second most popular browser behind IE in South America for several months and is catching up to IE quickly. StatCounter currently lists IE share in South America with 41.4%, Chrome with 32.1%, and Firefox with 24.9%. However, Chrome surpassed IE in three countries in this region for the first time in July: Chrome leads in Argentina (16 million users) with 37.5% versus 37.2% for IE, in Chile (7 million users) with 43.7% versus 31.6%, and in Uruguay with 41.1% versus 28.0% (Firefox holds a 29.0% share.) In Brazil, South America's largest Internet nation, with 50 million users, Chrome trails IE with 31.0% versus 41.4%.

There is one more noteworthy nation in which Chrome leads as the most popular browser: It holds an astonishing 58.9% in Albania (1.3 million users), followed by Firefox with 26.1% and IE with 12.9%. There is a good chance that we missed more countries in which Chrome is now more popular than its rivals. The situation in South America, however, is unique, and while we typically pay attention to market-share movements in larger nations such as China, trends usually begin taking shape on a much smaller scale.

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