The World’s Favorite Browser Is Internet Explorer. Or Chrome. Take Your Pick!

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Google's Sundar Pichai charts Chrome's growth in his presentation at last week's Google I/O conference

As CNET’s Lance Whitney is reporting, the latest browser market-share numbers from Net Applications show that Internet Explorer’s once-overwhelming lead is slipping. Except–well, the report still shows that Microsoft’s browser has more users than everything else combined.

In June, the company says, IE had 54.02 percent of the desktop browser market, followed by Firefox with 20.06 percent. Chrome had 19.06 percent, Safari had 4.73 percent and Opera was the least major of the major browsers with 1.6 percent.

Those numbers are tough to reconcile with a comment made by Sundar Pichai, Google’s Chrome honcho, at the Google I/O conference last week. He showed a chart announcing that Chrome now has 310 million users, and said:

There’s a lot of conversation about share, etc–by our internal metrics and everything we see out there, Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, globally.

As the proprietor of many of the world’s most popular websites, Google is in a good position to collect data on which browsers people are using, so I take Pichai’s statement seriously even though the data is self-serving.

Can Net Applications and Google both be right? No, but they’re presumably going about their work in different ways, based on different criteria. Net Applications discloses its methodology, but Pichai didn’t provide any detail or disclaimers when he made his claim.  It’s possible that his boast includes mobile users, but since the only mobile device to come with Chrome as the standard browser is the Nexus 7 tablet–which isn’t even available to the general public yet–it’s hard to imagine that doing so would impact the browser’s market share much.

Net Applications’ figures are weighted by country, and disagree wildly with those of rival StatCounter, which showed Chrome edging out IE last month. As I wrote at the time, other firms draw still different conclusions. Until all the experts more or less agree, or one of them proves that its methodology and analysis are airtight, any reference to either IE or Chrome being the most widely-used browser needs to have a giant asterisk appended to it.