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Chrome 6 was released this week but there’s some more important news for web designers and developers. According to StatCounter’s statistics, Google’s browser recorded a 10.76% market share during August 2010. This was an increase from 9.88% in the previous month.

A 0.9% rise may not sound much, but it accounts for millions of users and is an important milestone for the 2 year-old browser. In last month’s article, Current Browser Market Shares and Trends, I reported that double figures would be achieved soon but uptake appears to have accelerated.

It’s important to note that browser usage figures are never accurate and naturally fluctuate, but Chrome’s growth has never deviated from its upward path.

BrowserJuly 2010August 2010Change
IE52.69%51.34%-1.35%
Firefox30.69%31.09%+0.40%
Chrome9.88%10.76%+0.88%
Safari4.09%4.23%+0.14%
Opera1.91%1.88%-0.03%
Others0.74%0.70%-0.04%

Chrome’s gain has been at IE’s expense. That’s not surprising, but IE usage had remained fairly static — if not increased slightly — during previous months. August shows the biggest monthly drop in IE’s market share for a year.

The figures will please Google but it has a long way to go before Chrome starts to challenge IE and Firefox. However, the company has been aggressively advertising the browser and few people would bet against it.

Could we see a 3-way tie at the top of the browser charts?

“Up until now I’ve been broadcasting updates via a facebook group, but I’d like to move away from that.” (-subscription required)

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Web designers and developers usually have a selection of the most popular browsers installed on their PC. You don’t? Really? Why not install a few and give them a go.

Operating Systems allow you to set a default browser and we all have our favorites. Some love Firefox for its flexibility. Some swear by Chrome for its speed and clean interface. Others prefer Opera for its tools and features. Many Apple users love Safari’s OS integration. IE users like the browser because … erm, well, they have their reasons (and we have high hopes for IE9).

I started with Netscape 2, migrated to IE3, 4, 5, 5.5 and 6, then switched to Phoenix, Firebird and eventually Firefox. Although I had other browsers installed, I rarely used them for anything other web page testing.

However, in the past year or two I’ve noticed a change in my browser usage patterns. I now use whichever application is most practical — sometimes, it’s simply the icon closest to my cursor. There are a several reasons:

  1. The 5 main browsers are all good applications. You may prefer one over another, but none is perfect and even the worst is fine for general web surfing.
  2. Chrome and Safari may offer some amazing CSS3 effects but the gap between the browsers is smaller than it’s ever been. All of the top browsers offer decent rendering capabilities.
  3. It’s often practical to have two or more different browsers open, e.g. if you’re accessing work and private GMail accounts at the same time.

In most cases, though, I use whichever browser offers the best facilities for the task in hand. For fast browsing, I might use Chrome. On a netbook, I often use Opera for it’s speed, built-in email and turbo mode for slow connections. For storing bookmarks and web page development, it’s hard to beat Firefox. Finally, I still use IE for testing and a few specific corporate applications.

While I doubt many general Internet users flit between applications, it’s increasingly less likely for a power user to have monogamous relationship with a single browser. Then again, perhaps it’s just me — I’ve become a browser whore.

What do you think? Are you wedded to one browser or do you flirt with them all? Please vote on the SitePoint poll or leave your comments below…

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Despite being just 2 years old, Chrome has reached version 6. On average, Google release a new version every 4 months and version 5 appeared at the end of May 2010.

Call me a cynic, but I’m convinced the rapid release schedule is pure marketing hype. By the time Internet Explorer 9.0 finally arrives, Chrome will be at version 8 and will quickly overtake Microsoft’s browser. Although few people care about the numbers, it doesn’t stop journalists and bloggers like me reporting that a new version is available. How many news stories appeared about Firefox 3.6 or Opera 10.6? They had more new features, but the version numbers didn’t seem so important and they received far less press coverage.

Enough about the marketing conspiracies — what can Chrome users expect from the update?

New default theme
Chrome’s always been clean, but the new theme is subtler and more minimalistic than before. The window is transparent gray on Windows 7 and there are even fewer distractions.

Chrome 6 screenshot

Some of the menus have been combined, for example, Cut, Copy and Paste are on a single line. There’s also a new “Create application shortcuts” option which allows you to add web links to your OS desktop or menus.

Form Autofill
It’s taken some time for autofill to arrive on Chrome, but Google has an interesting implementation. Rather than simply associating strings with similarly-named input fields, Chrome remembers sets of addresses and credit card numbers. It works well and form details can be entered with a single click.

Synchronized extensions
If you’re using Chrome on more than one PC, you’re probably syncing bookmarks, passwords and possibly themes. The new version adds automatic synchronization for autofill and extensions. It makes Chrome quicker and easier to install when you upgrade your OS or switch platforms — there’s less reason for you to shop around for another browser.

Improved address bar
Google may call it the “Omnibar” but I never will! The most significant change is the removal of “http://” from the start of web addresses. It’s a sensible move since few users know or care what it means. Secure addresses are still shown with the full https:// highlighted in green.

The bookmarks star has moved to the right and the “Go” arrow has been removed (good riddance!) You might notice a few other icons appear, such as a cookie indicator.

WebM
Google’s own open source royalty-free video format, WebM, makes an appearance in Chrome for the first time. Whether it has a chance against H.264 remains to be seen.

Standards and speed
Needless to say, Chrome 6 has better support for web standards and is faster than its predecessor. It was already good in those respects, so the improvements are barely noticeable to most users.

The Developer Tools have also received an update. I suspect many will still prefer Firebug, but it’s an impressive set of tools that come with the standard browser.

There’s little to dislike about Chrome. You may not appreciate Google’s version numbering or ambitions, but they’ve produced a great browser which has attracted a significant following in a relatively short period.

Chrome can be downloaded from www.google.com/chrome. If you’re already version 5, click the Tool icon, About Google Chrome, and follow the update instructions.

Will Chrome 6 become your default browser?

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It’s been a busy week for Google’s GMail developers. They recently added free telephone voice calls and now they’ve introduced a new feature to save you from email overload.

A typical corporate user sends or receives an average of 110 messages per day and spends 8 hours per week dealing with their inbox. It’s a recognized cause of stress, can make people feel overwhelmed, and prevents them completing more important tasks. GMail’s new Priority Inbox could help you reduce the strain. It’s an experimental feature which is being rolled out to all users over the next few days. Look for a bright red “Priority Inbox” link at the top right of the page — you should see it soon.

Essentially, Priority Inbox is a junk mail filter in reverse. It recognizes important messages — such as those from your boss — and gives less priority to non-critical messages. Such as those from Bob in the Accounts who cc’s the whole company when the coffee machine’s empty.

As usual, Google has released a cheesy video to explain the concept:

Priority Inbox watches what you read and respond to. It learns over time and should become more efficient at sorting the critical from the trivial. The inbox is split into three sections — Important and unread, Starred and Everything else (you can configure them in GMail’s Settings):

GMail Priority Inbox

If the filter gets it wrong, you can mark a message as more or less important using the + and – buttons accordingly.

Google has tested Priority Inbox internally for 18 months. According to it’s own internal reports, employees now spend 13% less time reading irrelevant emails.

For more information, refer to The Priority Inbox page.

Will it save you from email overload?