Chrome Overtakes Safari in U.S. Browser Wars

Google Chrome (s goog), for the first time ever, is now used more than the Apple Safari (s aapl) browser in the U.S., with an 8.97 percent share of the market, according to web analytics tracking firm StatCounter. Safari, which is used by 8.88 percent of the U.S. for browsing, joins Chrome in lagging behind Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (s msft) and Mozilla’s Firefox, which claim a 52 percent and 28.5 percent share, respectively. Even though Chrome and Safari lag the incumbents, both are built on the WebKit rendering engine.

It’s almost ironic that Chrome has surpassed Safari since Apple itself open-sourced WebKit in 2005 and has used it exclusively in Safari for Mac OS X and for the iOS4 operating system. Yet in under two years — the first Chrome beta launched in September of 2008 — Google has built its successful Chrome browser upon Apple’s WebKit efforts and is even leveraging it for the Chrome OSdue out later this year. Globally, Chrome took even less time to surpass Safari — it holds 9.4 percent of the worldwide browser market vs. Safari’s 4 percent, says StatCounter.

WebKit-based browsers continues to gain importance, not just on the desktop, but in the mobile space as well. Nokia currently uses WebKit for the Symbian S60 (s nok) browser as does Palm (s palm) for the webOS browser. And when Research In Motion (s rimm) purchased Torch Mobile last August, it essentially acquired that company’s WebKit browser, which is expected to be part of the upcoming BlackBerry 6 OS.

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