Browser battles: Facebook’s mysterious move, Chrome’s growing reach and Explorer’s privacy feature

Updates from the never-ending browser wars:

• The Internet rumor mill is all atwitter that Facebook has dropped Google’s Chrome from its recommended browsers in favor of Opera, adding fuel to speculation that the Menlo Park social giant may buy the Norway-based company. Opera has a popular (and revenue-generating) mobile browser that Facebook may see as a key addition to bolstering its now-lackluster mobile presence.

The blog Pocket-lint is among those reporting that Facebook made the browser change Thursday, noting the acrimonious history between Facebook and Google. But before we all jump to conclusions, Facebook on Chrome still works just fine, and a quick check of Facebook’s browser recommendations shows that, in fact, Chrome is still among the four it gives the thumbs-up to, along with Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Explorer. Notably absent: Opera. In addition, the page showing Opera’s recommendation is no longer working. Was it a trial balloon? A test? Or was it completely meaningless? Only time will tell. But really, would it be wise for Facebook to block out a browser used by a third of the world?

• Which leads us to Chrome’s latest milestone: That is has surpassed Firefox as the more popular browser. Now, browser metrics are notoriously inconsistent, but there does appear to be a trend that’s benefiting Chrome. A report by analytics firm Net Applications found Chrome gained 1.2 percent of the market in May, surging to the No. 2 spot at 20.2 percent, just slightly above Firefox at 19.6 percent. A different report had even better news for Chrome: Statcounter said it topped Explorer as the world’s No. 1 browser, 32.4 percent to 32.1 percent. Regardless of the exact numbers, it appears Chrome is on the rise as Firefox sees its market share ever so slowly slipping. Speaking at D10, the All Things Digital conference this week, Google executive Sundar Pichai said Chrome grew more than 300 percent last year, and that its market share exceeds 50 percent in many parts of the world.

• Meanwhile, Microsoft is making waves over word that its next browser, (revised) Internet Explorer 10 (end revised),  will have a default Do No Track feature. That would make it the first browser to have such a privacy setting that doesn’t need to be opted into. “We believe that consumers should have more control over how information about their online behavior is tracked, shared and used,” Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch wrote in a blog post. The announcement was hailed by consumer advocates and the FTC, whose chairman, Jon Leibowitz, expressed hope that industry-wide Do Not Track standards would be reached by year’s end. But ironically, the move could backfire, according to a report, which warned of a backlash by advertisers. “I hope this doesn’t throw a wrench into works on getting agreement on Do Not Track,” consumer privacy advocate Justin Brookman told Wired. “But I like it when browsers compete on privacy.”


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