Google is gaining market share with Chrome. But is it actually making any money off it? That’s the question that came into mind when I read Mathew Ingram‘s story on GigaOm about Chrome’s rise in share.
In particular, I found this part interesting:
“StatCounter said that in May, usage of IE 6 fell below the 5 percent mark in the U.S. and Europe for the first time, with overall usage of Internet Explorer at around 53 percent, while Firefox remained relatively flat at about 31 percent. Chrome’s share rose to 8.6 percent from the 6 percent mark at the beginning of the year.”
This rise in share is, I suspect, at least in part down to Google’s decision to use print (yes, print) ads to increase the awareness of Chrome as an alternate to Internet Explorer. Certainly, it’s one factor which is spreading knowledge of Chrome beyond the usual geek enclaves.
Cover wraps don’t come cheap, though, which means that Google must have spent a fair amount of cash on attempting to increase Chrome’s market share. Certainly, it will enable Google to do a decent attempt at working out a cost-per-acquisition for Chrome.
But what I’m also intrigued about is the ROI model that Google must have . Google derives almost all its revenue from advertising, so in order to justify its existence Chrome needs to increase the number of ads viewed (and, if it’s a CPC ad, clicked on too).
In theory, Google can measure this. It would need to monitor the browser that it’s serving up ads to, and see whether the number of ads served to Chrome increases faster than the increase in usage of Chrome. This would show that Chrome users, on average, consume more ads than non-Chrome users, and so justify the browser’s existence.
It’s easy to understand how Chrome provides a better browsing experience than, say, Internet Explorer 6 and so how it might mean more revenue for Google. But does it provide such a significantly better experience than a recent release of, say, Firefox or Safari?
My guess is the answer is no. While Chrome is certainly faster than Safari 4, for example, it’s not so fast that it makes the experience of the web much, much better – and what’s what it would take for me to switch and use the web much more than I do now.
The only people with a real answer, though, are Google – and that’s if they’re even working out ROI on Chrome. It could simply be that the company has so much money its projects don’t have to show any return. Only Google knows the answer to that one – but having parts of the company which don’t show ROI is a long-term mistake of the kind that Microsoft has made, and which has cost them dear.