Google's Chrome web browser - which is currently the subject of a massive advertising campaign here in the UK - has overtaken Apple's Safari browser to become the third most popular method of accessing the web, behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox.

The surprising result comes as the company pushes its browser - which has finally been released in beta form for Linux and Mac OS-based machines as well as Windows - heavily in many countries, hoping to capture even more eyeballs for its advertising business. With the open source browser having undergone some much-needed improvements in recent revisions - including tweaks to its extremely fast JavaScript engine along with support for Firefox-style extensions to tailor the browser to individual requirements - the company's first full web browser appears to be going from strength to strength.

The gain is, of course, other browsers' losses: the biggest loser is Apple's Safari, which has dropped from third to fourth most popular browser - despite being the default web browser on the company's Mac OS range of computing systems, and despite also being available for Windows as part of the iTunes bundle.

The figures, quoted by ComputerWorld and current up to the end of December 2009, show Chrome enjoying 4.63 percent of the world-wide browser market, with Safari trailing at 4.46 percent.

Google could start to gain even more ground against the big two - IE and Firefox - thanks to the Mozilla Foundation's decision to delay the release of Firefox 3.6 until some time later in Q1 2010, bumped from its original end-of-2009 schedule. Whether the small - but noticeable - delay will result in further growth for Google's browser remains to be seen.

Has Google's entry into the browser market gained you as a supporter, or are you a stalwart fan of one of the more traditional web browsers? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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