By Tarmo Virki
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Google Inc's Chrome web browser overtook Microsoft Corp's Internet Explorer (IE) to become market leader globally for the first time last Sunday, web analytics firm StatCounter said on Wednesday.
"While it is only one day, this is a milestone," said Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter's chief executive.
"At weekends, when people are free to choose what browser to use, many of them are selecting Chrome in preference to IE."
On March 18, Chrome was used for 32.7 percent of all browsing, while Explorer had 32.5 percent share. When people returned to their offices on Monday, the IE share rose to 35 percent and Chrome's share slipped to 30 percent.
"Whether Chrome can take the lead in the browser wars in the long term remains to be seen, however the trend towards Chrome usage at weekends is undeniable," Cullen said.
On a monthly basis, Chrome's market share has surged to 31 percent so far in March from 17 percent a year ago, while Explorer has slipped to 35 percent from 45 percent a year earlier.
The market share of Firefox -- which is popular in Europe -- is globally around 25 percent.
Apple Inc's Safari is a distant number four with a 7 percent share of all browsing, with Opera at number five on 2 percent.
StatCounter statistics are based on aggregate data from more than 3 million websites with a sample of more than 15 billion page views per month.
(Editing by David Cowell)