Chrome again beats Firefox in browser gain race

Grabs almost all the share that Internet Explorer loses

Chrome was the only browser to gain significant usage share last month, and it again trounced Firefox.

By the end of April, Google Inc.'s Chrome accounted for 6.7% of the browsers that surfed to the sites that Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based NetApplications monitors for its clients. Chrome boosted its share by 0.6 percentage points, by far the largest increase of any browser for the month, and the second-highest increase since Google launched the application in September 2008.

Virtually all of Chrome's April expansion came at the expense of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, which dropped 0.7 percentage points to finish the month at 59.95%, the first time that IE has fallen under the 60% mark. IE's decline was lower than the previous month -- it lost nearly a full point of share in March -- but was still above its average monthly decline.

Mozilla Corp.'s open-source Firefox, on the other hand, was up last month, albeit by only 0.07 percentage points to 24.6%. April was the second month in a row that Firefox trended up, a victory of sorts in light of the fact that it had lost ground for four straight months starting in November 2009.

Once considered a lock to hit and then move beyond the 25% bar, Firefox has yet to reach the milestone. Last month, Vince Vizzaccaro, an executive vice president at NetApplications, said that Firefox was "just holding steady" and explained that gains that had once come easily to it were instead heading Chrome's way. That appeared to be the case again in April.

Mozilla's bright spot was that it has convinced nearly two-thirds of its users to upgrade to the newest Firefox, Version 3.6, which launched in January. By the end of April, 62.3% of all Firefox users were running the newest edition, while 23.6% ran 2009's Firefox 3.5 and 11.2% ran the now-unsupported Firefox 3.0.

Microsoft's newest browser, IE8, also showed strong gains last month as its market share grew by one percentage point to 24.7%; when its "compatibility view" is included, IE8 accounted for 27.6% of all browsers. The older IE6 and IE7 both lost share in April, ending at 17.6% and 12.5%, respectively. IE7's losses are slowing, however; its three-month average decline is less than half that of the 12-month average.

IE6, which celebrates its nine-year anniversary this August, continues to lose share, but by NetApplications' numbers, it will be a force for some time. Even if IE6 stays on its downward pace of the last three months, the aged browser won't slip under 10% until the summer of 2012.

Apple Inc.'s Safari remained at 4.7%. Meanwhile, Opera Software's eponymous desktop browser lost share to end the month at 2.3%.

NetApplications measures browser usage share by collecting systems data from the computers that visit the 40,000 sites it tracks for customers of its analytics services. April's data is available on the company's site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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