Google's Chrome 'in retreat,' says Microsoft

Executive touts IE's gains in the U.S. as Firefox, Chrome both fall

Internet Explorer (IE) gained browser usage share last month in the U.S., while major rivals Firefox and Chrome both lost ground, Microsoft said today, citing data from Web analytics firm Net Applications.

"This is an incredibly competitive space now, which is incredibly healthy," said Ryan Gavin, director of platform strategies for Microsoft. "But we're already seeing Chrome in retreat in the U.S."

According to Net Applications data not available to the general public, all versions of IE gained 0.76 of a percentage point in U.S. usage share last month, accounting for 63.27% of the browsers used in May. Firefox and Chrome, meanwhile, fell 0.24 and 0.45 of a percentage point, respectively, in the U.S. last month, ending with shares of 20.38% and 4.53%.

Net Applications confirmed that the data Gavin cited was accurate.

But the growth of IE in the U.S. was not enough to offset its decline globally, where Microsoft gave up 0.26 of a percentage point to fall to a new low of 59.7%. Meanwhile, Google's Chrome and Opera Software's Norwegian-made Opera boosted their worldwide shares in May at the expense of IE and Mozilla's Firefox.

By May's end, Chrome accounted for 7.05% of the browsers that surfed to the 40,000 sites that Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications monitors for clients. Opera increased its share by 0.13 of a percentage point, its largest increase in eight months, to 2.4%.

Chrome's increase of 0.3 of a percentage point was the browser's smallest gain since August 2009, and significantly off its three- and 12-month averages of nearly half a point.

Firefox, on the other hand, was again down last month, sliding 0.24 of a percentage point to 24.35% worldwide, marking the fourth time in the last six months that the browser's share slipped. In March and April, Firefox gained back some of the ground it had lost since November 2009, but May's decline cost Mozilla most of the growth it had fought for during the two-month stretch. Firefox now stands at about the same share it had in January.

Once considered a lock to hit and then move beyond the 25% bar, Firefox has yet to reach that milestone. In April, Vince Vizzaccaro, a Net Applications executive vice president, said that Firefox was "just holding steady" and explained that gains that had once come its way were instead being gobbled by Google's Chrome.

Microsoft disputed that Chrome is grabbing share.

"IE8 continues to lead in user choice," Gavin argued. "It grew 2.5 times faster than any competitor." He arrived at the two-and-a-half times figure by comparing IE8's global increase of 0.81 of a percentage point with Chrome's growth of 0.32 of a percentage point.

IE8 closed May with 35.38% of the U.S. browser usage share, making it the most-used browser in the country. Microsoft's IE7 was second, with 16.75%, said Vizzaccaro, while Mozilla's Firefox 3.6 was third with 13%. Google's best showing was at No. 8, where Chrome 4.1 accounted for 3.52%. Chrome 5.0, which just shifted out of beta into what Google dubs its "stable channel," owned 0.76% of the usage market.

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