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IE tumbles, Firefox regains market share mojo

IE6 numbers take a nose dive; Firefox reaps nearly all the benefit

September 1, 2009 06:35 AM ET

Computerworld - Last month, Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer posted its largest market share loss since November 2008, while Firefox reaped nearly all the benefit, Web metrics company Net Applications said today.

Meanwhile, Google Inc.'s Chrome continued to gain on Apple Inc.'s Safari, closing to within 1.25 percentage points. At Chrome's current pace, it will replace Safari as the No. 3 browser in 11 months.

But it was the biggest browser by share, Internet Explorer (IE), that saw its numbers change the most in August, when it dropped 1.1 percentage points to 66.6%. The slide was IE's steepest since last November, said Net Applications, when Microsoft's browser plunged by 2 percentage points.

In the last 12 months, IE has lost 8.6 points of browser share.

Mozilla's Firefox has collected about half that over the same period, but last month the open-source browser surged by 0.8 percentage point to 23.3%, nearly matching its record of 23.8% set in April.

Apple's Safari increased its market share only slightly, to 4.1%, while Chrome climbed by 0.3 percentage point to 2.9%. Opera Software's Opera accounted for 2.1%, growing by 0.1 percentage point, the Norwegian browser's largest single-month gain since October 2008.

Browser market share may soon be less of an academic counting exercise or simply for bragging rights. Microsoft has proposed to include a browser "ballot screen" in Windows 7 in less than two months, and later in Windows XP and Vista, that will let European users choose which application they use to access the Internet. Initially, the top five browsers are to be on the ballot, with market share determining position from left to right. Microsoft has told European antitrust regulators that it would use one or more Web metrics vendors -- Net Applications is among the most prominent -- to determine those it puts on the ballot.

Within the still-dominant IE share, trends established earlier continued in August. The eight-year-old IE6 lost 2.4 percentage points, dropping to 24.8%, while 2007's IE7 lost 1.9 points, falling to 21.2%. IE8, on the other hand, gained 2.7 percentage points to post an August average of 15.2%, its largest share ever by a wide margin. As recently as April, IE8 accounted for only 3.6% of all browsers.

IE6's August plunge was the biggest since December 2007, when IE7 was only months old and supplanting its predecessor in large numbers. IE6's long life -- some have said it's been far too long -- has prompted some major Web sites, including Facebook and YouTube, to urge their users to ditch the aged application. Even Microsoft has given its tacit approval, at least when consumers are concerned. "Friends don't let friends use IE6," said Amy Bazdukas, Microsoft's general manager for IE, in an interview two week ago.



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