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IE8 can't stem bleeding of Microsoft's browser market share

IE's share falls to new low; Firefox, Chrome and Opera post solid gains

December 1, 2009 01:13 PM ET

Computerworld - Internet Explorer's market share ebbed again last month, a Web measurement firm said today, more proof that Microsoft's release of Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) hasn't stopped desertions to rival browsers.

Mozilla's Firefox, Google's Chrome and Opera Software's Opera all posted solid gains, according to Calif.-based Net Applications.

Overall, IE dropped to a 63.6% share, a new all-time low, as it lost just over 1 percentage point of market share. November marked the third straight month Microsoft's browser has declined by a point or more; in the last year, IE has fallen 8 percentage points.

The only bright spot for Microsoft is that it's made some headway in an unsubtle campaign to convince users to abandon the eight-year-old IE6 for this year's edition, IE8. When Net Applications accounts for IE8's "compatibility view" -- a feature that lets users display sites as rendered by the older, and often Web standard-incompatible IE7 and IE6 -- Microsoft's newest browser accounted for 22.1% of all browsers, a virtual dead heat with IE6 and several points above IE7's 16.9%.

Microsoft has been aggressively promoting IE8 for several months, most famously last August when Amy Bazdukas, the general manager for IE, said "Friends don't let friends use IE6." Yesterday, Microsoft continued that campaign as it touted IE8 as a safer browser than the earlier editions for holiday online shopping. "We've said it before and we'll say it again, to advance the Web we need to move people to a modern version of Internet Explorer," said Ryan Servatius, a senior product manager in the IE group, during an interview Monday.

But even with calls to action like those, Microsoft has had trouble retaining the users who have ditched IE6 and IE7. By Net Applications' tally, IE6 has lost 3.2 percentage points in the last three months, and IE7 has fallen 4.2 points; IE8, however, has gained only 4.2 percentage points in the same period.

The seemingly inexorable slide in IE's share has left the door open for rivals, including Firefox, Chrome and Opera.

Last month, Firefox added about 0.7 of a percentage point to its share, finishing November with 24.7%. Chrome grew by 0.4 of a percentage point and Opera increased by 0.1 of a percentage point, to end the month at 3.9% and 2.3%, respectively. All three browsers' shares were records.

Most notable were the gains by Firefox and Chrome. Firefox neared the 25% milestone, which it should pass this month, and Google's browser closed in on Apple's Safari, which lost market share for the first time since last April. If the trend from the past three months continues, Chrome will pass Safari and take the No. 3 browser spot in January 2010.

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