Chrome, Safari reach record browser share highs

IE keeps free falling, now on pace to dip below 50% in six months

Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari posted record numbers in January while Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) lost ground for the sixth month running, an Internet measurement company said today.

Both Chrome and Safari passed major usage share milestones, breaking the 10% and 6% bars, respectively, said Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications.

Chrome, which has added 5.5 percentage points in the last year, gained just over seven-tenths of a point in January to end the month with 10.7% of the global browser market.

Meanwhile, Safari piggybacked on a boost in Mac usage -- last month Apple's Mac OS X desktop operating system posted its largest gain since September 2009 -- to climb four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.3%. Safari's January increase was the largest one-month jump since Net Applications began compiling browser statistics.

Since the browser usage market is a zero-sum game -- when one browser advances, another has to retreat -- it's no surprise that the long-running trend of IE's decline continued last month.

IE lost over a point to end January with a 56% share, a new low. IE has lost six points in the past year, with only two months of gains during that time.

"We're seeing the trend [of IE's decline] continue, but where once the growth went to Firefox, now it goes to Chrome and Safari," said Vince Vizzaccaro, vice president of marketing at Net Applications.

Mozilla's Firefox remained flat in January, accounting for 22.8% of all browsers used during the month. The open-source developer plans to ship the next major upgrade, Firefox 4, this month, which may reinvigorate its once-regular share gains.

Both Microsoft and Vizzaccaro called out IE8, the 2009 browser that now holds a 34.2% share, for continuing to grow its share. "IE8 has had a great impact, and IE9 shows some promise," said Vizzaccaro, who said he uses IE9's beta and found it "phenomenal." He wasn't sure that either IE8 or IE9 would turn Microsoft's fortunes around, however.

IE9, which launched as a public beta last September, is slated to ship this quarter. Microsoft has also issued invitations to an event next week in San Francisco, where most expect the company to announce the release candidate, or RC, build of the browser -- the last major step before work is wrapped up.

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