Microsoft's IE posts record usage share gains

Firefox's slide continues, now back to September '09 level; Chrome's increase slows

Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer Web browser turned things around last month, boosting its usage share by a record amount, a Web analytics firm said today.

By the end of June, IE accounted for 60.3% of all browsers used globally, according to data released by Net Applications. The increase of sixth-tenths of a percentage point was a record in Net Applications' data, exceeding the three-tenths of a percentage point jump in May 2009 by a wide margin.

Vince Vizzaccaro, a Net Applications executive vice president, attributed at least some of IE's gains to Microsoft's "Confidence" marketing campaign, which rolled out in early June and featured TV and Web ads extolling security enhancements in IE8.

"It's a fairly large campaign, something I don't remember Microsoft really doing before," Vizzaccaro said. "And I think it's a good campaign."

He also speculated that IE's increase was tied to the continued upswing in Windows PC sales, and to the fact that IE8 is included with Windows 7, the operating system packaged on virtually every new machine. "PC sales are at a record-setting pace," said Vizzaccaro, "and with Windows regaining some market share, it makes sense that IE does as well." Most people simply "go with the flow," he added, running the browser that comes on their machines.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft took the opportunity to trumpet the turnaround, particularly the increases in share for IE8, its newest browser. "Internet Explorer 8 continues to be the fastest growing browser with a 0.66 [percentage point] increase in share, more than three times the growth of Google Chrome," said Ryan Gavin, a senior director on Microsoft's IE team, in an entry on the browser's official blog.

According to Net Applications, IE 8's usage share totaled 48.7% during June when the browser's compatibility mode -- a feature that lets it properly render pages designed for older editions -- is taken into account.

Microsoft's achievement shouldn't come as a shock, since IE's intermittent gains have typically come in the summer. Last year, IE gained 0.55 of a percentage point in May and June, while in 2008 it posted a 0.15 of a percentage point increase in July. Net Applications' Vizzaccaro had no quick explanation for IE's summer jumps.

Rival browsers, meanwhile, either lost ground to IE or gained at rates slower than historical averages.

Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox slipped to 23.8%, a decrease of half a percentage point, its largest single-month loss since May 2009. Meanwhile the namesake browser of Norway's Opera Software ASA dropped to 2.3%, a decline of two-tenths of a percentage point.

Google Inc.'s Chrome, which has surged of late, ended June with a usage share of 7.2%, for an increase of two-tenths of a percentage point, half the average monthly gain it had posted during the previous 12 months. Apple Inc.'s Safari, whose share is tightly tied to that of the Macintosh platform, climbed almost one-tenth of percentage point to 4.9%.

By far the biggest loser was Firefox, which now has the same usage share it had in September 2009. Firefox has lost share in five of the last seven months.

Once considered a lock to hit and then move beyond the 25% bar, Firefox has yet to reach that milestone. In April, Vizzaccaro 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.

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