Microsoft's IE snatches share for second straight month

Chrome falls for the first time in nearly two years, Firefox drops again

For the second straight month, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser gained ground in the usage share race, a company manager said today.

According to Net Applications, the Web metrics firm whose data Microsoft cited, IE's gains came at the expense of both Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome, with the former posting its biggest one-month decline in more than a year while the latter's loss broke a string of 20 consecutive months of increases.

By the end of July, IE accounted for 60.7% of all browsers used globally, Net Applications' data revealed. The increase of four-tenths of a percentage point was the second month in a row that IE jumped, and after June's, was the second-highest increase recorded for the browser.

Microsoft has never seen two straight months of IE increases in Net Applications' numbers: Its occasional bumps have been single-month gains, with a return the next month to IE's long-term decline. IE's gains in July effectively turned back the clock to last March, when IE also owned a 60.7% share.

As it has the last three months, Microsoft used Net Applications' numbers to trumpet the success of its browser strategy. "To see two consecutive months worldwide is encouraging and promising," said Roger Capriotti, a product management lead on the IE team.

Capriotti also boasted of gains made by Microsoft's newest browser, IE8', repeating what other IE team members have said previously. "IE8 is the most widely-used and the fastest-growing browser," he said.

IE's overall gains were again due to IE8, the 2009 browser that's integrated with the also-surging Windows 7. Globally, IE8 gained just over one percentage point to end the month with a 26.9% share. When the number for the browser's compatibility mode -- a feature that lets it properly render pages designed for older editions -- is taken into account, IE8 total usage share was 30.3%, the largest for any one browser edition.

In the U.S., IE8 did even better than its worldwide average, said Capriotti. "IE8 increased its U.S. share to 42.2%," he said, with a surge of almost 1.4 percentage points during July.

Capriotti acknowledged that Windows 7's success has helped IE8, but argued that the browser had been doing well before that operating system launched last October. "Windows 7 has definitely had a halo effect," he said, "but we grew IE8 to a sizable number before Windows 7's release." By Net Applications' numbers, IE8 had climbed to 18.1% by October 2009.

But he refused to speculate on whether the two-month increase would be sustained, or whether the release of IE9 -- the next upgrade slated to ship in beta next month -- would maintain the momentum. His only comment: "You'll see great things from IE9."

Like last month, several browsers lost share to IE's surge.

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