Microsoft's IE snatches share for second straight month

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

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Mozilla's Firefox slipped to 22.9%, a drop of nine-tenths of a percentage point, nearly the equal of the browser's record 1.1-point fall in May 2009. July's slide was not only the second-largest ever for the browser, but the third in a row and the sixth in the last eight months.

Firefox, once seemingly a lock to reach, then soar by the 25% milestone, now holds about the same share it did in August 2009, just a two months after the major upgrade Firefox 3.5.

More unusual was Chrome's dip in July. Google's browser lost one-tenth of one percentage point during the month to end at 7.1%. According to Net Applications, the decline was the first for Chrome since October 2008, the month after Google introduced its browser.

Chrome's increases were slowing before last month: In both May and June, Chrome's gains globally were significantly smaller than its 12-month average. And as early as May, Net Applications tracked a fall-off in Chrome's U.S. numbers, a fact that Microsoft used to claim its rival was already "in retreat."

Today, Capriotti declined to speculate about the reason for Chrome's July drop, saying that the numbers spoke for themselves. "Chrome picked up share in a short period of time, but it has slowed dramatically the last few months," he said.

Other browsers fared better than Firefox and Chrome.

Apple's Safari gained two-tenths of a percentage point to end July at 5.1%, a record for the browser, while Opera Software's namesake climbed by two-tenths of a point to 2.5%, also a record.

Safari's share is actually larger than that of Mac OS X on the operating system side -- 5.1% for the browser, 5% for OS X. That, too, is a first, perhaps explained by the fact that although Safari is bundled with Apple's operating system, it's also available in a version for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7.

While IE8 boosted Microsoft's overall share, other versions continued to slide. IE7, which debuted in 2006 alongside Windows Vista, lost four-tenths of a percentage point to end at a historical low of 11.4%. The even older IE6 -- which Microsoft is determined to kill -- fell two-tenths of a point to 17%, and still accounts for more than a quarter of all versions of IE in use.

"The battle [to drive IE6 into extinction] is definitely winnable," said Capriotti, talking about Microsoft's overt campaign to convince users to ditch the old browser.

Numbers for July from rival Web metrics firm StatCounter were significantly different from those of Net Applications. The Irish company pegged IE's global usage share at 52.7%, a drop of nearly two-tenths of a percentage point from June, and it had Firefox at 30.7% and Chrome at 9.9%, for a decline of one-half of a percentage point and an increase of six-tenths of a percentage point, respectively.

Net Applications uses data acquired from the 160 million unique visitors who browse the 40,000 Web sites it monitors for clients to calculate its usage share number. The firm's July browser usage share data is available on its site.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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