IE share slides record amount, ends 2008 down 10%

Firefox is up 27% for the year, Safari up 42% as rivals eat into Microsoft's market

Internet Explorer's market share plunged by a record-setting amount during December, Web metrics vendor Net Applications Inc. said today.

Microsoft Corp.'s browser lost 1.6 percentage points of its market share last month, ending December with a 68.2% share, down from November's 69.8%. Since the end of October, IE's market share has lost 3.1 percentage points, nearly half of its total 2008 losses.

IE ended the year down 7.9 percentage points, a 10.4% decline in its share since December 2007.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of IE's December loss came from IE6's declining popularity; the older browser, which first appeared in August 2001, has long lost share to the newer IE7. However, IE7 also slipped significantly. Microsoft's newest production browser dropped six-tenths of a percentage point last month, the largest slip since its October 2006 launch.

Microsoft is currently working on IE8, and has said a "release candidate" build of the browser is "just around the corner."

For the second month running, rival browsers from Mozilla Corp., Apple Inc. and Google Inc. all gained ground at IE's expense, according to Net Applications' data, which is culled from analysis of visits to the thousands of Web sites the company monitors for clients.

Mozilla's Firefox, whose market share climbed above the 20% mark in November, increased its share by another six-tenths of a percentage point to finish the year with 21.3% of the browser market. During 2008, Firefox's market share climbed 4.5 percentage points, an increase of 27.3%.

Apple's Safari posted even more impressive gains during December. The browser, which is included with all Macs, increased its share by eight-tenths of a percentage point -- its largest one-month increase ever -- to end the month with 7.9% of the browser market. Safari's share has grown 41.9% since this time last year.

And Safari broke its own record for a two-month market-share increase at the end of 2008. Its 1.36-percentage-point gain during November and December was nearly double its previous record, a 0.72 percentage point increase in September and October 2006.

Google's Chrome, which debuted in September and left beta testing in early December, also boosted its market share, ending the month above 1% for the first time.

In the last two months, Firefox and Safari have grown nearly identical amounts, gaining 1.37 and 1.36 percentage points, respectively, during November and December 2008.

As it did last month, Net Applications again argued that at least some of the decline of IE -- and the corresponding increases by Firefox, Safari and Chrome -- was due to the calendar. "The December holiday season strongly favored residential over business usage," the company said on its Web site. "This in turn increases the relative usage share of Mac, Firefox, Safari and other products that have relatively high residential usage. All December usage statistics should be read in that context."

According to Net Applications, usage of non-Microsoft browsers climbs after work hours, on weekends and during holidays, as users surf from home computers rather than from work machines, which are far more likely to run Microsoft's IE.

While December and November have traditionally been tough months for IE -- perhaps in large part because of the large number of off-work days -- 2008 was, by far, the worst for Microsoft's browser. The 3.1-percentage-point loss in November and December 2008 was significantly larger than other years' declines. In November and December 2007, for instance, IE lost 2.3 percentage points; and the browser lost 1.5 percentage points during the same two months in both 2006 and 2005.

Of the top four non-Microsoft browsers, only Opera Software ASA's flagship application failed to gain a bigger share of the market; its share stayed at 0.71% in December, the same as in November.

Net Applications' browser share data is available online.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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