Microsoft's IE loses more share, slides to new low

And Apple's Safari outgains Mozilla's Firefox third month in a row

Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer (IE) again lost market share last month, although at a slower rate than the previous two-month stretch, but still ended at a new low of 67.6% as rivals continued to steal users, a Web metrics firm reported on Sunday.

Apple Inc.'s Safari, meanwhile, outpaced the growth of Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox for the third month in a row, according to Net Applications Inc.

Overall, Microsoft's browser lost 0.6 percentage points of its market share last month, ending January with 67.6%, the lowest number since Net Applications began tracking browser data in 2005. In the past 12 months, IE has slipped about eight percentage points in market share, nearly as much as the 9.8% drop during the preceding 24 months.

However, January's drop was nowhere near the 1.6 percentage points that IE lost in December 2008 or the 1.5 percentage points it gave up in November.

The one bright spot for Microsoft was the slight ground gained by Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) after the browser reached the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) milestone.

IE8 posted a 0.92% market share for the month as a whole, and accounted for slightly more share, 0.99%, in the six days since Microsoft issued the RC1 build last week. The next major upgrade to IE, Version 8, has been slowly gaining market share since its Beta 2 launched late last August.

But for the third month in a row, Microsoft's main competitors -- Mozilla, Apple and Google -- all gained share at IE's expense.

Mozilla's Firefox increased its share by 0.19 percentage point to finish January with 21.5% of the market, a new record for the open-source browser. In the past 12 months, Firefox's market share has climbed 4.3 percentage points.

Within Firefox's share, the move by users away from Version 2.0 to Version 3.0, which debuted in June 2008, continued last month. Approximately 85% of all people running Firefox have now upgraded to Version 3.0, according to Net Applications, which collects browser share data from the users who visit the thousands of Web sites the company monitors. Mozilla made a third upgrade offer to Firefox 2.0 users on Jan. 8 in a last-ditch attempt to get them to migrate to the newer edition.

Apple's Safari again showed even more impressive gains than Firefox as it boosted its share by 0.36 percentage point to 8.3%, also a record. January was the third month running that Safari increased its share by a larger amount than Firefox. In the past 90 days, Safari has gained 1.7 percentage points, while Firefox has increased its share by 1.5 percentage points.

Even in the face of the quickly deepening economic recession, Mac sales increased by 9% year to year in the last three months of 2008, Apple said two weeks ago as it announced its quarterly earnings. Safari is included with all new Mac notebooks and desktops.

Meanwhile, Google Inc.'s Chrome, which left beta in early December, also continued to gain market share, ending January at 1.1%, the second consecutive month it has stayed above the 1% bar.

Although Net Applications had previously pinned some of IE's larger-than-usual December decline on a large number of holidays that month, January's data showed IE continuing to slide in an "normal" month. Over the past year, IE has slipped by an average of 0.67 percentage point each month.

In the same 12 months, Firefox's share has grown by an average of 0.39 of a percentage point, and Safari's share has grown by 0.24 of a percentage point each month.

Net Applications' browser share data is available online.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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