Microsoft's IE market share drops again

Firefox, Safari and Opera all post gains; future cloudy with arrival of Chrome

Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer lost nearly a full percentage point in market share during August, the browser's biggest drop in three months, a Web metrics firm said today.

IE's rivals -- Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox, Apple Inc.'s Safari and Opera Software ASA's Opera -- all extended their shares at IE's expense last month.

But all those browsers, Microsoft's included, now face competition from Google Inc., which yesterday launched a new browser, dubbed Chrome, that immediately grabbed 1% of the market, Net Applications Inc. said today.

According to the company, IE accounted for 72.2% of the browsers used in August to access the 40,000-plus sites Net Applications monitors. That was a drop of about 0.9 percentage points from July and a departure from the month before, when IE maintained its share for just the third time in the past year.

IE's August drop was the second largest for the year, lower only than May's 1.1-percentage-point fall.

"I can't really explain what happened," admitted Vince Vizzaccaro, Net Applications' executive vice president of marketing. "Perhaps there was some relationship with the launch of IE8 Beta 2. If users are looking at IE8, maybe they're looking at other browsers at the same time, trying to decide which one to use."

Meanwhile, Firefox increased its share by about half a percentage point, climbing from 19.2% in July to end August at 19.7%. Other browsers also boosted their shares: Apple's Safari went from 6.1% to 6.4%, while Opera hit 0.74%, up slightly from July's 0.69%.

Within IE's and Firefox's totals, however, there were shifts from one version to another.

As Vizzaccaro hinted, Microsoft's share for its IE8 browser -- still in beta -- increased by almost 500% in just a few days. Before the Aug. 27 launch of IE8 Beta 2, it accounted for only 0.04% of all browsers connecting to Net Applications-monitored sites. By Tuesday, IE8's share had climbed to 0.22%.

The number of users running Firefox 3.0, the latest version of Mozilla's open-source browser, also jumped last month, moving from 5.7% in July to 7.7% by the end of August.

Mozilla started offering Firefox 2.0 users an update to Firefox 3.0 last week. Not surprisingly, Firefox's month-to-month gain came in increases to Firefox 3.0's portion of the browser's share.

IE7, officially released in October 2006, slid slightly in August, falling from July's 47.1% to 46.8%. It was only the second time that IE7 lost market share in the last 24 months, according to Net Applications.

The even-older IE6 continued to lose share in August, ending the month at 25.2%, off from July's 25.7%.

Google Chrome, which debuted Tuesday around 3 p.m. Eastern, accounted for 1.04% of all browsers as of 1 p.m. EDT today, said Vizzaccaro.

"But their numbers will be a lot easier to grow quickly than, say, Safari or even Firefox did," he said. Vizzaccaro cited Google's name recognition and dominance in the search field as two reasons why it would be able to show rapid uptake for Chrome.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon