Chrome and Safari continued to chip away at Internet Explorer's usage share last month, while Firefox remained stalled for the fourth straight month, a Web statistics firm said today.
Meanwhile, Microsoft used the same data from California-based Net Applications to tout the success of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) on Windows 7, where the new browser is now the second-most-popular behind the 15-month-old IE8.
Total IE share fell by six-tenths of a percentage point in June -- the fourth consecutive month that Microsoft's browser slid by that amount or more -- to end at 53.7%, a new low for the browser. The drop was less than the previous three months, when IE's decay accelerated , and more in line with the average decline over the last 12 months.
At its current pace, IE could slip under the 50% bar before the end of this year, ending the majority Microsoft has enjoyed for more than a decade.
Mozilla's Firefox remained flat last month at 21.7%, and Opera Software's Opera fell three-tenths of a percentage point -- its largest decline in nearly four years -- to end June at 1.7%.
Last month's winners were again Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome, the only two browsers to consistently boost their usage share during the last year.
Safari climbed by two-tenths of a point to 7.5%, a record for the browser bundled with all Macs, iPhones and iPads, while Chrome increased by six-tenths of a percentage point to end June at 13.1%.
Chrome is on pace to break 15% by October, just a little over three years after Google introduced the browser.
Although IE9's introduction in mid-March has not stemmed Microsoft share bleeding, the new browser has made significant inroads on Windows 7, Microsoft said today. "IE9 has now become the most popular modern browser on Windows 7 in the U.S.," maintained Roger Capriotti, the head of IE marketing at Microsoft.
According to Net Applications, IE9 accounted for 19.6% of all browsers on U.S. computers running Windows 7, and for 15.6% of all Windows 7 machines globally.
Microsoft has repeatedly touted IE9 as its first "modern" browser, meaning it supports HTML5 and other new Web standards.
But IE9 still lags behind IE8 on Windows 7, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Globally, the older browser owns a 47.9% share on Windows 7, more than three times that of IE9.
IE9 has not yet matched the usage share of either IE6 or IE7 because the new edition doesn't run on Windows XP. (Data: Net Applications.)
The casting of IE9 as "the most popular modern browser on Windows 7" is also peculiar, what with its second-place standing behind IE8, and the earlier contention by the company in 2009 that the then-new IE8 was "a modern version of Internet Explorer."
However, IE9 did pass rivals Firefox and Chrome in usage share on Windows 7 last month for the first time: Mozilla's and Google's newest browsers, Firefox 4 and Chrome 12, accounted for 11.3% and 8.5% of the global Windows 7 market, respectively, said Net Applications.
Microsoft has tied the success of IE9 to Windows 7 -- Vista, which also runs the browser, is closing in on extinction, according to other data from Net Applications -- but the browser's lack of support for the still-strong Windows XP has hampered its ability to become a major player in the browser war.
Worldwide, on all personal computers -- not those running only Windows 7 -- IE9 tapped a usage share of just 5.6% for June, less than Mozilla's almost-retired Firefox 3.6 and Microsoft's own aging IE7, and about half that of IE6, the browser Microsoft has been actively trying to euthanize since 2009 .
Until PCs running Windows XP are put out to pasture in favor of ones running Windows 7 or its successors, IE9 will be used by a small percentage of the world's users. And it may never crack the 15% mark, if as most expect, Microsoft launches the follow-on IE10 next spring.
Since IE9's March debut, it's averaged an increase of just over one percentage point a month. Assuming it can maintain that pace -- an iffy proposition, as Microsoft wrapped up the automatic download and installation of IE 9 on Windows 7 and Vista last month -- IE9 will account for 14% of all browsers by the end of February 2012, the month before the anticipated appearance of IE10.
IE10 is now available only in developer preview form; Microsoft shipped the second version of that preview this week.
Analysts believe Microsoft has adopted an annual release cycle for IE -- IE9 appeared a year after IE8, and IE10 development started as soon as the former shipped three months ago -- which would put IE10 on the market in March 2012.
Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients. More browser statistics can be found on the company's 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 email@example.com .
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