Apple's Safari browser lost 0.3 percent of its users in February, says Net Applications.

According to the internet metrics company, which began tracking browser data in 2005, Apple's browser had been on a three-month winning streak during which it gained 1.5 percent more users, but the tide seems to be turning.

"That was surprising. We've been seeing Safari gain share lately," said Vince Vizzaccaro, Net Applications' executive vice president of marketing.

Apple's Safari browser lost 0.03% of its users in February this year

"Safari could have grown significantly, but it grew less significantly than, say, IE."

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"It might be due to the month," he said. "In December [2008] and January [2009] there was a lot more browsing from home because of holidays. So one way to look at Safari's numbers is that [overall usage] may not have gone down, but they look down compared to January and December, when more people were at home," added Vizzaccaro.

Previously, Vizzaccaro has maintained that Net Applications' data shows that use 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.

Even Apple's release of Safari 4 beta last week couldn't stem the browser's overall slide. For the month, Safari 4 averaged a meager 0.08 percent, although numbers nearer the end of February were more impressive.

"The important thing about Safari 4 is that its trend line looks like it will take off fast," Vizzaccaro said.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser lost 0.04 of a percentage point of its market share to end February with 67.5 percent, another record low for IE.

Last month's decline, however, was the smallest since July 2008, when IE actually gained share, and significantly less than its 12-month average of 0.7 percent. Even so, in the last 12 months, IE has slipped 7.4 percentage points.

Within Microsoft's total, the share of users running Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) increased slightly last month from January, climbing to 1.17 percent from 0.92 percent. The release candidate of IE8, dubbed RC1, has been available for about five weeks, making February the first full month of its public availability.

With both IE and Safari down, Mozilla's Firefox had no trouble winning the share race last month. The open-source browser gained ground for the fifth month in a row to finish at a record share of 21.7 percent. According to Net Applications' data, Firefox users also continued to leave Version 2.0 for the newer Version 3.0: 88 percent of those using Firefox are running the latter, an increase from the 85 percent who were running the newest edition last month.

Mozilla dropped support for Firefox 2.0 last December, and made its third and final upgrade offer to users running that edition in early January. Since then, Google has shut off the antiphishing service that provided updates to Firefox 2.0.

Computerworld (US)

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