IE9 beta launch fails to slow Microsoft's browser slide

Google's Chrome reaches 8% mark as IE dips to lowest-ever number

The quick start of Internet Explorer 9's beta last month wasn't enough to prevent Microsoft's browser from again losing share to rivals from Google and Apple, a Web measurement firm said today.

Although IE9 beta, which launched Sept. 15, managed to grab 0.25 per cent of the global usage share during the second half of last month, IE's overall share slid by three-quarters of a percentage point, the largest decline since March 2010, according to data published Friday by Net Applications.

Microsoft's browser accounted for 59.7 per cent of all browsers used worldwide during September, Net Applications said. The mark is the lowest ever for IE, and erased gains the browser made over a two-month period this past summer.

Google's Chrome was again the big winner in the browser battle, posting a share of eight per cent for September, an increase of half a percentage point. Meanwhile, Apple's Safari boosted its share by one-tenth of a point to 5.3 per cent.

Mozilla's Firefox and Opera Software's Opera remained flat, showing only minor gains of 0.03 and 0.02 of a percentage point, respectively. Firefox ended September with a 23 per cent share, still off its all-time high of 24.7 per cent in November 2009. Opera has neared the 2.5 per cent milestone over the last several months, but again failed to break that barrier.

The decline of IE notwithstanding, Microsoft touted the out-the-gate strength of IE9's beta, and claimed that users had downloaded more than six million copies of the preview in the last two weeks.

Microsoft also spun the Net Applications numbers for IE8, pointing out that the company's newest production-quality browser again gained share last month. IE8's slice of the browser usage pie was up 1.2 percentage points to 29.1 per cent, making it the most popular single browser by a wide margin.

The No. 2 browser, Mozilla's Firefox 3.6, had a September share of 17.1 per cent.

But IE8's growth and IE9's debut couldn't make up for the even larger losses by Microsoft's older browsers, 2001's IE6 and 2006's IE7. The former, which Microsoft has been trying to kill for over a year now, lost six-tenths of a percentage point to close September with 15.6 per cent, while the newer IE7 lost half a point to end the month with 10.4 per cent.

If the trend over the last year continues, IE6 won't fade away until sometime in the first half of 2012.

It's also unclear whether Net Applications' data supports Microsoft 's contention that last month's IE9's beta outpaced the 2008 debut of IE8's beta.

Past numbers for IE8 during its beta period ranged from a miniscule 0.03 of a percentage point in March 2008 -- the month when Microsoft launched IE 8's first beta -- and 0.4 of a point by the end of September 2008, a full month after IE8 Beta 2's release.

In comparison, IE9's beta average share for all of September 2010 was just one-tenth of a point (the average over the last two weeks was, of course, higher at a quarter of a point).

Net Applications calculates usage share from data acquired from the 160 million unique visitors who browse the 40,000 Web sites it monitors for clients. The firm's September browser usage share data is available on its site.

IE9 is at a major disadvantage when matched against early trends of IE8 because the newer browser will not run on Windows XP, Microsoft's most popular operating system. According to other Net Applications statistics, Windows Vista and Windows 7 , the two editions that do run IE9, accounted for only about a third of all in-use versions of Windows last month.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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