IE share slips under 70 percent, Firefox surges past 20 percent

Rising unemployment also bodes ill for IE, says Net Applications

The market share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) dropped under the 70 percent mark last month for the first time since Web metrics vendor Net Applications started keeping tabs on browsers, the company said Monday.

IE slipped to a 69.8 percent share, down from October's 71.3 percent and off 7.6 percentage points in the last year.

Rival browsers from Mozilla, Apple and Google, meanwhile, cashed in on IE's slide and posted gains for the month, according to Net Applications' data, which is culled from visitors to the thousands of Web sites the company monitors for clients.

Mozilla's Firefox, which briefly popped above the 20 percent share bar during October, solidified that surge in November to end the month at 20.8 percent, an increase of 0.8 percentage points, the largest one-month increase since March 2007.

Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome] also gained in October, with Safari accounting for 7.1 percent of users -- up 0.6 percentage points -- while Google climbed just 0.1 points.

Vince Vizzaccarro, Net Applications' executive vice president of marketing, connected IE's slide -- and Firefox's and Safari's impressive increases -- to a pair of factors.

"The more home users who are online, using Firefox and Safari at home rather than IE, the more those browsers' shares go up," he said. With November including the Thanksgiving holiday in the US and more weekend days this year -- 10 such days versus an average of 8.7 per month -- users were at home more than usual.

Net Applications' data has consistently shown that Firefox and Safari usage climbs on weekends and after work hours, as users surf from home computers rather than from work machines, which typically run Microsoft's IE.

"I expect Firefox and Safari to go up in December, too," said Vizzaccarro, citing the higher-than-average number of at-home days for most people this month.

The other factor, he said, is the continued climb in Firefox's share. In the last two years, for example, Firefox's usage share has grown 48 percent, and although there have been times when its growth has stalled, it has posted relatively steady increases.

Safari has also consistently gained share, although not at the same pace as Firefox. Last month's increase, however, was the biggest in the last two years for Apple's browser.

Google's Chrome, which came out strong in early September but later faded, closed November with 0.83 percent, up a bit from October's 0.74 percent. Chrome remains in beta, and is still available only for Windows XP and Vista.

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