Chrome, Safari reach record browser share highs

IE keeps free falling, now on pace to dip below 50 per cent in six months

Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari posted record numbers in January while Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) lost ground for the sixth month running, an Internet measurement company said today.

Both Chrome and Safari passed major usage share milestones, breaking the 10 per cent and six per cent bars, respectively, said Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications.

Chrome, which has added 5.5 percentage points in the last year, gained just over seven-tenths of a point in January to end the month with 10.7 per cent of the global browser market.

Meanwhile, Safari piggybacked on a boost in Mac usage -- last month Apple's Mac OS X desktop operating system posted its largest gain since September 2009 -- to climb four-tenths of a percentage point to 6.3 per cent. Safari's January increase was the largest one-month jump since Net Applications began compiling browser statistics.

Since the browser usage market is a zero-sum game -- when one browser advances, another has to retreat -- it's no surprise that the long-running trend of IE's decline continued last month.

IE lost over a point to end January with a 56 per cent share, a new low. IE has lost six points in the past year, with only two months of gains during that time.

"We're seeing the trend [of IE's decline] continue, but where once the growth went to Firefox, now it goes to Chrome and Safari," said Vince Vizzaccaro, vice president of marketing at Net Applications.

Mozilla's Firefox remained flat in January, accounting for 22.8 per cent of all browsers used during the month. The open-source developer plans to ship the next major upgrade, Firefox 4, this month, which may reinvigorate its once-regular share gains.

Both Microsoft and Vizzaccaro called out IE8, the 2009 browser that now holds a 34.2 per cent share, for continuing to grow its share. "IE8 has had a great impact, and IE9 shows some promise," said Vizzaccaro, who said he uses IE9's beta and found it "phenomenal." He wasn't sure that either IE8 or IE9 would turn Microsoft's fortunes around, however.

IE9, which launched as a public beta last September, is slated to ship this quarter. Microsoft has also issued invitations to an event next week in San Francisco, where most expect the company to announce the release candidate, or RC, build of the browser -- the last major step before work is wrapped up.

IE9 now holds half a percentage point of the market, about the same as did IE8 six months before it officially launched. Microsoft said that 23 million copies of IE9's beta have been downloaded in the last five months.

Microsoft also continued to tout the continued decline of IE6, the 2001-era browser that shipped with Windows XP the same year.

"We've been talking for awhile now about getting IE6 down to zero," said Roger Capriotti, the director of IE product marketing, in a video clip posted to the browser's blog . "Obviously it takes time to do that, but the trajectory looks great."

IE6 fell to 11.4 per cent in January, a drop of 1.6 percentage points, its largest decline since August 2009. The newer IE7 fell half a point to 8.3 per cent.

But Microsoft has historically been unable to retain all the users who ditched older editions. At the pace over the last 12 months, IE will become a minority browser by this time next year, Vizzaccaro said. "Microsoft is 10-12 months away from worrying about that," he said.

The timetable is tighter if the accelerated pace of the last three months is an indicator. In the last 90 days, IE has lost 3.2 points, which if sustained would push the browser under the 50 per cent mark this July.

Net Applications also noted that Apple's iOS operating system climbed above two per cent for the first time, showing that fears of iPad and iPhone cannibalization of Mac desktops and laptops may be unfounded.

"Clearly, iOS and Mac OS can co-exist," said Vizzaccaro.

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

Read more about browsers in Computerworld's Browsers Topic Center.

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