Microsoft IE Slips, Chrome Tops Safari

Internet Explorer continues to slide, but Chrome's gains are the real surprise.

According to the latest browser market share figures, Microsoft saw its Internet Explorer (IE) product continue to slide.

However, as Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) IE dropped, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome browser continues to pick up speed, even outstripping Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari in the past two months.

That's according to the latest market share figures for January from Web analytics firm Net Applications.

Microsoft's IE finished January with a total of 62.18 percent of the market, down slightly more than a half a percentage point from December's 62.69 percent. That continues IE's glide path since this time last February, when the browser enjoyed 69.23 percent of the market, and way down from market dominance of 90 percent and higher a few years ago.

The release of IE8 in mid-March hasn't helped either.

Neither, apparently, have robust sales of Windows 7 -- both bundled with new PCs and sold as a boxed product -- since Oct. 22 when consumer editions of Windows 7 launched.

IE adoption most likely also hasn't benefited from Microsoft's agreement in December to settle its outstanding antitrust case with the European Commission (EC) by letting users in the European Union pick what browser they want as their default on first starting their computers, though the random "choice screen" mandated by the settlement has not been implemented yet.

Overall, IE has consistently lost slightly more than half a percentage point of market share every month for the past year, according to Net Applications. It reached its lowest share number ever in December, and now January has undercut that.

Meanwhile, Mozilla's Firefox lost 0.2 percent market share in January, falling to 24.41 percent of all browser usage. However, on a year-over-year comparison, Firefox is still gaining share.

Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari browsers have both been growing -- albeit slowly -- as well, but perhaps surprisingly Chrome is growing faster than Safari.

At the end of November, Chrome had a 3.93 percent share, compared to Safari with 4.36 percent. By the end of December, Chrome pulled ahead with 4.63 percent versus Safari's 4.46 percent, and by the end of January, Chrome moved even farther out in front with 5.2 percent over Safari's 4.51 percent.

That may indicate that users' excitement regarding Chrome could undercut Safari's future progress, but it's too soon to tell.

In the meantime, the No. 5 player in the browser market, Norway-based Opera, seems to be holding steady with an essentially flat market share for the past year, finishing January with 2.38 percent.

The clear loser in the browser wars right now, though, continues to be IE.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: browsers, Microsoft, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Apple safari

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