Internet Explorer (IE) continued its slow slide in November, even though IE8 use ticked up during the past month, according to new statistics from a leading Web analytics firm.
Net Applications found that Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) market share for IE overall fell to 58.41 percent of browsers in use globally -- down 0.77 percentage points from 59.18 percent in October.
However, the balance of usership among differing versions of IE is shifting. For instance, IE8 -- the latest release version of Microsoft's venerable browser -- gained 0.78 percentage points in November to 32.83 percent.
Meanwhile IE6 usage slipped to 13.69 percent market share last month from 14.95 percent the previous month, a loss of 1.26 percentage points. Finally, IE7 is also on the decline, although less so than IE6.
In November, IE7 slipped 0.37 percentage points to 9.52 percent. IE7 was superseded by IE8 in March 2009, and its share has been falling as well.
That's both good and bad news for Microsoft, and IE, which turned 15 years old last summer.
Microsoft would like to have most users surfing with its latest browser. Right now, that's IE8, but a major update to IE is coming sometime next year. IE9 began beta testing in September.
IE8 usage has been climbing steadily month after month since it was released, while IE7 and IE6 usage has been declining. Microsoft especially would like to get users off of IE6 since compatibility issues are keeping some large customers from moving to Windows 7.
In the meantime, Microsoft also has to do something to reverse its continuing loss of share against the other major browser providers. Beginning with the rip in Microsoft's tent with the introduction of Firefox, and expanded by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome and Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari, Microsoft has been seeing itself controlling less and less of the Web browser client market.
In fact, when the slide leveled off for a couple of months last summer, Microsoft officials declared they'd turned the downward trend around.
As the months went by, though, the losses returned. Since about the same time, Microsoft has been talking up the upcoming performance, compatibility, and ease of use capabilities promised for IE9.
Despite record numbers of downloads and good reviews of the IE9 beta, though, it remains to be seen whether IE9 will be able to reverse the trend long-term.
However, IE's losses do provide gains to some of the other browser competitors.
Firefox has remained fairly steadily in second place, ending November with 22.81 percent user share, while Chrome picked up 0.77 percentage points from October to finish November at 9.27 percent in third place. Safari had a slight gain of 0.27 percent, ending the month with a 5.57 share.