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IE Extends Its Slide in March; Other Browsers Gain

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Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) browser lost nearly a percentage point in market share in March, according to the latest statistics from Web analytics firm Net Applications.

However, there is no evidence, at least not so far, that the continuing decline of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) browser share has anything significant to do with the so-called “choice screen” put into use in Europe in early Marchto let users pick which browser they want to use as their default.

In March, according to Net Applications, IE lost 0.93 percent of market share in the browser sweepstakes. That was the third decline of 2010 so far and an extension of the continuous string of losses IE experienced last year.

IE hit its lowest point ever in December–losing just over 7 percent in 2009. So far in the first quarter of 2010, IE has lost 2.04 points, a decline that, if it continues, will be approximately in line with last year’s.

Meanwhile, all of IE’s competitor browsers gained market share, if only by miniscule amounts.

For instance, Firefox finished March with a market share of 24.52 points, a gain of 0.29 percent from the previous month, while Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome browser picked up 0.52 percent to put it at 6.13 percent, according to Net Applications’ figures.

In addition, Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari rose to 4.65 percent of all browser use in March, a gain of 0.2 percent over February’s numbers. Finally, Opera gained 0.02 percent in the month — taking it from 2.35 percent to 2.37 percent during March.

Interestingly, Operawas the only browser maker that reported a gain in downloads in March that it claimed could be attributed to the distribution of Microsoft’s “choice screen.”

Microsoft began commercial distribution of the choice screen in the European Union at the beginning of March. It was the company’s main concession to the European Commission’s (EC) competition directorate made to settle an antitrust case against the software titan for bundling IE with Windows going back to 1996.

Under the terms of the agreement in that case, which the EC and the software company settled in December, Microsoft is using its Windows Update service to provide users with a choice of browsers to use as their default.

However, since distribution of the choice screen only began in early March, it appears to be too early to judge whether the solution is working or not.

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

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