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Internet Explorer Use Slips Below 60 Percent

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Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser continued its slow slide in April and, for the first time, its market share fell below 60 percent -- although not by much, according to one market research firm.

Global use of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) IE slipped slightly more than half a percent in the month, but crossed what may be a psychological barrier with the drop to 59.95 percent, as opposed to 60.65 percent in March, according to Web analytics firm Net Applications.

Vince Vizzacarro, executive vice president of marketing for Net Applications sees that 60 percent mark as troubling, but not necessarily a harbinger -- at least not yet.

"They've [Microsoft] been losing share consistently ... [but] 50 percent is the big mental barrier," Vizzacarro said.

In fact, IE lost some seven percentage pointsof market share last year, and the downward trend has continued to march closer to 50 percent though IE could still rebound.

Also, April no single browser competitor gained much ground on IE, according to Net Applications.

For instance, Firefox averaged 24.59 percent market share for the month, a miniscule gain of 0.07 percent from March's numbers. Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome did better but not by much. Its market share for April came in at 6.73 percent, up 0.7 percent over March.

Still, Chrome continues its trend of gradually pulling aheadof Apple's Safari browser.

"The thing that we're noticing was we used to see Firefox gaining any points that IE was losing ... now, we're seeing the growth going to Chrome, for the most part," Vizzacarro added.

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari achieved a market share of 4.72 percent in April, an average growth of 0.07 percent from March. Nearly a year ago, Chrome's share was 2.4 percent and Safari had the higher market share with 3.79 percent but, after steady gains by both browsers since then, Chrome has outstripped Safari's share.

For its part, Microsoft appears to be relying on the yet unfinished IE9, to boost IE's share. Microsoft has promised IE9 will be faster, particularly handling graphics.

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

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