Microsoft’s IE posts biggest share drop in three years

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) last month lost the largest amount of usage share in three years, a Web metrics firm said today.

The slide of IE, which dropped to 52.6% during October, in the last three months, has lost 6% of its total share as of July 31, the biggest three-month drop since October-December 2009, according to Net Applications.

As has now become rote, Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari were the winners in the browser race in October, according to the company.

Chrome ended October with a 17.6% share, while Safari accounted for 5.4% of all browsers used globally during the month. Both were records in Net Applications’ tracking of desktop browser usage share, the company said.

Microsoft did not directly address the continued decline of IE today, but instead stuck to the message that IE9 has increased its share on Windows 7, the company’s newest operating system.

Worldwide, IE9 had a share of 22.5% on Windows 7. That put the browser in second on Windows 7 behind only Microsoft’s own IE8, and far above the third-place Chrome 14, which accounted for 18.1% of all browsers used on the operating system, Net Applications analysts said.

In the U.S., IE9 had an even larger share of 34.9% on Windows 7, more than that of all versions of Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox combined, the company added.

While IE9’s gains have been impressive, the new browser — launched last March — has not stopped defections from older versions of IE to alternate browsers, analysts said. According to Net Applications, IE8’s share dropped to 29%, while IE7 and IE6 lost to end October at 5.4% and 7.5%.

It’s possible, of course, that when older versions of IE near extinction, that the desertions will slow or cease. But by the time Microsoft’s long-game plan plays out, IE will have lost its majority position and fallen under the 50% mark, analysts said.

According to projections based on Net Applications’ data, IE will slip under 50% as early as January 2012, and if the losses of the last three months continue on their torrid pace, Microsoft’s browser will account for just 43.7% by June 2012.

Chrome gained most of the share that IE lost, continuing a trend established in late 2009 when Firefox’s growth stalled, representatives of Net Applications said. Firefox ended October with a 22.5% share, unchanged from September, they added.

Firefox remains in in danger of losing its second-place spot to Chrome: If the two browsers keep to their current trend lines, Chrome will overtake Firefox in April 2012.

Chrome should crack the 20% mark in either January or February 2012, analysts predicted.

Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients. More browser statistics can be found on the company’s site.

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