Firefox, Chrome, Safari Erode Internet Explorer Usage

Microsoft Internet Explorer lost market share again last month, continuing a more or less steady decline that has been going on for about five years.

If Microsoft cannot staunch the loss of Internet Explorer users, its browser could lose its longstanding position as leader of the pack sometime next year, at least by one Internet metrics company's measure.

At the end of October 2009, the aggregate global market share of all versions of Internet Explorer fell to 64.64%, according to statistics gathered by NetAp­pli­cations.

In November 2007, Internet Explorer's market share was almost 80%.

The numbers provided by StatCounter, another Internet metrics firm, tell a similar story that shows Internet Explorer slipping from 58.37% in September to 57.96% in October to 56.27% for the first day of November.

It's StatCounter's measurements that suggest Internet Explorer could become the number two browser next year, if Internet Explorer's approximately 10 percentage point global market share loss between October 2008 and October 2009 continues at near the same rate.

If Internet Explorer's life story were to be a movie, it might be titled, "The Browser That Fell To Earth."

Internet Explorer had 91.27% market share in December 2004, according to Net Applications.

That was the month after Firefox 1.0 was released. That was also the year that the European Commission ordered Microsoft to create a version of Windows without Windows Media Player and to disclose Windows Server technical information to competitors.

In June this year, following ongoing European Commission concerns about competition, Microsoft said it would ship a version Windows 7 without Internet Explorer in Western Europe. Subsequent negotiation allowed Microsoft to instead ship Windows 7 in Europe with a consumer ballot screen that presents users with alternative browser choices if their default browser is Internet Explorer.

Such accommodation to government regulators clearly hasn't helped Microsoft in the market place.

Mozilla's Firefox browser, on the other hand, keeps expanding its reach. As the month of October came to a close, Mozilla released the first beta version of Firefox 3.6 and saw its worldwide market share across all versions of Firefox reach a new high, 24.07%, according to NetAp­pli­cations.

As StatCounter measures, Firefox's global market share rose from 31.34% in September to 31.82% in October to 32.61% for November so far.

Google (NSDQ: GOOG)'s Chrome browser and Apple's Safari browser also showed global market share gains according to both metrics companies.

Chrome went from 3.17% in September to 3.58% in October, as reported by NetAp­pli­cations, and from 4.17% to 4.52% during the same period, as reported by StatCounter.

Safari went from 4.24% in September to 4.42% in October, as tracked by NetAp­pli­cations, and from 3.47% to 3.52% during the same period, according to StatCounter.

Time will tell whether the strong Windows 7 launch last month can provide any lift to Internet Explorer.

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