Conventional wisdom has it that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is on a slow, inevitable slide into irrelevance, an opinion that has required tech pundits to ignore one inconvenient fact: The latest version of IE, IE 8, is the single most-often used web browser in the world, and its share has only been rising. And this past month, IE 8's gains were apparently good enough to stem IE's overall usage share on a worldwide basis.
The trends here are interesting if only because they defy rarely questioned opinions about the state of the browser market. Back in May, IE grew usage share in the US and was the fastest-growing browser worldwide, beating out tech industry darling Google Chrome. In June, IE grew usage share worldwide and IE 8 was, again, the fastest-growing browser overall, and the most-frequently used browser by a wide margin.
All that said, IE's gains are modest. According to Net Applications, IE grew .57 percent worldwide, with IE 8 growing .66 percent. The gains come primarily at the expense of Firefox, which lost .57 percent usage share. Meanwhile, Chrome grew .2 percent, a pace that is less than half of IE's growth, and less than a third of IE 8's.
Looked at objectively, Microsoft's usage share "slide" has been less of a slide than a leveling off. This year, IE overall has moved less than 2 percentage points and it has arguably been statistically level since March when it hit 60.65 percent usage share. IE's usage share in June was 60.32 percent. This compares to Firefox with 23.81 percent, Chrome with 7.24 percent, and Safari with 4.85 percent.
Microsoft notes that its gains last month are particularly noteworthy because they come during a time in which European users have been given access to a bizarre, regulator-induced Browser Choice Screen in Windows XP, Vista, and 7. This screen actually prompts users to consider replacing IE with another browser. Yet, IE grew .88 percent in Europe this month, suggesting that browser experimentation there has concluded.