Although overall Internet Explorer (IE) usage has generally shrunk slowly month-over-month for years, the company has always been able to mine the data for some good news as well. And so it is with the January 2011 web browser usage stats from Net Applications: Yes, overall IE usage fell somewhat, again, from 57.1 percent of the market to 56 percent. But usage of its latest IE version, IE 8, grew faster than the competition in January, too. And as the most frequently used browser, IE 8 now commands 34.17 percent of the market, up from 33 percent the previous month and just 25 percent a year earlier.
IE 8's gains in January were the largest of all web browsers and over one and a half times as large as the gains made by Google's Chrome, which pushed past 10 percent usage share for the first time. IE 8 is the most popular and fastest-growing browser in the market, as it has been for several months in a row.
Microsoft is also talking up its next browser, IE 9, which has been in beta since last September. With a near-final release candidate (RC) version looming, Microsoft reports that the beta has been downloaded more than 23 million times and now accounts for one half of one percent of all web traffic. And Windows 7 users running IE 9 account for almost 2 percent of all web traffic.
Finally, Microsoft says it's encouraged by the continued share loss of IE 6, the obsolete and insecure browser version that's still used by millions of corporate customers. IE 6 usage fell an average of 1.3 percent each of the preceding three months and now stands at 12 percent overall. IE 8 growth over the past year has roughly matched IE 6's fall, Microsoft says (or a bit north of 9 percent).