According to web analytics firm Net Applications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser lost usage share—which the company incorrectly refers to as "market share"—in November, the third month in a row that IE lost over 1 percentage point of share. IE now accounts for 63.6 percent of all web browser usage—a still dominant position but one that appears to be fading.
On the good news front, the latest IE version—IE 8—appears to be making some headway. IE 8 accounted for 22.1 percent of all browsers used in November, almost tied with IE 6, which is finally losing share rapidly month-over-month. The third most-used browser is IE 7, which accounts for 16.9 percent of total web browser usage. But IE 8 isn't making up for the drop-off in overall IE usage: Although IE 8 usage rose 4.2 percentage points in the most recent quarter, IE 6 usage dropped 3.2 percentage points while IE 7 dropped 4.2 points.
Making up the difference, of course, is the competition. Mozilla Firefox rose 0.7 percent in November to take 24.7 percent of the market, and Google Chrome gained 0.4 percent to hit 3.9 percent usage share. By January, Chrome should surpass Apple's Safari, which suffered a usage share drop to 4.36 percent in November. The usage-share drop in Safari matches neatly to the drop-off in market and usage share over the past two months by Mac OS X, which has stalled in the wake of the Windows 7 launch.
With IE continuing its long downward spiral, Microsoft is planning a new version of the browser, IE 9, which could be released by the end of 2010. If that happens, it will mark one of the most aggressive release schedules in IE's history. Most previous versions of IE were tied in one way or another to a major Windows release, but IE 9 will ship as a standalone product for existing Windows versions.