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Chrome Inches Up, Firefox Flat, IE9 Climbing Fast

New stats show Chrome continuing to gain ground on rivals, while IE9 establishes its place as the browser of choice on Win 7.

The latest and greatest browser market share stats are out from Net Applications. On the surface, it seems there was very little change from last month among desktop browsers, but digging a little deeper yields some interesting perspective.

Before we dive in, though, I want to point out a significant change this month in the way Net Applications is reporting the numbers. The site has a new structure that separates mobile/tablet numbers from the desktop figures for browsers, as well as for operating systems and search engine usage. Being the first month of breaking things out this way, it makes it a little trickier to compare month over month data, but it is much more valuable to be able to view the mobile browser figures separate from the desktop.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the bird's eye view of desktop browser market share. Internet Explorer continues its steady downward trend, but only slides 0.66 percentage points and remains solidly over 50 percent of all browser usage at 55.31 percent. Firefox dips a meager 0.24 percentage points to 22.57 percent, Safari is up 0.01 percentage points to 4.64 percent, and Opera drops 0.02 percentage points to 1.68 percent. Meanwhile, Chrome basically gobbles up all of the accumulated drops and declines to rise 1.18 percentage points to 15.51 percent.

There are a lot of fractions of fractions of percents in there--a Shakespearian tale full of sound and fury; signifying nothing. If you take one more step back and look at the numbers, Chrome inched up barely, and the rest of the browsers are relatively flat. Basically, nothing changed from last month.

If you pull back the curtain, though, you will notice some other trends. For example, Firefox overall is down only slightly, but Firefox 5 plummeted precipitously, and Firefox 4 is almost non-existent at this point. A few months ago I had set an appointment in my Outlook calendar for today to get back with Mozilla's Asa Dotzler to compare Firefox 4 and IE9 market share. Thanks to Mozilla's rapid release schedule and forced obsolescence of prior versions, IE9 wins that battle hands down.

Month over month, Firefox 5 fell a substantial amount from 11.06 percent to 7.97 percent. That drop can be attributed to the push to Firefox 6--which has already captured 4.55 percent market share--and the fact that Firefox 5 is no longer supported. The rapid growth of Firefox 6 seems impressive, but Mozilla is just churning the same users over and over again. Come back in a month and Firefox 6 will be plunging while Firefox 7 skyrockets. Rinse and repeat.

That brings us to Internet Explorer. Overall, IE8 is by far the leading browser version. Its 30.07 percent market share is nearly three times that of second place Chrome 13.0. IE9 has clawed its way to number five overall with 7.91 percent.

Keeping in mind that IE9 is only compatible with Windows Vista and Windows 7, though, Microsoft prefers to break down the market share and growth of IE9 purely as a function of Windows 7. An Exploring IE blog post by Microsoft's Roger Capriotti explains, "IE9 has now passed 20% usage share worldwide on Windows 7 as of the last day of August."

If you break that number down further to just Windows 7 in the United States, IE9 share leaps to 28 percent. As Windows XP is replaced by Windows 7, and with Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10 on the horizon, the outlook for IE is positive.

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