Google's Chrome browser continued to carve away share of worldwide browser usage from rivals in May, new statistics show.
Chrome rose 0.3 percentage points to 7.1 percent of share, said Net Applications, which monitors browser usage on a network of Web sites.
The statistics reflect activity, not the number of people using a browser, as people load up about 160 million pages each month on sites Net Applications monitors. Because Web usage is increasing, the absolute number of people using a browser can increase even as its fractional share of usage drops.
The share losses came from Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which dropped 0.3 percent to 59.7 percent, and Mozilla's Firefox, which dropped 0.2 percentage points to 24.4 percent. Fourth-place Safari from Apple rose 0.1 percentage points to 4.8 percent, and Opera rose 0.1 percentage points to 2.4 percent.
The browser market has become hotly competitive with new features being built in to support new Web standards. Even Microsoft, long considered a technology laggard even as its browser dominated, is back in the game with aggresive work developing IE9.
Microsoft has been trying to rid the world of Internet Explorer 6, introduced in 2001 and now considered outmoded, slow, and insecure. Even though IE lost share overall, Microsoft can point to progress in upgrading: The various versions of IE8 accounted for 28.9 percent of usage.
Meanwhile, another analytics firm, StatCounter, reported IE6 use had dropped below 5 percent in the United States and Europe and to 9.8 percent worldwide.
"At these levels, Web developers now have valid justification not to support IE6 in the future," StatCounter Chief Executive Aodhan Cullen said in a statement. The company collected its data from 15 billion page views of Web pages in May.
Net Applications also released statistics for iPad use, showing gradual gains since the Apple tablet's release. With the iPad now for sale internationally, usage peaked May 29 with 0.17 percent.
Net Applications' data shows the iPad is relatively popular on the weekend. Use generally is lowest as a fraction of browsing on Monday, climbs gradually as the weekdays progress, than roughly doubles on the weekend days.
The company also tracked mobile-phone browsing usage. Java ME, a mobile phone version of the technology from Sun Microsystems and now owned by Oracle, took the top spot with 40 percent of usage share.
Next in line was iPhone OS with 32.8 percent, Symbian at 14 percent, Android at 6.2 percent, and BlackBerry at 3.6 percent.
This post was updated at 4:34 a.m. PDT with details from StatCounter.