Internet Explorer has reversed a years-long slide in browser usage, at least for the month of June, reclaiming share at the expense of Firefox.
IE increased usage from 59.8 percent to 60.3 percent, according to new statistics from Net Applications, an analytics company that monitors browser usage across a large network Web sites. It was buoyed by increasing usage of IE8 that offset the decline in IE7--and by what Web developers no doubt hope will be only a temporary pause in the decline of the despised IE6.
The change in fortunes was significant enough that Microsoft couldn't resist crowing about IE's progress in a blog post Thursday. "We certainly don't judge our business on just two months of data, but the direction here is encouraging," said Ryan Gavin, senior director of business and marketing for Internet Explorer.
Some of IE8's gains probably can be ascribed to the growing use of Windows 7, which ships with that browser and is showing some signs of finally being a successor to Windows XP that people actually are embracing. Net Applications showed that the browsing usage of Windows 7 climbed from 12.7 percent to 13.7 percent from May to June; Windows Vista dropped from 15.2 percent to 14.7 percent; and Windows XP dropped from 62.6 percent to 62.4 percent.
Meanwhile, IE's biggest rival, Firefox, dropped in usage from 24.3 percent to 23.8 percent. And third-place Chrome climbed from 7.0 percent to 7.2 percent from May to June.
In fourth place, Apple's Safari rose from 4.8 percent to 4.9 percent, and Opera slipped from 2.4 percent to 2.3 percent.
The browser battles are shifting in direction dramatically as mobile phones and devices such as the iPad extend Web usage well beyond PCs. And things are very different on mobile devices.
Opera has years of experience on mobile devices, and indeed its Opera Mini version comes close to the regular computer version of Opera in terms of browser usage. Apple's Safari works on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, and Apple at least partially bans other browsers.
Mozilla is working on a mobile version of Firefox for Android and high-end Nokia phones and just submitted a tool to the Apple App Store it hopes will keep the desktop version of Firefox in sync with Apple iOS-based browsers. Google lets other browsers on devices with the Android operating system, but it comes with a browser as well.