Chrome again beats Firefox in browser gain race

Chrome was the only browser to gain significant usage share last month, and again trounced rival open-source Firefox.

By the end of April, Chrome accounted for 6.7 per cent of the browsers that surfed to the sites that California-based NetApplications monitors for its clients. Chrome boosted its share by 0.6 percentage points, by far the largest increase of any browser for the month, and the second-highest increase since Google launched the program in September 2008.

Virtually all of Chrome’s April expansion came at the expense of Microsoft ‘s Internet Explorer (IE), which dropped 0.7 percentage points to finish the month at 59.95 per cent, the first time that IE has fallen under the 60 per cent mark. IE’s decline was less than the previous month — it lost nearly a full point of share in March — but was still above its average monthly decline.

Mozilla’s Firefox, on the other hand, was up last month, albeit by only 0.07 percentage points to 24.6 per cent. April was the second month in a row that Firefox trended up, a victory of sorts after losing ground for four straight months starting in November 2009.

Once considered a lock to make, then move beyond the 25 per cent bar, Firefox has yet to reach the milestone. Last month, Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of NetApplications, noted that Firefox was “just holding steady,” and gains that had once come easily to it were instead heading Chrome’s way. That appeared to be the case again in April.

Mozilla’s bright spot was that it has convinced nearly two-thirds of its users to upgrade to the newest Firefox 3.6, which launched in January. By the end of April, 62.3 per cent of all Firefox users were running the newest edition, while 23.6 per cent ran 2009’s Firefox 3.5 and 11.2 per cent ran the now-unsupported Firefox 3.0.

Microsoft’s newest browser also showed strong gains last month as it grew by one percentage point to 24.7 per cent; when its “compatibility view” is included, IE8 accounted for 27.6 per cent of all browsers. The older IE6 and IE7 both lost share in April, ending at 17.6 per cent and 12.5 per cent, respectively. IE7’s losses are slowing, however; its three-month average decline is less than half that of the 12-month average.

IE6, which celebrates its nine-year anniversary this August, continues to lose share, but by NetApplications’ numbers, it will be a force for some time. If IE6 stays on its downward pace of the last three months, the aged browser won’t slip under 10 per cent until the summer of 2012.

Apple ‘s Safari posted a small increase in April, but remained at 4.7 per cent. Meanwhile, Opera Software’s desktop browser lost share to end the month at 2.3 per cent.

NetApplications measures browser usage share by collecting systems data from the computers that visit the 40,000 sites it tracks for customers of its analytics services. April’s data is available on the company’s site.

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