Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) will lose its place as the wolrd's leading browser next summer, according to statistics published today by Web metrics company Net Applications.
If the pace of IE's decline over the last 12 months continues, IE will drop under the 50% mark in June 2012.
In August, IE lost about seven-tenths of a percentage point in usage share, falling to 55.3%, a new low for the once-dominant browser. In the last year, IE has dropped 6.9 points.
But Microsoft continued today to stress the success of IE9, the edition launched last March, particularly on Windows 7.
On that newer operating system, IE9 accounts for 20.4% of all browsers globally, and 27.7% on Windows 7 in the U.S., said Roger Capriotti, director of IE marketing, in an interview today.
"That's how we measure success in the IE business," said Capriotti, referring to Microsoft's focus on IE9 and Windows 7.
IE9 runs on Windows 7 and Vista, but does not work on Windows XP, the decade-old operating system that still powers more of the world's PCs than any other OS.
Capriotti refused to be dragged into a discussion of the impact of IE's overall decline, and what it would mean to Microsoft when the browser slips under 50%.
"I wouldn't call that a milestone," said Capriotti. "And I wouldn't call it irrelevant either."
IE9's overall uptake slowed in August compared to previous months, said Net Applications, which pegged the new browser's increase last month at seven-tenths of a percentage point, slightly more than half that of July's 1.3-point uptick and less than half of June's 1.5-point boost.
One explanation for the slow-down may be that the IE9 automatic update offer -- delivered through Windows Update to all Vista and Windows 7 users -- wrapped up in June. Only Japan, where Microsoft delayed the upgrade because of the earthquake and tsunami disasters earlier this year, has not yet seen the offer.
Virtually all of IE's decline over the last year -- and a much less dramatic dip by Mozilla's Firefox -- has gone to Google's Chrome browser, said Net Applications.
In the last 12 months, Chrome has jumped 7.8 percentage points to 15.5%; in August, Chrome surged by 1.2 points, its largest increase ever.
Firefox slid by two-tenths of a point to end August at 22.6%, also a record low since the open-source browser peaked at 25.1% in April 2010.
Mozilla's browser is in danger of losing its second-place spot, a position it's enjoyed for years as the primary alternative to IE. If Firefox and Chrome keep to the pace they've established over the last 12 months, Chrome will overtake Firefox about the same time IE falls under 50%: June 2012.
Apple's Safari stayed flat at 4.6%, as did Opera Software's Opera, which held a 1.7% share last month.
Capriotti also called out the declines in IE6 and IE7 -- two older browsers Microsoft wishes would simply go away -- as he touted Microsoft's wins.
IE6, the 10-year-old browser that shipped with Windows XP, accounted for 9.7% of the usage market in August; IE7, which was tied to Windows Vista at its launch, dropped to 6.3% last month.
IE8 remained the most popular version, with a 30% share overall and 54.4% of all editions of IE.
Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients. More browser statistics can be found on the company's site.
The California company revamped the way it determines usage share last month, splitting smartphone and tablet online activity from that on desktops and notebooks. The change, which Net Applications said was prompted by the rise in mobile browsing, resulted in a significant decline in Safari's share of the desktop browser market, and increases in IE's and Chrome's.
IE is headed downward toward 50%, but Chrome is on pace to overtake Firefox by mid-2012.