How long until Internet Explorer falls below 50 percent?

Net Applications just published its monthly browser share scores, and IE continues to sink

Internet Explorer's market share continues to drop like a rock.

Internet measurement firm Net Applications just published its numbers for May, and Internet Explorer's total share declined yet again, from 55.11 percent in April (see note at bottom) to 54.27 percent in May, a drop of 0.84 basis point in one month. Contrast that with Google's Chrome, which rose from 11.94 percent in April to 12.52 percent in May, an increase of 0.58 basis point.

In the past year, IE's share of browser usage has dipped from 60.32 percent to 54.27 percent.

Internet Explorer market share, June 2010 to May 2011

If IE's decline continues at the same rate shown in the past few months, by the end of this year, we could well see IE's market share fall below 50 percent -- a resounding salute to the folks at Mozilla Foundation and Opera, who rescued us from the monopolistic mire of Internet Explorer 6.

Speaking of the not-so-dearly departed, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site continues to extol the virtues of dumping IE6. "Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6," prods Microsft's official site, which is "dedicated to watching Internet Explorer 6 usage drop to less than 1 percent worldwide, so more websites can choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours of work for web developers" -- not to mention millions of infected machines.

Microsoft's infanticide seems to be working: Net Applications shows that IE6 market share has dropped from 17.17 percent a year ago to 10.36 percent in May. That's a big decline. But if it continues at that rate, we'll still have IE6 to kick around well into next year, long past the time IE in all versions has dropped below 50 percent.

In the past year, IE7 has dropped off the radar, falling from 11.79 percent to 7.04 percent market share, while IE8 -- bundled with Windows 7 -- has actually increased, from 29.37 to 31.28 percent. IE9, available as a Release Candidate in February, hit 4.19 percent in May, more than doubling its share since April. Microsoft likes to talk about the meteoric rise of Internet Explorer 9, but it's gaining market share at the expense of its older brothers. Individuals and companies may be upgrading to IE9, but people are actually using other browsers, especially Chrome, and shunning IE.

The dark horse in all of this: mobile. Everyone expects mobile Web browsing -- including with tablets -- to soar in the near future. Windows Mobile accounts for a measly 0.02 percent of all hits detected by Net Applications in May, while WP7 didn't even rate a roundoff error. Android ran on machines that accounted for 0.76 percent of all hits in May, and iOS ran on a noteworthy 2.38 percent. IE9 has been announced for Windows Phone 7, and it's widely anticipated to ship with Mango, but the effect on overall browser share will be negligible unless WP7 (and IE9 on tablets) prove wildly popular. I won't hold my breath.

Want to bet that, a year from now, IE has dipped well below 50 percent, and Chrome (including native Android browsing) sits around 20 percent, with Apple products not too far behind? I'd even venture a guess that IE6 will still be gunning at 10 percent or more. Old habits -- and old proprietary systems -- die hard.

Note: Net Applications measures browser market share by collecting information on about 160 million visits to Net Applications affiliated sites per month. The hit counts are then adjusted, according to Net Applications, "proportionally based on how much traffic we record from a country vs how many internet users that country has. For example, although we have significant data from China, it is relatively small compared to the number of internet users in China. Therefore, we now weight Chinese traffic proportionally higher in our global reports." Changes in weighting implemented by Net Applications three months ago increased Internet Explorer's market share numbers, and decreased Firefox's.

This story, "How long until Internet Explorer falls below 50 percent?," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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