For browser watchers, October was a continuation of previous trends: Internet Explorer lost share to Chrome, Firefox and Opera idled, and Safari edged upward.
The statistics, based on Net Applications' monitoring of millions of Web sites in its analytics network, show that this summer's resurgence of IE has faded, at least for the present. At the same time, Chrome, now two years old, made its July dip look like a blip rather than a foreboding omen.
IE remains the top dog, with usage that dropped from 59.7 percent in September to 59.3 percent in October. Firefox edged down from 23 percent to 22.9 percent over the same period; Chrome grew from 8 percent to 8.5 percent; Safari stayed level at 5.3 percent; and Opera dropped from 2.4 percent to 2.3 percent.
IE8's usage changed little from September to October, but Web developers will doubtless be gleeful that the much-loathed IE6 gave up a half a percentage point of share, sliding to 15 percent of worldwide usage. Microsoft is feverishly working on IE9, currently available in beta and platform preview editions, and its usage reached 0.3 percent in September.
Chrome is the fastest-changing browser since by default updates are downloaded and installed automatically when the browser or computer is restarted. Net Applications released an illustrative graph showing just how fleeting the life of a Chrome version is: six weeks in the case of Chrome 6.
Google is working on releasing new Chrome versions more frequently, which means the number of changes in new versions diminishes. It also means the significance of the version number, which Google doesn't emphasize and calls a mere "milestone," is even lower.