For Microsoft's Internet Explorer team, stasis is bliss.
In February's worldwide usage statistics, IE largely held at bay its top challengers, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome, according to Net Applications' latest measurements. IE has done so for a few months now, a big improvement for Microsoft compared to years of losing share.
IE dipped from 53.0 percent of global usage in January to 52.8 percent in February among desktop browsers; Firefox and Chrome stayed level at 20.9 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively. Safari popped up a notch from 4.9 percent to 5.2 percent, and Opera was unchanged at 1.7 percent.
Browsers have become a fiercely competitive technology as companies seek to attract users to what has become a foundation for many applications they use daily. Underlying operating systems still matter -- especially on mobile devices, were apps are a vibrant market -- but people today spend a lot of time on the Web.
IE lagged rivals for years, but IE9 marked the beginning of a comeback in which Microsoft matched rivals for many features and often outdid them when it came to hardware acceleration.
With the forthcoming IE10, Microsoft boasts about building Web technologies features before its rivals in the brand-new fifth "platform preview" of IE10 (see video below). Take that with a grain of salt -- IE10 isn't shipping yet -- but Microsoft has begun answering the challenge.
The fifth IE10 platform preview is available only through Microsoft's Windows 8 Consumer Preview, which basically is a beta version of the next-gen version of Windows. Microsoft said it will offer IE10 for Windows 7 when it's eventually released.
In the mobile market, things are more volatile. Safari extended its lead, rising from 54.9 percent to 61.2 percent. Android's browser again passed Opera Mini; the former rose from 17.8 percent to 18.6 percent while the latter dropped from 19.6 percent to 14.4 percent, Net Applications said.
Net Applications' analytics service tallies individuals' daily visits to its network of sites and weights the results to account for global Internet usage patterns. That means its statistics don't count every page view, as does StatCounter, which shows Chrome's continued rise and IE's continued decline in February.
Tablets and phones have been accounting for a larger fraction of overall browsing, but personal computers reclaimed some territory ceded in recent months. PCs rose from 90.8 percent of browsing to 92.5 percent, while mobile dropped from 8.8 percent to 7.2 percent.