Microsoft's IE reclaims lost ground in browser battle

Internet Explorer resumed growth in browser usage in March, reversing a years-long slide at least for now. IE9 in particular grew fast, but Microsoft is weak in mobile browsing.

Internet Explorer has reversed a slide in usage, at least for now.
Internet Explorer has reversed a slide in usage, at least for now. data by Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Microsoft's Internet Explorer regained some of the browser usage it's lost in recent years, holding Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari at bay in March.

IE rose from 52.8 percent of worldwide browser usage in February to 53.8 percent in March, a relatively large monthly jump in the statistics tracked by Net Applicaitons.

Meanwhile, the top four rivals dropped: Firefox from 20.9 percent to 20.6 percent, Chrome from 18.9 percent to 18.6 percent, Safari from 5.2 percent to 5.1 percent, and Opera from 1.7 percent to 1.6 percent.

IE of course has a big advantage over other browsers, at least on personal computers: it comes with Windows. What's changing now is that Microsoft, with the current IE9 and the forthcoming IE10 that'll ship with Windows 8, is building a browser that no longer is the laughingstock of the Web developer world when it comes to performance, features, and compliance with Web standards.

IE9 continues to gradually supplant earlier versions. It accounted for 11.4 percent of personal computer browser usage in December, 11.6 percent in January, 12.6 percent in February, and 15.7 percent in March, Net Applications data shows.

Microsoft, like Google, is backing IE with marketing dollars, too, including the usual sort of promotional videos and ones with self-deprecating humor. It's a lot easier to poke fun at your past failings when you feel like they're actually in the past.

Apple remains dominant in mobile browsing.
Apple remains dominant in mobile browsing. data by Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET

On mobile, it's a different story, though. There, Microsoft is far behind rivals with only 0.5 percent of browser usage.

Apple continues to dominate, though Safari dropped from 61.2 percent of usage in February to 60.5 percent in March. The Android browser dipped from 18.6 percent to 18.3 percent, while Opera Mini rose from 14.4 percent to 15.4 percent.

Mobile browsing is growing, but so is desktop browsing. The split between the two types stayed the same in March: 92.5 percent on personal computers compared to 7.2 percent on phones and tablets, Net Applications said.

Net Applications measures browser usage is based on the number of days each month that particular browsers visit a network of sites using its analytics software. The firm tries to compensate country-by-country coverage differences in its analytics service by weighting its usage data using CIA Internet user data.

The split between mobile browsing and personal computer browsing didn't change from February to March 2012.
The split between mobile browsing and personal computer browsing didn't change from February to March 2012. data by Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET
 

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