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Tide turns against IE 6 as usage drops

Microsoft's IE 8 has for the first time surpassed its 2001-era progenitor. Google's Chrome continues to make gains, too.

Firefox usage remained level and Google's Chrome continued to pull ahead of Apple's Safari, but the most notable change in January's browser usage statistics is that the reviled Internet Explorer 6 no longer is the most common.

According to Net Applications' monthly usage share figures, No. 1 IE and No. 2 Firefox each slipped a bit compared to December--IE down from 62.7 to 62.2 percent, and Firefox down from 24.6 to 24.4 percent. Chrome rose from 4.6 to 5.2 percent, and Safari stayed level at about 4.5 percent.

IE 8 now surpassed IE 6 in usage in January.
IE 8 now surpassed IE 6 in usage in January. Net Applications

When digging into the version-by-version statistics, though, it emerges that IE 6 and IE 8 have changed places. IE 6 was ahead by a nose in December, but in January, IE 8 held a solid lead at 22.3 percent to 20.1 for IE 6. Firefox 3.5, for comparison, is at 17.1 percent.

IE 6, while common in part because of the widespread use of the Windows XP operating system that includes it, is not popular among Web developers and many technology companies. Top beefs include low security, missing features, and slow performance for Web-based JavaScript programs.

Last week, Google announced it's discontinuing support for IE 6 on Google Docs, Web applications that use JavaScript extensively. And Monday, a Web developer launched a petition urging the U.K. government to stop using IE 6 internally.