Apple's Safari last month posted its biggest increase ever in usage share, beating perennial champion Chrome in the gain game, Web metrics vendor Net Applications said today.
The browser bundled with Apple's revenue troika of Mac, iPhone and iPad boosted its share by six-tenths of a point, its largest one-month increase, enough to put it at 8.1% for July, a record.
According to Net Applications, iOS devices like the iPhone accounted for more than a third of Safari's browser share.
But while Safari climbed -- something it's done 17 straight months -- Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) dropped by nine-tenths of a percentage point, its biggest decline since January 2011, and ended July at 52.8%, a new low for the browser.
If IE's decline continues at the pace of the last three months, it would fall under the important psychological line of 50% in November.
Google's Chrome was the only browser other than Safari to improve share in July, growing by three-tenths of a percentage point to finish the month at 13.5%. That keeps it on track to break the 15% bar by October.
Both Mozilla's Firefox and Opera Software's Opera lost ground, slipping two-tenths and one-tenth of a point, respectively, adding to those browsers' long-standing problems.
Firefox, which kicked off a rapid-release schedule in late June that will result in a new version every six weeks, now accounts for 21.5% of all browsers, more than three points down from its peak in November 2009.
With just 1.7%, Opera is in share territory it last saw in December 2007.
Net Applications attributed IE's continued tumble to desertions by users running Windows XP. But it's a different story on Windows 7, said Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications, noting that when all versions of IE are combined, Microsoft's total share of the Windows 7 market actually increased by two-tenths of a point to 54.8%.
"There are indications that [Microsoft's] strategy is working," said Net Applications early Monday, referring to the Redmond, Wash. developer's decision to not support IE9 on XP, and instead focus on Windows 7.
Lately, Microsoft has not been shy about disparaging Windows XP, most recently telling customers, "It's time to move on" and leave the decade-old operating system behind.
IE9 last month passed IE7 and is closing on IE6, but Safari's browser usage share still is larger than IE9's. (Data: Net Applications.)
That's not going to be easy -- Net Applications measured Windows XP usage share at 49.8% last month -- but it seems users have gotten the message. In the last two months, XP has dropped 3.3 percentage points; the aged OS has lost 12 points in the last year.
IE9, which Microsoft released last March, now accounts for 6.8% of all browsers, a 1.1-point gain during July. For the first time, IE9 global share was larger than IE7's.
July's increase was smaller than the previous two months, when IE9 added a combined 3.2 points. The fall-off may be due to Microsoft wrapping up the automatic download and installation of IE 9 on consumers' Windows 7 and Vista PCs at the end of June.
When only Windows 7 users are counted, IE9 had an 18.5% global share, a jump of nearly three percentage points since June.
Yet IE9's gains continue to fall short of what's necessary to make up the losses suffered by the company's other editions. In July, IE6 dropped nine-tenths of a percentage point to end at 9.2%; IE7 fell by three-tenths of a point to 6.3%; and IE8 plunged by eight-tenths of a point to 29.3%.
IE6's share was under the 10-point mark for the first time since shortly after its 2001 release. Microsoft has aggressively pushed IE6's demise , telling customers for the last two years that they need to be retire the 10-year-old application.
Another sign that IE9 hasn't turned the tide is that since its March debut, Microsoft has lost 3.1 percentage points of share, while Safari has picked up 1.4 points and Google has gained 1.9 points.
StatCounter, a European rival of Net Applications, also said IE, Firefox and Opera lost share in July, and that Chrome and Safari expanded theirs. StatCounter, which measures usage differently -- it does not weight its data by country, as does Net Applications -- had IE at an all-time low of 42.5%, Firefox with 28%, Chrome at 22.1% and Safari with just 5.2%.
Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors for clients. More browser statistics can be found on the company's site.