Can Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 Win the Browser Wars?

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The latest Internet Explorer news is both good and bad for Microsoft. First, the good: IE9, the newest version of Redmond's browser, seems to be gaining favor with Web users. A post yesterday on Microsoft's Windows Blog cites usage-tracker Net Applications' latest browser statistics, which show IE9 with 3.56 percent of worldwide market share for March. For a browser that officially launched just over two weeks ago--albeit one that's been available in beta form for months--that's not too shabby.

"It's obviously very early but we are pleased with the reception," writes Microsoft's Ryan Gavin in a blog post. "The adoption rate of IE9 is about five times higher then what we saw for Internet Explorer 8 in the same time frame."

A big-picture view of Net Applications' data, however, paints a less rosy picture for IE. The firm's March 2011 usage stats give IE nearly 56 percent of the market, but that's down from over 60 percent for the same month a year ago.

Google Chrome, meanwhile, is gaining users at a breakneck pace. Praised for its speed and simplicity, Chrome had 11.57 percent of the worldwide market last month, nearly double its 6.13-percent share in March 2010.

In April 2009, Chrome had a tiny 1.79 percent share, while IE's slice of the browser pie was slightly below 68 percent, according to Net Applications.

How Are the Competitors Doing?

And IE's other competitors? In March 2011, Mozilla Firefox's share was nearly 22 percent, down from 24.52 percent in March 2010. Apple Safari was at 6.61 percent last month, up from 4.65 percent for the same period a year ago.

IE9 is getting favorable reviews and Microsoft appears to have silenced its critics, who knocked the sluggish performance, weak security, and lack of support for Web standards that plagued earlier versions of the browser. But does version 9 have the right stuff to slow IE's long-term slide? The company suggests that users of competing browsers are very interested, or at least curious, in IE9. "As we mentioned on Tuesday, all of our early downloads (through March 27) were user-initiated , with over 90% of the downloads coming from non-IE9 RC or Beta users, including over a quarter that came from Chrome and Firefox users," Gavin writes.

If IE9 does help reverse Microsoft's market-share slide, its impact will likely be tempered by Redmond's aggressive campaign to rid the world of Internet Explorer 6, the company's notoriously insecure, 10-year-old browser that still had an 11.6 percent global share in March. While less than 3 percent of Internet users in the U.S. run IE6, the browser remains popular in Asia. In China, for instance, IE6 has a 33.8 percent share, according to Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 Countdown site.

"Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6. And neither should acquaintances," Microsoft states.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci ) or at .

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