IE share drops below 50 per cent

Microsoft's Internet Explorer has continued its downward slide - and preliminary figures for September show the once-reigning browser losing its majority market share.

While the final figures for September aren't in yet - for the very good reason that we're not done with September - early figures from market watcher StatCounter show the browser dropping below 50 per cent for the first time.

While it is still the most overwhelmingly popular browser, largely due to Microsoft's decision to bundle it with its operating systems, it no longer corners the majority of the market at 49.96 per cent. Put together, alternative browsers now account for more traffic on the Internet than does Microsoft's IE - a remarkable turn of events.

There's room for the figures to shift before the end of the month, of course, but the stats show September following a downward trend that the browser has been experiencing for years - dropping in share almost every month since August 2009, when it enjoyed a 58.69 per cent market share.

But where has Microsoft gone wrong? Much of the loss hasn't been helped by the meteoric rise in popularity of Apple's iOS, with many consumers of web content choosing to spend their time browsing on their iPhones and iPads rather than their Windows-equipped desktops. The launch of the open-source Chrome browser by Google has taken a chunk of the market, too - and long-time alternatives such as Firefox and Safari continue to rise in popularity.

It remains to be seen if Microsoft's up-coming Internet Explorer 9 can buck the trend, but it's clear from the figures that the company has a lot of work to do if it wants to stay on top in the browser market.