Internet Explorer isn't the bare-knuckled bruiser it used to be. New data from researcher Net Applications show Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT) browser suffered its fourth consecutive monthly decline in usage in June, as both Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Chrome and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) Safari gained. Firefox, once a major threat, managed to hold steady.

The details:

  • IE's share of last month's Web browsing activity fell to 53.7%, down six-tenths of a percentage point and a new low for the browser, according to Computerworld.
  • Firefox fell four-hundredths of a percent, but that's so small a change as to be immaterial in my book.
  • Chrome, on the other hand, gained exactly as much as IE lost, while Safari took most of the three-tenths of a percent giveaway the Opera browser suffered.

Microsoft told Computerworld's Gregg Keizer that its latest browser -- IE9 -- is the most popular modern browser on Windows 7. "Modern" is apparently the key word there. Mr. Softy only considers those browsers supporting HTML5 as modern, which in turn means no other version of IE could be more popular than 9, while competing alternatives are not only targeted at Windows but also the Mac and Linux.

The point nevertheless remains that IE is slipping as both Chrome and Safari gain, with each thriving for different reasons. Chrome has established itself as fast, Mac-friendly, and host to a wide variety of applications and extensions in a tip of the cap to Firefox. Safari is gaining as a consequence of iOS devices outselling the likes of Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) in smartphones and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) in tablets.

Should Microsoft investors worry? Not yet, but over the long term it's a good bet that the top provider of cloud-computing services will be the one with the best browser for cloud computing. Google and Apple are staking strong claims.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple and Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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