Reports of the demise of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser may be somewhat exaggerated.
The Windows default browser, first introduced in 1995 and once virtually the only game in town for PCs, has seen something of a bounce in the last few months, winning back some market share from Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox, according to analytics from Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications.
Google's Chrome browser, however, isn't ceding much ground. It saw the steepest increase in usage since May 2011, from 13.19 percent to 18.57 percent. Chrome peaked in December with 19.11 percent of users, and fell only slightly in the months since, to 18.57 last month.
Safari overall has gained in popularity, rising from 4.37 percent in May to 5.07 in March while the Opera browser lost users, going from 2.10 to 1.62 in the same period. Firefox went from 22.87 to 20.55.
For its part, IE started sinking in August 2011, from 55.31 all the way to 51.87, but has mostly risen since, now capturing 53.83 percent of the market, the highest share since last summer.
That's a 1.2 percent global share increase in the past five months, says Net Applications' Net Marketshare report on usage share statistics for Internet technologies.
At its peak, Internet Explorer had a 95 percent share of the global market in the early 2000s, and Microsoft made improving it a priority. The reversal suggests the software giant has learned from mistakes that allowed competitors to gain some ground.
"In the latest version of Explorer, Microsoft has made some significant improvements and addressed issues, particularly around security that have been problematic in past versions," said Charles King, principal analyst of Pund-IT .
Security features for IE now include domain highlighting, which lets users easily see the real URL on Web sites in the address bar to avoid phishing; SmartScreen Filter; a Manage Add-ons tool to choose acceptable browser add-ons and delete unwanted ActiveX controls and a cross-site scripting filter, to keep phony Web sites from stealing ID and financial data .
Explorer also uses a 128-bit secure (SSL) connection for secure Web sites to encrypt connections with banks, retail businesses and others.
But King added that the best thing going for Internet Explorer is its ubiquity.
"Despite the rise in popularity of alternative browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and Safari, a very large percentage, probably a majority of users tend to leave the browsers in place that came with the system when they brought it home from the store ," he said. "Not to say there aren't better alternatives out there, but if you are less experienced with technology you tend to use the native browser."
So the idea of IE slipping to oblivion "is kind of an exaggeration and wishful thinking on some people's part. The new Explorer does seem to be worthy of some additional attention and popularity that it has achieved."