Perhaps Redmond should hurry up with IE 9. According to the most recent data from Forrester Research, business market share for Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE6 through IE8) has slipped nearly five percent, while Firefox and Chrome are on the rise.

To keep things in perspective, that's a slip from 77.2 percent in April 2009 to 72.5 percent in March 2010,IE still has triple the market share of its nearest rival, Firefox, which enjoyed a three-percent bump, from 17 to 20 percent. As for Chrome, Google's PR folks can happily trumpet that Chrome has tripled its share: from 2.3 percent to 6.9 percent.

The former fourth competitor, Apple's Safari, is looking more and more like Mosaic 2: Doomed to get squeezed out by bigger, badder competitors. Its share has fallen from miniscule (1.25 percent) to statistically insignificant (less than one half of one percent).

The big question, then, is what's fueling the move away from IE and toward competitors. Forrester offers some suggestions -- Firefox's bevy of add-ons, Chrome's speed and features for so-called "tech-savvy, empowered workers," and the security issues that have plagued IE. And it's worth noting that browser market share isn't a zero-sum game, since plenty of people use more than one browser. Still, IE's share is shrinking, and users usually don't jump ship unless they are unhappy.

And failing an incredibly irresistible IE 9, it's hard to imagine IE's share recovering. As InfoWorld's Neil McAllister says, "People who start using IE do it because it's there; it's the lazy option. People who do not to use IE are probably not going to go back to IE, because they have already made a choice not to. So unless the total number of people using Windows is growing measurably, IE's market share cannot go up. It can only go down."


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