We also have some numbers from StatCounter that show the race to be much closer than Net Applications would have you believe.
According to the Guardian article, "the decade-old IE6 had a transitory spot at the top of the chart because of IE7 users switching to IE8," but now IE8 has finally taken the lead from IE 6 because of the decline of Windows XP. We have to assume that there are a number of other reasons at play. According to Net Applications, IE 8 leads all browser versions with 22% of the market, IE 6 comes in second with 20% and Firefox 3.5 comes in with 17%.
StatCounter, on the other hand, shows IE 8 and Firefox 3.5 in a virtual tie, with 21% each, and IE 7 coming next with 19%.
In December, we reported that Firefox 3.5 had overtaken all versions of Internet Explorer for the top spot, but that was only looking at statistics from StatCounter. We're inclined to believe the StatCounter numbers over the Net Applications numbers for a few reasons. Take a look at the StatCounter graph of the same period.
A lot has happened in the browser wars since we declared Firefox 3.5 the number one browser version. When word hit that Internet Explorer was at fault for the Google hacks in China, both France and Germany recommended that their citizens switch browsers. This caused a large number of people to flee Internet Explorer and adopt other browsers, such as Firefox, in its place. At the same time, Firefox finished multiple rounds of release candidates before finally releasing Firefox 3.6. This release caused a lot of people to stop using Firefox 3.5 and switch to the newer version, causing the numbers for 3.5 to drop slightly.
While we can see these drops in the graph provided by StatCounter, the Net Applications graph shows a steady climb for IE 8. We find ourselves unable to declare a current leader in the never-ending war of browsers superiority, and, in all honesty, think it would be futile do so at this moment in time. With new versions and public relations battles over security, everything is shifting and we think it will be a while before any browser clearly pulls ahead.
That said, it won't stop us from taking a look the next time the numbers change.