Despite the abuse it routinely takes in tech and media circles, Internet Explorer is staging a bit of a comeback based on recent usage data.
March reporting by Net Applications indicates that Internet Explorer is taking back some share lost to Google's Chrome browser: Worldwide usage share was 53.8% at the end of the month, up from a nadir of 51.9% in December. (It had 65.7% market share in September 2009.)
Firefox and Google Chrome had 20.6% and 18.6% share, respectively, in March. While Firefox's share has been in free fall over the past two years, as Internet Explorer's was, Chrome's drop-off is more recent. It had been making steady gains, rising from a 6.88% share in April 2010 to a high point of 19.11% in December -- the same month Internet Explorer reached its lowest point yet -- before it began to slip.
While browser use is a product of many factors, Microsoft is taking on its competitor directly on another front: marketing. In recent years, Google has put a lot of marketing muscle behind Chrome, including web campaigns such as The Web Is What You Make Of It, with spots from Lady Gaga and sex columnist Dan Savage, as well as "Dear Sophie." Its top four campaigns have accumulated nearly 45 million views since 2009, according to analytics firm Visible Measures, but some are several years old at this point, while Microsoft is hitting the market with fresh work on the web and TV. Last month, Microsoft launched a new TV ad for Internet Explorer that extols the speed and slickness of IE9 with excerpts of favorable reviews, and a shortened version of what's been published on YouTube appears to be in heavy circulation.
The TV version of "A More Beautiful Web" premiered March 4 during AMC's "The Walking Dead" and has subsequently aired on "Mad Men." A Microsoft spokesperson said it's had a "broader broadcast and cable run" and has also aired during movie previews, in addition to its digital placements.
Internet Explorer's new marketing is also looking to get in on the joke that it's the browser for old folks with its browseryoulovedtohate.com campaign. A new spot uploaded to the web last month shows a young man in his therapist's office confessing his compulsion to install new browsers for people, like his mother, who use Internet Explorer. In the end, he admits that IE9 is good and that he also dresses up his cat like a policewoman.
According to Visible Measures, Microsoft's Internet Explorer campaign has collected roughly 1.1 million views since launching last month, including 532,000 from "The Browser You Loved to Hate" and 575,000 for various cuts of "A More Beautiful Web" (which is also airing on TV). It also had a spot highlighting "The Hunger Games" that garnered fewer than 10,000 views.