A New Chapter for Web Browsers

Microsoft (MSFT) is about to face a test of whether it can finally put the brakes on its loss of market-share in Web browsers.

The company is expected to release a final version of Internet Explorer 8 this week, a new Web browser that consists mostly of small improvements designed to make surfing the Internet more productive, rather than radical overhauls. For example, a new feature called “accelerators” eliminates extra mouse clicks by letting users highlight text on a Web page and automatically search for the terms on Facebook, eBay (EBAY) and various map Web sites.

Microsoft needs Internet Explorer 8 to reverse or halt its market-share slide. Between February of this year and last year, Internet Explorer lost nearly 7.5 percentage points of browser market-share to competitors, according to Net Applications, a company that monitors the types of browsers people are running when they visit Web sites. IE fell to 67.4 percent of the market in February from 74.9 percent a year earlier, while Mozilla’s Firefox jumped to 21.8 percent from 17.27 percent, and Apple’s (AAPL) Safari rose to eight percent from 5.7 percent, Net Applications estimates.

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