Suddenly, what began as an aberration is a trend: Microsoft's undeservedly maligned Internet Explorer web browser has grown its usage share for the second month in a row. And once again, the fastest growing web browser overall is Internet Explorer 8. IE's gains come, as before, at the expense of both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. But get this, naysayers: While IE grew in July, both Firefox and Chrome lost usage share.

"Overall Internet Explorer share grew 0.42 percent worldwide in July, while Firefox lost 0.90 percent share and Chrome dipped 0.08 percent in share," Microsoft's Ryan Gavin wrote in a blog post announcing the milestone. "Most interesting is the fact that Internet Explorer 8 continues to be the fastest growing browser with a 0.98 percent increase worldwide in July. \\[IE 8\\] now represents more than 30 percent of browser usage worldwide. In the US, Internet Explorer 8 picked up share for the third month in a row."

While doubters will be sure to point out that IE's gains are at best modest, these critics were not so kind during the previous several months when IE's usage share losses were even more minimal and should more accurately be described as a leveling-off. Of course, this reversal robs headline writers of the chance to post yet another "IE Loses Market Share, Again" article. Reality often gets in the way like that.

Coincidentally or not, Microsoft also recently revealed that IE 8 had just blocked its 1 billionth malware download attempt. This capability comes via IE 8's SmartScreen Filter, which provides an ever-improving reputation service to determine which downloads are unsafe. By August 2009, the SmartScreen Filter was blocking about 18 million malware downloads per month. Now it's blocking over five times that figure.