After leveling off at about 50 percent usage share late last year, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) has been on an upward trend, thwarting early attempts by some to write the browser's obituary. In March, overall usage in IE grew yet again, and although the gains are minor, they come at the expense of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, both of which have—gasp—dropped off in recent months.

"With a gain of .99 percent last month and a net gain of 1.2 percent global usage share over the past five months, Internet Explorer has stabilized and even reversed its usage-share declines of the last few years," Web metrics firm Net Applications noted in its publication of the March web usage share results.

As is so often the case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Net Applications provides the following graph that highlights the trends in web browser usage over the past six months:

webusage_0311

As ever, Microsoft is highlighting its successes with the most recent IE version, IE 9, running on the most recent Windows version, Windows 7. In a post to its Exploring IE Blog, Microsoft Director Roger Capriotti says that IE 9 is outpacing rivals on Windows 7 by a very wide margin.

"We continue to see great strides made against our core metric: IE 9 share on Windows 7," he writes. "This month in the US nearly 50 percent of Windows 7 users are experiencing the best the web has to offer with IE 9." According to the Net Applications numbers published by Microsoft, IE 9 is responsible for 48.8 percent of US-based web traffic from Windows 7, compared with 14.6 percent for Google Chrome and 11.6 percent for Mozilla Firefox.

Looking at the worldwide figures, IE 9 still has a commanding lead: 34.5 percent compared with 21.2 percent for Chrome and 13.3 percent for Firefox.

"Internet Explorer has reached an inflection point," a Microsoft representative told me. "This month we launched our television ad and set up a fun Tumblr site to showcase just how far IE has come. We are starting to see the results of a revitalized Internet Explorer, a brand that has gotten its groove back ... it is clear that a shift is occurring."

Indeed, in just the first three months of 2012, IE has grown from 51.87 percent usage share to 53.8 percent, growth of about 2 percentage points. Meanwhile, usage in both Chrome and Firefox has fallen in that same time frame by about a half percentage point each. Before the start of 2012, IE had been on a lengthy and slow downward trend.