Overall usage of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox fell slightly in July, while Google Chrome and Apple Safari both posted modest gains, according to numbers tracked by Net Applications.

The numbers are notable in part because they reflect the first full-month measure of the market since Firefox shifted to a new rapid release cycle.

IE ended the month at 52.71 percent worldwide. That’s a decline of less than 1 percentage point from the previous month. But on a year-over-year basis, it’s down from more than 60 percent in July of last year.

Given last week’s news about the relative IQ scores of browser users, does this mean the Internet on the whole is getting collectively smarter? (I’m kidding, of course.)

Ars Technica has a good roundup of the numbers, noting that IE could slip below 50 percent by the end of the year.

Keep in mind that Microsoft is at a disadvantage in the overall numbers because Internet Explorer is only available on Windows. In addition, Internet Explorer 9, the latest version of the browser, doesn’t run on Windows XP. In a blog post over the weekend, the IE team noted that IE9 is doing well on its home turf, Windows 7.

In related news, ComputerWorld notes that usage of Windows XP has finally fallen below 50 percent of Internet users, as users upgrade to newer versions of Windows and other operating systems.

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