Updated information about the population of Internet users in China and other countries has taken a bite out of Firefox's global market share, according to data from analytics firm Net Applications.

Net Applications weights its browser share reports based on the CIA's data on Internet usage by country. Last month, the CIA reported a large increase in the global percentage of Chinese users (now at 389 million) and a decrease in the percentage of users from the U.S., U.K, Germany, France and other developed countries. Those shifts in turn affected global browser share numbers from Net Applications, which says Firefox's share was previously "over-reported."

"With the new CIA numbers factored in, Firefox loses global share since many of the countries it is most popular in (Western European, in particular) now have a lower percentage of global Internet users. Internet Explorer gains as browser usage shifts to countries with higher percentages of Internet Explorer users," Net Applications explains.

In Net Applications' February report, Firefox now sits at 21.74% market share, down a full percentage point from the 22.75% reported in January.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer benefited the most from the new CIA data, with all editions of IE combined now claiming 56.77% of global browser usage. After months of trending downward, IE usage ticked up from 56% in January.

Among the IE versions, IE 8 running on Windows gained a full percentage point (38.77% to 39.80%) and IE 9 running on Windows ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point (0.56% to 0.66%). IE6 usage, meanwhile, continues to decline. It fell to 11.33% in February, down from 11.43% in January.

The IE9 release candidate has been downloaded more than 11 million times since its release on Feb. 10, according to Roger Capriotti, Microsoft's director of Internet Explorer product marketing.

"Last month, we saw share of both Internet Explorer 8 and 9 grow, and we're pleased to see that momentum continue in February with the availability of the IE9 Release Candidate," Capriotti wrote in a blog post today. Combined with the IE9 beta, IE9 has been downloaded more than 36 million times since its availability on Sept. 15, 2010, Capriotti added.

In the Net Applications report, IE is followed by Firefox with 21.74%, Chrome with 10.93%, Safari with 6.36% and Opera with 2.15%.

Google's Chrome browser, which surpassed 10% market share for the first time in January, held onto its share and increased it by nearly one-fourth of a percentage point (up from 10.7% in January). Safari usage remained essentially flat (gaining slightly from 6.3%), while Opera fell slightly from 2.28%.

To compile its Net Market Share reports, Net Applications collects data from the browsers of visitors to its global network of HitsLink Analytics and SharePost clients, which includes more than 40,000 Web sites. The data is compiled from approximately 160 million unique visits per month.