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EU Microsoft Browser Selection Remedy

As noted elsewhere (for instance Ars Technica or OsNews or the EU itself) the European Commission has reached a conclusion with Microsoft about Internet browser choice for consumers. The proposed remedy is a browser ballot, from which users of new (and possibly also old) installations of the Windows operating system will be able to select a browser to use.

The devil is, of course, in the details, and the Free Software Foundation Europe is on the case. The (well, one) thing to watch out for is freezing the browser market in much the same way that it is now; that is, suppose the browser ballot says “Arora, Firefox, IE, Opera” then we have replaced a monopoly by an oligarchy and continue to frustrate innovation and choice on the desktop. So details include questions like “how do we determine which browsers are on the ballot at any given time?” That ties in to the dynamic nature of the browser market (well, that part outside of the monopoly) where new versions are released regularly and there’s a whole forest of Free Software alternatives to the “Big Three” (IE, FF, SafOpera). Designing a ballot that prevents leveraging the existing monopoly position is another issue — of the big three browsers, only one has the word “Internet” in the name, which may skew the ballot.

So the coming months have an interesting mix of social and technical work upcoming in order to provide a remedy that is, in fact, a remedy and not a placebo. The FSFE will continue to follow the case and press for Freedom in browser selection, and supports fair access, competition and innovation in the browser market.

12 Responses to “EU Microsoft Browser Selection Remedy”

  1. Tim Says:

  2. Jacopo De Simoi Says:

    A (long term) solution could possibly be the following:
    the “ballot” screen should actually be a web page, mantained by some (EU?) commission; each project should have the possibilty to apply for being in the ballot page and someone should take care of accept the submissions based on some commonly accepted grounds/votes.
    There are a few too many “some/someone” in this proposal, but as soon as those are established, it should be able to work, and, most importantly, it should be able to be updated server-side as promptly as needed.
    Besides, you don’t really need a whole browser to display a simple web page.

    The problem of the choice being skewed by the “internet” catchword is inevitable; but imho the whole point of the story is not to let users ditch IE, but rather to let them know there exists something else than that; even if I am sure that it will never make a difference.

  3. TGM Says:

    Sorry to say it, but let the stuffing commence :(

  4. Iuri Fiedoruk Says:

    So, you want that even links (lynx) to be included?
    You know, you needs to be realistic sometimes, it is not possible to make everyone happy.

  5. Burke Says:


    Arora has enough marketshare to get included in this? This sounds unlikely? Or do you mean something else? What about Chrome and Safari?

  6. uniq Says:

    What do you mean by SafOpera? They have nothing in common, they don’t share a single line of code.
    Sorry, you have no idea how great the decision of the EU is. Oligarchy sounds so bad but imagine a world where the market share of IE dropped to a third. Real innovations like the Video-Tag or HTML5 could used productive and Microsoft would be made to follow standards.

  7. adridg Says:

    No, I do not. I do want the ballot to reflect the available realistic choices — and those choices will change, and depend on what we mean by realistic. See, the devil is in the details, and finding a remedy which actually solves the problem is not easy. You throw lynx in there as an absurd and extreme point — that doesn’t help a whole lot in figuring out what to do.

  8. adridg Says:

    No, Arora has no market share at all; it is, last I checked, still an experimental browser. But I wanted to list one that would be alphabetically first and not well known. Chrome would have served that purpose as well, and it’s better known than Arora at least.

  9. adridg Says:

    SafOpera — well, duh. I just don’t know which would count as “big three”, since I haven’t checked browser market share statistics this week. My intention with listing that as “one” was to indicate that supposing we had to list three, we can still get into arguments.

  10. adridg Says:

    You’re missing the entire point that the ballot presents a challenge in and of itself, and that we should not foster anti-competitive practices through the ballot. Designing the ballot so that an informed choice can be made, and designing the ballot so that it doesn’t automatically skew towards IE, is the next step. So: yay, the monopoly is to be ended. But what next?

  11. Vide Says:

    Ballot or not ballot, we must consider that the real power is now in OEM’s hands, because it’s through OEMs that the vast majority of Windows is installed.
    So, Microsoft said that it won’t commercially harm any OEM which doesn’t choose IE. I used to not trust MS but I think that another EU fine would be too risky for them, so maybe we can “trust” them.
    Anyway OEMs will choose IMO IE because it’s what normal customers expect, even if nowadays Firefox is well known at least in Europe.
    The criteria to choose the 10 browsers in the ballot screen is IMO the most correct

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