As Firefox users it is easy for us to forget, overlook or even not notice the large (choke) hold Microsoft has on the browser market. For all intents and purposes, Microsoft has a monopoly on the browser market with Internet Explorer. Over the past couple years Firefox’s market share has grown tremendously in Europe. In January 2009 the European Commission (EC) stated its preliminary conclusion that “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”
Over the past couple months Mitchell has discussed on her blog Potential Principles on purpose. It is important to understand that this is not a list of Mozilla recommendations. These are things Microsoft should be doing but they are not.
- Use of IE for operating system purposes cannot bleed into web browsing
- IE must close after OS purposes complete
- IE may not ask to become the default browser or make itself the default browser except in specified legitimate circumstances, like perhaps when a person downloads IE separately from Windows or from a Windows update
I’ve run into this at work when using Microsoft Office Communicator. I’ll get a message with a link and sometimes the link will open in Firefox (my default browser) but other times in IE and I have no idea why or even how to prevent this.
EC Principle 2: Windows Must Not Provide a Technical Advantage to IE
- Making information available to IE before or differently than that information is available to others.
- Making it difficult for other browsers to access browsing information stored in Windows, thus making migration and syncing painful for users and difficult for other browser makers to implement well. This includes information such as formats and metadata related to IE favorites, website passwords, and website cookies.
- IE use of undocumented Windows APIs.
- Providing APIs to IE available to Windows developers as part of the “Windows” API. As a result applications developed by third party developers can send URLs directly to IE rather than to the browser the user has selected as his or her choice.
- Requiring the use of IE to use the Windows update service. (Microsoft appears to have phased out this practice, or to have provided alternatives. I include it as an illustration of the ways Microsoft has, and could again, use Windows to damage competition in the browser space.)
Do have to agree with Mitchel, Microsoft has gotten a little better about their restricting certain sites and applications to use IE only. There was a time I had to use IE Tab to access Windows Update and Windows Live Mail. Microsoft has made it now that I can access both of these directly in Firefox.
EC Principle 3. Windows must enable people to choose other browsers
- Option to download other browsers must be presented when a user is updating IE or Windows.
- IE may not become the default browser except in specified legitimate circumstances.
- Windows must ship with alternative browsers installed and offer users a choice.
- Windows must ship with a mechanism for downloading and installing a user’s browser choice.
- Windows may not include a browser (”untying” required).
I have discussed this back in January when Microsoft Ordered to Delete Browser
EC Principle 4: Microsoft’s financial and other incentives to distributors must be browser-neutral
- pricing of windows cannot vary based on whether IE is included or not
- payment for search/ad revenue or other service based revenues must not be conditional on IE being the browser.
- co-marketing efforts or amounts cannot vary based on the status of IE
- no financial incentives for OEMs to include links to IE anywhere in Windows
I really don’t have much to add on this one as I don’t quite understand all this works. I do know the way Mozilla makes money with Firefox is based off of the Search/ad revenue with Google.
EC Principle 5: Microsoft must educate people about other browsers
Mozilla has done an amazing job at educating some people about this. We do this through community and word of mouth. But Mozilla’s ability to reach some portion of people is not remotely the same as Microsoft’s ability to reach everyone. Microsoft touches every single person who starts up a PC and touches those people, over and over and over again.
Having been using Firefox since 2004 I have taken Firefox for granted and haven forgotten that is not part of a “new computer”. In October 2007 I bought a new PC. Upon getting home and started up I had to complete all the registration stuff in IE. Then I had to download and install Firefox. I had to repeat this again last summer when I had to do a complete restore.Furthermore, many people have no idea what a web browser is, much less that there is more than just Internet Explorer. When I am trying to troubleshoot an issue for a customer a common question is “What browser are you using?” Many times I get an answer such as “What’s a browser?” or “I don’t know.”
Principle 6: Microsoft tools for developing content must not produce IE specific or Windows-specific results.
Over 90% of the personal computer operating systems in the world are Windows. As a result, application developers often use Microsoft tools to help write programs that work with Windows, and with related technologies or products that are integrated or often used with Windows. Microsoft has a history of using its tools to lock out other products. For example, Microsoft web development tools have often resulted in code that only works with IE.
I’ve come across sites with “code that only works with IE” both personally and at work. I’ve had times where I am walking a customer through uploading their site and I am in Firefox and it doesn’t appear to be working. The customer however informs me they are seeing their site now. Once I switch over to Internet Explorer I can see their site.
By far the worst “code that only works with IE” offender I have come across was a ‘certification course’ web application at my work that never indicated that if you don’t use IE you can not complete the course (even though you get all the way to the end and says you have). I (as did many others in our company) learned this the hard way when I got an email saying I still needed to complete the course and this time around they added that you had to use IE in order to ‘successfully’ complete the course.
“IE must comply with web standards.” (Opera has suggested that Microsoft must support web standards they have promised to support).
- Microsoft *should* implement critical web standards; and that
- the web has been, and continues to be, held back by the lack of good standards support in IE.
Personally, the two principles Microsoft really needs to work on are Windows must enable people to choose other browsers & Microsoft must educate people about other browsers. I recall on a fresh install of Windows part of the pre-installed crap is a utility which allows you to chose an Online Services Provider. Well, Microsoft needs the same thing for Internet Browsers with options to download install, Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Chrome. Funny how Microsoft lets you to choose who you access the Internet through but not how.