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Microsoft Government News

EU Says MS Must Offer Other Browsers; Now What? 911

Posted by kdawson
from the foot-in-the-door dept.
Glyn Moody writes "So the European Commission is going to require Microsoft to offer competitors' browsers with Windows. '...Microsoft will be obliged to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing web browser(s) instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer they want to install and which one they want to have as default..." [Microsoft] now has until mid-March to respond to the Commission, and might also ask for a hearing. Brussels will not adopt a final decision until it has received Microsoft's official reply.' But having the option to install Firefox, say, is useless unless people know what it is. The implication is that we need some kind of campaign to ensure that people understand the choices they will have. How can open source best exploit this latest EU decision?"
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EU Says MS Must Offer Other Browsers; Now What?

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  • That's not okay. (Score:2, Insightful)

    At least, not by me. I imagine that most users will be confused by the presence of more than one "internet" on their machines, and one browser or another still has to be the default. Does MS have to make Firefox the default browser, too?
    • by gblackwo (1087063)
      Well, then hopefully they try more then one of the internets, and go with the faster more functional one.
      • by wright_left (1429899) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:46PM (#26965809)
        Most people will not notice a difference between any of the internets.
        • by Random BedHead Ed (602081) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:19AM (#26965997) Homepage Journal

          I certainly notice. I just the other day got - an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

          The real question is, will the firefox use a different tube than the explorer? And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material. So I think people will know if they're using the one or the other.

      • by atraintocry (1183485) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:54AM (#26966805)

        What, Opera?

        Internet Explorer runs faster on Windows than Firefox does. And it works with sites that use ActiveX.

        I use Firefox. But I am not deluded about the percentage of users that know what standards compliance is, let alone care about it. The only way "the other half" is going to switch to another browser is when they discover ad blocking. And if they do that, all that free content I enjoy so much is going to dry right up.

    • Re:That's not okay. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:47PM (#26965811)

      At least, not by me. I imagine that most users will be confused by the presence of more than one "internet" on their machines, and one browser or another still has to be the default. Does MS have to make Firefox the default browser, too?

      I agree. I know what I'm doing and I still find that this or that file or link opens by default in browser X when my main default browser is Y. for example Minefield grabs the firefox links some of the time etc..

      As for my poor mom with a barely adequate supply of computer memory I constantly find her sluggish computer with two or three browsers running and causing page swaps. Her bookmarks scatterd on all of them and her calling me up because she can't find the one she needs.

      Then there's the nag screens that ask you to make this or that your default browser. You don't dare click "don't ask me this again, because youi can never get that back again unless you know the magic about:: command on firefox.

      You just don't want to that horror to come uninvited to novice users.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ThePromenader (878501)

        IMHO they're missing the point. How about going all the way: what about shipping computers offering other OS's? Especially if the computer maker and the OS maker are not the same.

        The above suggestion is much like the browser issue is to windows - the EU is ignoring the forest in favour of a few trees.

        • Re:That's not okay. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Weedlekin (836313) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:33AM (#26967273)

          "IMHO they're missing the point."

          It seems to be you who's missing it.

          "How about going all the way: what about shipping computers offering other OS's?"

          This is a matter of EU anti-trust laws, under which having a monopoly in one market (personal computer operating systems in Microsoft's case) isn't illegal, but using that monopoly to try and establish another one in a different market (Internet browsers and rich Internet content) definitely is illegal. Note that the definition of "monopoly" from the EU's viewpoint only concerns their own markets, so it's irrelevant what share of other markets a company may or may not have.

          "The above suggestion is much like the browser issue is to windows"

          It bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the browser issue under EU anti-trust laws, which existed before Microsoft did, and were therefore also being used to curtail corporate monopoly abusers before Microsoft existed.

      • Re:That's not okay. (Score:4, Informative)

        by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:54AM (#26966191) Journal

        >>>You don't dare click "don't ask me this again" because you can never get that back again unless you know the magic about:: command on firefox.

        False.

        Tools--->Options--->Main Tab--->click the "check now" button at bottom, and that will change all your defaults to Firefox. No need to remember text commands.

    • This stinks... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by relguj9 (1313593) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:52PM (#26965853)
      Of non technical people making technical decisions.
    • by DrLang21 (900992) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:53AM (#26966185)
      A more realistic solution would be to allow people to permanently uninstall Internet Explorer. This really is my biggest gripe. There is no choice because even if you choose another browser, you can't choose to not have Internet Explorer at the same time.
  • by heretic108 (454817) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:40PM (#26965765)

    Microsoft being forced to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing operating system(s) instead of, or in addition to, Windows they want to install and which one they want to have as default..."

    • by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:09AM (#26966557)

      Microsoft being forced to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing operating system(s) instead of, or in addition to, Windows they want to install and which one they want to have as default..."

      If you take the GNU bootloader say, it allows you to boot other operating systems that may already be installed on the machine. When you install a typical Linux distro on a Windows computer, the distro asks you nicely if you want to keep the other OS, and it makes sure not to overwrite the parts of the disk which are used by the other OS.

      This is only common sense and courtesy, which Microsoft sorely lacks. I'd be in favour if they were forced to play nice in the same way with other operating systems that may be present on the system.

  • Now What? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:44PM (#26965797) Homepage Journal

    Now you DIE, Mr. Bond!

    [...]

    Or you just offer weak support for bundling other browsers. If I'm not mistaken, many viewers will probably see Google Chrome ads on this page. Which is definitely a good start for getting out the word about alternative browsers. Even better is to apply peer pressure to your friends, neighbors, and relatives. Peer pressure can be an excellent tool for getting people to conform to non-conformity. (Bizarre idea, eh?) Especially when the non-conformity is actually the direction that conformity is going.

    Let's just make sure we do the RIGHT thing and don't get too focused on a particular browser. As long as it's not IE, the world will be a better place. ;-)

  • by 0prime (792333) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:45PM (#26965801)
    with the integration between Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer.

    So... I really hope Microsoft says "sure" and bundles 10-20 really crappy and outdated browsers, with firefox and opera nowhere in sight. The EU deserves a clusterfuck like that for coming out with this stupid decision.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mjwx (966435)

      with the integration between Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer.

      Exactly

      At the end of the day IE is still there and cannot be removed. What I hoped would come out of this was that the EU would force Microsoft to make IE removable. Ubuntu bundles Firefox, Apple bundles Safari with OS X (although the bundling with Craptunes and Craptime should not be happening) but above all else these browsers are removable. IE is the biggest security hole at work, 60% of all viruses found at work are first detected

    • by squidinkcalligraphy (558677) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @02:42AM (#26966745)

      During the US anti-trust trial about the same thing one expert witness demonstrated a windows install stripped of IE. It was based on CE (whatever verion was based on XP tech), but this in turn demonstrated that windows can be (and is) modular - just not the one they throw on desktops.

      Or for a simpler experiment at home, look for tinyXP or nLite to get rid of IE for you.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dunkelfalke (91624)

        it was windows 98, where internet explorer was removed and parts of it were replaced with parts of windows 95.

    • by dargaud (518470) <[ten.duagradg] [ta] [2todhsals]> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @07:58AM (#26968323) Homepage

      bundles 10-20 really crappy and outdated browsers

      I've never understood why there isn't a central application installer in Windows, something similar to apt-get & Co of Linux, or the Store of the iPhone. Let 3rd party register and submit apps to it, vetted by MS, possibly payware, and in this antitrust case they can add Firefox at no charge. On first run of the OS, let the user customize the apps they want, charge them if necessary and make money along the way.

  • by kidsizedcoffin (1197209) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:45PM (#26965803)
    Hasn't Mozilla said that they do not want to be bundled with Windows.
  • by relguj9 (1313593) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:48PM (#26965819)
    Which browsers make the cut and which don't??

    It's not difficult to install a new browser. Someone who doesn't know about other browsers or how to install them isn't going to be installing Windows out of the box anyways. They're going to be installing a pre-packaged image from some company... or they got their computer built by some technically knowledgeable person who knows about other browsers.

    IE is integrated pretty heavily into Windows as well.

    I dunno, I'm all for people having choices and having knowledge... but this seems stupid. I mean, what's next, make them include iTunes with the default windows package?

    As an IT professional and engineer, I'm not even sure that I would WANT them to have other browsers installed, by default, on a system... I want it to be as clean as possible by default.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:48PM (#26965823) Homepage

    Utter confusion is the first thing. Few average users are going to be able to handle the idea that there is any point to multiple browsers on one computer. Either one works and the other one does not, or there is no point. If one is broken, then it shouldn't be there.

    Next, if MS, Dell or any other large OEM is going to be including FireFox, Opera, Safari and others on a computer they are going to require some pretty stringent requirements on release planning and QA. If these aren't present in the organization supporting them the OEM will introduce these. This means there will be a "official" release and a Dell release. That is going to help, isn't it?

    Since the HTML rendering engine and a good part of the browser is used for displaying lots of other stuff besides web pages, this is going to make for some interesting times. Some HTML that displays differently between the "source" and the actual rendering.

    Certainly going to be interesting.

    • by icebike (68054)

      Next, if MS, Dell or any other large OEM is going to be including FireFox, Opera, Safari and others on a computer they are going to require some pretty stringent requirements on release planning and QA.

      You mean like the QA and Release planning we've had with the last 12 years from Microsoft?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ljw1004 (764174)

      A good part of the browser is *NOT* used for displaying other stuff besides web pages.

      IEXPLORE.EXE is the browser. That's used by almost nothing. Almost all applications that use the browser use it by doing ShellExecute("mydoc.html"), which opens the html document in whichever browser the user has selected as default.

      MSHTML.DLL is Microsoft's html/javascript rendering engine. All applications that use it, including iexplore.exe and Help, create it by doing CoCreateInstance(CLSID_WebBrowser). It has a very c

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:49PM (#26965831) Journal

    How about this:

    Bill Nigh kicks Chuck Norris' ass before breakfast [ebaumsworld.com]

    Now, just start one about FireFox

    Firefox is so badass that it doesn't care what OS it runs over
    Firefox invented the Internet
    Firefox killed the blue screen of death .....

    your turn

  • Not only would we have to make sure people understand the choices, but we should let them know why they should actually CARE.

    I can imagine someone who simply doesn't care... setting up their computer. They are prompted.. and all they will see is:

    Choose one:

    Microsoft Internet Explorer
    Choose this to install the Internet

    Firefox
    Choose this to also install the Internet

    This is an important choice. Both will allow you to do email and porn.

  • by wright_left (1429899) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:52PM (#26965855)
    "Microsoft will be obliged to design Windows in a way that allows users "to choose which competing web browser(s) instead of, or in addition to, Internet Explorer they want to install and which one they want to have as default..." What part of Windows doesn't allow users to choose a competing web browser? They even include a web browser so you can go and download the competing web browsers. How nice is that.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      A little information can be a dangerous thing. Hint: RTFA.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by atraintocry (1183485)

        The market is already doing what they hope to achieve, and it got a nice head start. They should just let it happen instead of legislating it, we're already halfway there.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday February 23, 2009 @11:53PM (#26965859) Homepage
    Mozilla doesn't want to be automatically packaged and there's nothing in this sort of result preventing Microsoft from packaging out of date crappy browsers. Moreover, the real issues are that 1) IE is in many ways interconnected with the Windows operating system and other Microsoft products and 2) IE is set as the default browser. If microsoft keeps a check box that you need to check when installing to make IE not the default browser then it will not get checked by the normal users. It is probably a better idea to just let the free market continue its slow progress. Firefox and others will win out. And that will occur long before the Year of Linux.
  • Microsoft is going to fight this decision tooth and nail. They will appeal it and appeal it and appeal it. Microsoft has no good faith intention of complying with this order, any more than they comply with any other order. Look at what they did with the US anti-trust case. They stalled until W became the unelected US head of state, and then Bush promptly caved in and gave Microsoft everything it asked for.
  • Everyone here seems to be acting as if consumers don't understand how to download, install or use some alternative program. Yet, everyone has been buying programs for video game consoles for almost 30 years, and has been buying software for PCs for nearly as long. Yet, somehow consumers are to notice that there is a choice in browsers.

    For the EU, if they are looking to protect their way into developing a domestic desktop industry, the problem is that the ideology that permeates the continent, utterly pre

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mgblst (80109)

      Yet, everyone has been buying programs for video game consoles for almost 30 years

      I think this statement best summarises where you are wrong. You do realise that most people have never owned a console. I am talking about the majority of computer users, not people in some African nation. You really do have a very warped view of the world, if you think 50% of people using computers even know what a browser is.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by WiiVault (1039946)
        Not to mention that putting a disc in a Wii and installing PC software are about as far apart as changing the oil and just putting gas in the car.
  • Just put a link that opens a Live.com search for "web browser"! Not only is Live.com completely unbiased, but the link will open in the default system web browser!

  • by FuegoFuerte (247200) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:11AM (#26965953)
    Freedom of the people to choose a different browser is great. Somewhere, however, the line has to be drawn. Microsoft is clearly not limiting the ability of other browsers to work with Windows, and is not stopping anyone from downloading and installing a different browser. What happened to the freedom of a company to sell their own product without interference? Why should they advertise for a competing product in their own? Even more, why should they be required to bundle a competitor's product in their own? Should the Adobe Flash installer also include Silverlight? Should RedHat include a Slackware install disk? Really, where does the madness end? I think the appropriate response from Microsoft would be to stop selling Windows in the EU. The EU wants people to see alternatives, so great. Stop making Windows available until there's a public outcry and reversal of these insane rulings.
    • by myxiplx (906307) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:40AM (#26966439)

      Dear god, how this got a +4 Insightful I'll never know.

      Madness? Using an illegal monopoly to muscle into other markets is madness. You're saying you'd be quite happy for the electric company to bundle a crappy washing machine that tears your clothes with your electricity bill?

      Oh, and the electric company have ensured that even if you buy another washing machine, you can't remove theirs. And theirs insists on washing your clothes from time to time, no matter how hard you try to remove it. That's what MS did here - they used one product that you pretty much *had* to buy to bundle in a bug ridden piece of crap and force it on customers.

      You can't remove IE from a system, they managed to bodge it in pretty well. And no matter how many competitors products you install, from time to time IE will pop up again.

      If you're going to talk about the freedom of a company to sell it's product without interference, go speak to Netscape. They deserved to be able to sell their product without Microsoft illegally killing their market. And yes, it was illegal. Both the US and the EU have ruled on that now.

      Calling decisions by some of the top courts on two continents insane just shows how much you're missing the point here. You're right about a line needing to be drawn though; the courts are telling Microsoft they've stepped over it, and it's about time.

  • I don't know how effective a 'spread the word about alternative browsers' campaign would be.

    To you and I, doing a quick google search about web browsers to learn the pros and cons of each is no big deal. but to non-techie people, they would not even think about doing this.

    we could have a massive online campaign running, radio ads, TV spots, and beat people over the head with the idea that 'web browser x' is better than IE, and it won't mean anything to them because they don't know what a web browser is. To

  • by westlake (615356) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:25AM (#26966035)

    If the geek had an once of sense he'd put more distance between himself and the EU bureaucrat.

    There is precedent now for government to add or subtract - mandate anything it wants from any OS distribution - depending on which way the political winds are blowing.

  • by Eil (82413) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @12:51AM (#26966179) Homepage Journal

    How can open source best exploit this latest EU decision?"

    More to the point, how is Microsoft going to exploit it? I'm not an anti-MS zealot, but I can completely see them bundling some third-rate thing that still uses the IE rendering engine or something like Safari that's nowhere near usable on Win32.

    That said, if IE is still the default option (or from the user's perspective appears to be), then this judgement really amounts to zilch no matter which side of the debate you're on.

  • by Mark Programmer (228585) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:03AM (#26966231) Homepage

    I think the most significant line in the slashdot article is this:

    "But having the option to install Firefox, say, is useless unless people know what it is."

    But Glyn then goes on to suggest some kind of publicity campaign, which misses the point of this entire inane EU process. Because if a publicity campaign were useful, it should be done regardless of this ruling.

    The average user does not, and continues to not, care. For those of us who do care, we know how to install Firefox and don't need Microsoft or the European governments to hand-hold us through the process. This EU process been one big, fat waste of time.

    Even if Microsoft offers a version of Windows that lets users choose explicitly to install IE or Firefox (and I guess, what, Opera as well? Safari? Chrome?), I bet you good money that most users will choose "Microsoft Internet Explorer" because it has Microsoft in the title. As in, faced with this bogus non-option, an ignorant user will choose the program that was written by the operating system vendor.

    And I mean this bet literally, because when I write web browser plugins I make sure they support IE first. It's the browser most people have because most people don't care. Until and unless the EU makes Microsoft bundle Firefox to the exclusion of IE---a move that hardly seems fair by any rational metric---most users will still use the most convenient option, because most users simply don't care. End of story.

    An advertising campaign that would sell Firefox needs to begin by making people care about their web browser as an application, then explain why Firefox is a better application for browsing the web. History suggests it's an uphill battle.

    Incidentally, the fortune file entry at the bottom of my article listing right now is "bureaucracy, n: A method for transforming energy into solid waste." How appropriate.

  • by origamy (807009) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:04AM (#26966241) Homepage
    Shouldn't Mac OS also have come with other browsers then?
    What about the iPhone, which does not even allow other browsers to be used in its OS?
    I'm not in favor of Microsoft, but Apple is not that much different.
  • At first... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Shadow7789 (1000101) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @01:27AM (#26966373)
    At first when I read this, I thought, "How could the EU possibly come to this conclusion? Firefox has over 20% market share and is still climbing. Are they dumb?" But then I sat down and thought about it. Who prompted this investigation? Opera. Opera has not had the success that Firefox has enjoyed. Now, most of use don't see this as a problem, but to the EU, it is a problem because Opera is a European company. The way the EU sees this, it's not a question of alternative browsers being able to take root, (Firefox already shows that is possible) it is a question of alternative EUROPEAN browsers being able to take root which has not happened. Think about the consequences of this decision. Considering that Mozilla has already stated that they would not bundle their browser with Windows, what other "major" browsers are really left? Just Chrome, Safari, and Opera, and I have trouble seeing Apple and Google forcing themselves upon MS. Really, Opera is the only browser that would really benefit from this. The way I see it, it's all politics, they want to help Opera, the poor European browser, fend off those terrible Americans who can build better products.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:00AM (#26966839) Homepage

    Microsoft had found ways to make Java under-perform while promoting their own proprietary and non-compliant Java VM. Microsoft did similar things against DR-DOS. I expect to see the same of any co-bundled browser.

    Any implementation of a browser alternative should be written as a drop-in replacement for the trident rendering engine, not merely the inclusion of some alternative browser package in the add/remove programs list. Part of what is wrong is that too many applications become vulnerabilities by virtue of trident's own vulnerabilities. But if those same API handles were linked over to webkit or something else, then people would have a true alternative that fixes problems not only with the browsers, but within applications that use the rendering of them.

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