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Windows Government Internet Explorer Your Rights Online

How Europe's Mandated Browser Ballot Screen Works 169

CWmike writes "After an 11-month legal face-off, Microsoft and European antitrust officials signed off yesterday on the ballot screen concept that will give Windows users a chance to download rivals' browsers. But now that the battle's over and the ink has dried, it's time to look closely. Some FAQ examples: What's Microsoft promised? How will it work? How many browsers will be on the ballot? Who decides which browsers? Who will see it?"
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How Europe's Mandated Browser Ballot Screen Works

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  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @01:54AM (#30483990) Journal

    My computer experience tells me you've got two kinds of users. Idiots and non-idiots. The former category is a lost cause and will just use IE anyway because that's what they know. The latter category is already smart enough to procure an alternate browser without the help of a splash screen.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:05AM (#30484036)

    Makers of x86 applications should have been mandated to produce a (Generic) Linux, Windows, and OSX port of all their software.

    that will swiftly and very effectively kill off most FOSS projects, as OSS developers do so as a hobby, and often have no clue about the operating system they DONT use.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:06AM (#30484040)

    I really think the EU is missing the point in this "anti-trust" case: the fact that the consumer doesn't have a choice in what OS comes with his computer doesn't bother anyone?

    I think the reasoning is that it's not illegal to have this sort of monopoly (on OSes), but it's illegal to abuse it in such a way that you leverage it in order to dominate other markets, like browsers. Since they leveraged the Windows monopoly to make IE a dominant browser, the government is focusing their anti-trust efforts on browser choice specifically. At least that's what I think their reasoning is, though I'm no lawyer.

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:10AM (#30484052)

    Their hegemonic empire will not be torn down in the name of equality if Lynx isn't included in the list of choices. They should also be forced to include alternatives to Paint and Notepad. That they have the audacity to continue bundling these applications is a slap to the face of every righteous EU official. They may also want to look into rumors that Apple is bundling a single web browser into their own OS at the expense of other meritorious alternatives.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:13AM (#30484058)

    I disagree. The really bad news is that this let's microsoft off the hook completely for the mess they have created.

    No matter which browser you choose on this ballot, IE is still going to be present on your machine and ready for internal idiots or external criminals to use. This changes nothing whatsoever.

  • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:17AM (#30484074) Homepage Journal
    That's hard to do when people bitch and moan that the blue "e" is missing from the computer and then fidget whenever you open Firewhatever before they just ask you to just the "e" back in the upper left corner.

    Those are the lost cause. Imagine trying to explain chmod or sudo to them.
  • Ballot? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:43AM (#30484182)

    Ballot? It's a menu.

    Nice choice of words trying to spin this as a democratic / freedom / choice thing.
    It's simply MS being forced to help their competition.

    Whether or not you agree with the reasoning behind it is irrelevant - there's no reason to call a simple fucking menu a ballot.

    I believe that IE should be the only browser provided by MS, and no menu should be forced upon them. But IE should be completely removable (in Vista and 7 not XP; XP needs it for updates) via the ol' add/remove windows components thing. Leave the files around by default, just uninstall the thing. Hateful users can delete the actual files too, and then pop in the installation disc if they want to re-add it later.

    Apps that die because they depend on IE being installed? Well, you simply can't make everyone happy in this scenario. Eventually that problem will go away.

    But this is a menu.
    Not a ballot.

  • by oddaddresstrap ( 702574 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @02:54AM (#30484230)

    It's one thing when people who feel they have the requisite knowledge choose to locate an alternative browser and install it. If every user had to use Google to locate what they thought might be a web browser and then attempt to install it successfully, a significant percentage would go straight off the cliff.

  • by RoFLKOPTr ( 1294290 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @03:52AM (#30484444)

    Makers of x86 applications should have been mandated to produce a (Generic) Linux, Windows, and OSX port of all their software. That means Quicken, that means Adobe, that means, everyone else. Makers of hardware needed to be mandated to make a Windows, Linux, and OSX driver for their device.

    I don't think that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.... but it's damn close.

  • I've actually had VERY good luck converting the "average Joe" off of IE and onto Firefox, but there is a trick to it, and no, I don't mean hide IE. Anyway here is what I have found: You can't just "make" them switch, you have to give them a reason to switch.

    So what I do is install ABP and ForecastFox, set to load at the toolbar-menubar area, and then let them see what a page that is loaded with ads like the Yahoo home page looks like in both Firefox and IE. after they have seen a couple of pages without the annoying as hell ads, and see how ForecastFox gives them their local weather with the nice icons they just don't want to go back. In fact I have had customers call me to say "I'm visiting "insert name of friend/relative" and their PC has only the bad blue E thing. What do I need to do to get them the good one?"

    So it really isn't hard to get ordinary folks off of IE. You just need to show them how much better an experience they can have away from IE. I show them how easy it is to add extensions, so if they want to download Youtube videos or any other basic browser task they can just DIY. And of course getting them away from IE makes my life easier, as I don't have to deal with my customers on XP getting drive by downloaded. Better for them, better for me, its a win/win!

  • by TorKlingberg ( 599697 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:28AM (#30484566)

    My computer experience tells me you've got two kinds of users. Idiots and non-idiots.

    This is a common mental mistake of Slashdotters. Of course there is a scale of various levels of knowledge. Perhaps even more importantly, a person can be an expert in some subjects and an idiot in others.

  • Waste of Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Toreo asesino ( 951231 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @04:35AM (#30484594) Journal

    ...for most users I'd imagine. The number of people I've seen close Norton/McAfee messages that say "For Gods' sake man, you're trial-ware virus subscription have expired - your computer could literally be ass-raped any minute!" leads me to think most users won't give a shit about other browsers.

    What happens if you close the ballot screen? Nothing I suspect. This'll just be a case of all but mildly technically curious people closing it and clicking the blue "E" anyway.

    Anyway, after all this I think it's for the good. If nothing else it makes Apple seem a little more evil; I hope all the fanbois realise the same shake-down will happen to their beloved MacOS X should ever come close to the domination it apparently deserves.. Anyway, I for one don't miss the days of pure IE domination & 'marque' tags floating around, so again this is a good thing.

  • by saintm ( 142527 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @05:32AM (#30484916)

    Yeah, because knowledge about computing has everything to do with intelligence, eh?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 18, 2009 @06:23AM (#30485114)

    No one said the "blue e" has to point to the IE executable...
    It does wonders ;-)

  • Re:Waste of Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @07:22AM (#30485340) Homepage

    There is a common misunderstanding in your post.

    The ballot screen is there not because of MS' market domination but because MS abused of that dominant position.

    If Apple ever gets to dominate the market and doesn't abuse of it, Apple will never be forced to place a ballot on screen.

    Again: the EU is not punishing MS for being successful but because of what they did to win against competitors.

  • by ArmyOfAardvarks ( 1281154 ) on Friday December 18, 2009 @11:07AM (#30487332)
    Why should it? The OS doesn't belong to the US government. It belongs to Microsoft. If they want to make the default browser IE, it's their business. If you don't like it, use Ubuntu. I don't like IE, but even more I don't like the government pretending that they own everything.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"