Which gwaddagak would you pick?

All the noise about adding a browser choice ballot screen on Windows Installation, and who even knows how to use all that power of selection?

My colleague Aki blogged about an interesting video by Google. They’re interviewing people in New York, asking about browsers and search engines. Less than 8% knew what a browser is!

Why would European Commission want people to make an explicit choice on something where nine out of ten citizens would not have the necessary knowledge to back up their choice anyway? Arguing that Europeans might be more knowledgeable than Americans might be a valid point, given the larger percentage of Firefox users in the old world. But still, I’m not ready to bet on more than a few percents more knowledge. Hmm… I guess we’ll see the showdown soon enough.

June 22, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · 4 Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Web

4 Responses

  1. Arttu - June 23, 2009

    How many random people now what an operating system is? Yet abusing monopoly on that market has been harmful for both the economy and the consumers. For the big corporations, we need big governments to defend the customer – and the customer may sometimes be ignorant of all related technical detail.

  2. Jouni Heikniemi - June 26, 2009

    I agree consumer protection doesn't require detailed technical knowledge, but I'd still say EC is wrong in two counts:

    First, Microsoft's "IE monopoly" isn't really that strong. Particularly in the EU area the alternative browsers have enough foothold to be a practical force in the field. It is highly doubtful that EC will be able to protect a valid consumer interest by ruling against Microsoft in this instance.

    Second, competition law can easily be (mis)used as a measure to _punish_ (as opposed to control) monopolists by enforcing measures so stringent that they unbalance the competition towards the other end. In this sense, the consumers' knowledge about browsers does make a difference: If Windows installation has prompts that 92% of users cannot reasonably comprehend, it does degrade the user experience from a Microsoft product. Such measure is hard to justify given that only rather few people would actually be able to make a rational choice between the alternatives.

  3. Arttu - June 26, 2009

    Unbudling features might degrade the user experience from stricly Windows point of view. But if all the included browsers were standards-compatible, no harm would be made by even a non-rational choice – and this would force browsers to became not only standards-compliant but also differentiate themselves to gain user attention. How rational are the people's choices overall, might a philosopher ask.

    I think it is fair to challence the EC on the basis that IE market share has dropped in Europe. But defining the monopoly market share is never easy and has to be decided on case-by-case basis. In any case, t was a conscious choice from Microsoft to halt IE development while trying to thwart and control Internet development. It is sad that that decision has delayed the development of web standards for years.

    It is good to finally see, that the increased competition has finally spurred the IE development and the browser is now almost on par with other major browsers. But I welcome the cautiousness of EC, as is it the only major power to supervise the IT market from the consumer point of view – U.S. government is way too pro-business for that. And it is good to remember that Gates and Ballmer still cannot admit their moral errors related to past antitrust cases – the trust has to be earned.

    You had an earlier post about the alternatives to browser bundling. As the importance of the browser in today's IT has increased almost to the level of the OS, I still cannot see any viable alternatives to bundling alternative browsers to ensure healthy competition and development of common standards.

  4. Aki Björklund - June 29, 2009

    Regarding that the IE monopoly is not that strong:

    http://blog.lizardwrangler.com/2009/02/06/the-european-commission-and-microsoft/

    Equally important, the success of Mozilla and Firefox does not indicate a healthy marketplace for competitive products. Mozilla is a non-profit organization; a worldwide movement of people who strive to build the Internet we want to live in. I am convinced that we could not have been, and will not be, successful except as a public benefit organization living outside the commercial motivations. And I certainly hope that neither the EU nor any other government expects to maintain a healthy Internet ecosystem based on non-profits stepping in to correct market deficiencies.

    http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/archives/2009/06/browsing_doesnt.html

    Another example is Apple's Safari browser on Macintosh. Apple's bundling of Safari caused it to very quickly become the dominant Mac browser. In the four and a half years since we shipped Firefox 1.0 for Mac, we've managed to siphon off about 27 points of share from Safari, but Safari still sits with a comfortable 72% of Mac browser usage.

    There will be no real competition while OS vendors are allowed keep bundling their browsers. I don't really care that it hurts the few companies that make the browsers. What I really care is that the web suffers because of it.

    The World Wide Web is the greatest invention of man yet. It is crazy that people let Microsoft to stall its development for years. They still do. IE is nowhere near the other browsers.

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