Browser Ballot Screen is coming; gets a 0.5% market share cutoff

I have to admit I’m stunned. Given what I wrote in early June on the IE browser bundling issue and the subsequent launch of Windows 7 E, I wouldn’t have expected Microsoft to go so easily on the Browser Ballot Screen… but now they are embracing it.

image Microsoft’s most recent proposal to the EC contains a commitment to implement the Ballot Screen. The screen (a mockup from Microsoft’s proposal on the right) would allow the user to download an alternative browser – but would be implemented as a web page.

This would seem to indicate that IE does get preinstalled unless an OEM chooses another browser (an option that Microsoft’s commitment clearly and visibly keeps open), but the user gets prompted upfront about the browser choice. The same choice would also pop up for older installations with IE as their default browser after the ballot screen was installed through Windows Update.

The update would also allow users to disable IE’s user interface totally, practically making an alternative browser the only browser on the system. The IE engine would still be installed as is crucial for compatibility, but Internet Explorer as an application wouldn’t be anywhere to be seen, nor could it be enabled without explicit action from the user.

Also, Microsoft suggests an answer to one of the more pressing questions: Who decides which browsers get included on the screen? Now that the ballot screen won’t be shipping on the installation media, the question is a bit less critical but important nonetheless. Microsoft’s suggestion is that one browser from each vendor with more than 0.5% market share would be included while capping the ballot screen to ten browsers at most. In practice, all relevant competitors would get included.

On a quick look, this pretty much sounds like a working solution. I’m somewhat surprised by Microsoft’s new desire to co-operate; the launch of E versions sounded mean enough to set expectations for something else. It’ll be interesting to see if this means a change in Microsoft’s business practices more generally as well. At any rate, the EC’s first reaction was positive.

July 27, 2009 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Web

One Response

  1. Aki Björklund - July 27, 2009

    I wonder how many people will just ignore the page contents and start typing on the address bar.

    It is like the default home page that your internet operator set. If you don't know to change it, you can always ignore it.

    It is titled "Select your browser" when people don't even know what a browser is.

    I am disappointed but not surprised.

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