Why Opera's antitrust complaint against Microsoft is a bad idea

Summary:Whether you think Opera Software is right in its attempt to convince the European Commission (EC) of the wisdom of forcing Microsoft to stop bundling exclusively Internet Explorer with Windows, there's another part of Opera's December 13 antitrust complaint that the court hopefully will ignore.

Whether you think Opera Software is right in its attempt to convince the European Commission (EC) of the wisdom of forcing Microsoft to stop bundling exclusively Internet Explorer with Windows, there's another part of Opera's December 13 antitrust complaint that the court hopefully will ignore.

Opera is trying to get the EC to force Microsoft to make Internet Explorer (IE) compliant with Web standards as part of the antitrust suit it filed on December 13. Even though many Web developers and customers have been frustrated and upset over Microsoft's failure to make IE "100 percent standards-compliant" (whatever that really means), Opera's strategy to force the issue through the courts his is a really bad idea. Off the top of my head, here are just a few reasons why:

1. Should antitrust courts be the ones in charge of determining which versions of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), XHTML, Document Object Model (DOM) and other Web standards are the ones to which all browser/Web developers should be writing? Participants in various standards bodies can't even agree among themselves which version of these standards is the best. How are judges supposed to wade through the browser-standards confusion in a good/fair way?

2. Would it be positive for customers if Microsoft were suddenly forced to create a version of IE that looked good on paper, in terms of more complete standards compliance, but which broke third-party and custom Web applications? Microsoft has argued that it is trying to avoid this situation with IE and is working on various ways it can make IE more standards-complaint without breaking existing apps, completely upsetting the partner/customer universe.

3. With Mozilla, Firefox has proved you don't need government intervention to wrest a substantial percentage of the browser market from Microsoft. You just friends with deep pockets (like Google) and a community of dedicated developers -- plus a guaranteed customer base who prefer anything other than Microsoft technologies.

In the end, Microsoft's own inertia, browser-security problems and inability to react quickly to market changes (where, oh where, is IE 8?) will continue to help its browser competitors more than a ruling by the EU or other antitrust body would.

What do you think? Is Opera's attempt to get the European Commission to force the unbundling of IE from Windows too late? And what's your take on Opera's attempt to get the courts involved in enforcing Web-standards compliance?

Topics: Browser, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Security

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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