Opera files complaint against Microsoft in the EU over IE, Windows bundle; CTO makes Web standards case

Opera files complaint against Microsoft in the EU over IE, Windows bundle; CTO makes Web standards case

Summary: Updated with Opera CTO, Microsoft comments: Opera Software said Thursday it is filing a complaint against Microsoft in the European Union alleging the software giant is abusing its power and tying Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system. Opera also has a beef about Microsoft's support for Web standards.

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Updated with Opera CTO, Microsoft comments: Opera Software said Thursday it is filing a complaint against Microsoft in the European Union alleging the software giant is abusing its power and tying Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system. Opera also has a beef about Microsoft's support for Web standards.

In its complaint, Opera argues that:

"Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards. Opera has requested the Commission to take the necessary actions to compel Microsoft to give consumers a real choice and to support open Web standards in Internet Explorer."

This argument is sounding pretty familiar as Microsoft has repeatedly been in hot water over tying IE and Windows together. That's what the scrum with the Department of Justice years ago was about.

However, Opera is likely to find a more receptive audience in the EU, which isn't exactly a fan of Microsoft's. I'm no lawyer, but if the EU had a beef with tying Windows Media Player and Windows together it only stands to reason that it will have a similar ruling about IE.

Opera requests that the EU do the following:

  • Force Microsoft to unbundle IE and Windows or preinstall alternative browsers on the desktop (read Opera);
  • Require that Microsoft follows "fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities."

Opera argues that Microsoft hasn't adhered to its own public statements about supporting Web standards. Opera alleges that Microsoft has tried to "embrace, extend and extinguish" these standards. For good measure, Opera's complaint dings Microsoft on trying to control standards, increasing support cost and exposing users to security risks.

In a statement, Opera's general counsel Jason Hoida says:

"The European Court of First Instance confirmed in September that Microsoft has illegally tied Windows Media Player to Windows. We are simply asking the Commission to apply these same, clear principles to the Internet Explorer tie, a tie that has even more profound effects on consumers and innovation. We are confident that the Commission understands the significance of the Internet Explorer tie and will take the necessary actions to restore competition and consumer choice in the browser market."

Translation: The EU ruling in September left the door open for more lawsuits so Opera is taking its shot.

Update: Opera CTO Håkon Wium Lie said in an interview that the EU competition committee, which has said it will review Opera's complaint, may be inclined to agree with the bundling argument. But the real nut of this compliant is about Web standards and whether Microsoft follows them.

Lie, who also made his case in an open letter, noted that Microsoft is in on Web standard discussions and often supports them. Microsoft's practices, however, tell a different story. When asked for specifics, Lie said the big issues are:

  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets);
  • XHTML;
  • And DOM (document object model).

"Microsoft often participates and even promises to support these standards, but we find it often isn't the case. We find bugs and programmers have to code around (Microsoft)," says Lie.

Since Microsoft holds the dominant market share and doesn't support standards in practice, "we work on standards in vain and can't use those specifications."

"We've seen enough of this going on. (Microsoft) could have easily fixed the issues highlighted by developers," says Lie.

Now these arguments may be tricky to prove. Microsoft will say we support Web standards. Microsoft could even use "our coding isn't so hot" argument as a defense. But Lie thinks he has a case.

To illustrate his points, Lie sent me to the Web Standards Project, a grassroots organization focused on Web Standards. The Web Standards Project has an Acid 2 test, which evaluates how well a browser sticks to Web standards. Simply put, Opera and Firefox 3 pass. Firefox 2 and IE 7 don't. And IE 7 is way off.

If a browser is on target with Web standards and rendering you're supposed to get a smiley face.

Here's Firefox 2:

smiley1.png

Here's IE 7:

smiley2.png

Here's Opera 9:

smiley3.png

Will smiley faces sway an EU competition committee? I don't know. But these arguments over Web standards and backing up words with actions should be interesting.

Update 2: Microsoft has issued a response:

"It's important to note that computer users have complete freedom of choice to use and set as default any browser they wish, including Opera, and PC manufacturers can also preinstall any browser as the default on any Windows machine they sell. Microsoft is committed to ensuring that freedom through our Windows Principles. Internet Explorer has been an integral part of the Windows operating system for over a decade and supports a wide range of web standards. We will of course cooperate with any inquiries into these issues, but we believe the inclusion of the browser into the operating system benefits consumers, and that consumers and PC manufacturers already are free to choose to use any browsers they wish."

 

 

Topics: Windows, Browser, Enterprise Software, Government, Government UK, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software

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338 comments
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  • Message has been deleted.

    wayne62682
    • Read the article.

      <i>"...wouldn't that give Opera an "unfair advantage" compared to Firefox?</i>

      <p>It says "Force Microsoft to unbundle IE and Windows or preinstall alternative browsers on the desktop..." It doesn't say anything about exclusively pre-installing Opera.

      <p>I'm a long way from being "morononic," and I do have to point out that it's you who've introduced gratuitous <i>ad hominem</i> adjectives.
      Henrik Moller
      • I *did* read the article

        And by "preinstall alternative browsers", what browser do you think they're referring to? Their own, of course! IF Microsoft were to bundle Opera with Windows as an alternative, that *would* give Opera an unfair advantage versus Mozilla (unless MS were to bundle both).
        wayne62682
        • You didn't read the article, or you are misrepresenting it on purpose

          By "alternative browsers" Opera means "alternative browsers", as in "alternative browsers".

          What part of "alternative browsers" do you not understand? ;)

          Opera Software would love for Opera to be in the list of "alternative browsers", but that is not what the company is demanding.

          It would not be unfair to Mozilla, since "alternative browsers" happens to open up for Mozilla as well.
          bahera
          • Basically...

            What is fair is what we all hate. Too much preinstalled junk on our clean installs.

            I put together 10 to 15 brand new PCs a month where I work. Even after working with the OEM to get exactly what we want on the PC's, we still finish the install and open up the Add/Remove to get rid of everything that comes with a PC these days. Google Toolbar/Desktop/Default Search/Homepage ...

            What Opera wants is what MS has. Agreements with PC makers to have PCs preinstall their product.

            What everybody doesn't realize is that this Product is more like a Suite. And what they should really want is a browserless OS. And not any OS, just Windows.

            The problem with that is how many cds are they going to start putting into these boxes with all the different browsers on them. Something else to keep track of 3 years later after you format and reinstall everything. When is Adobe gonna complain that MS Paint has an unfair advantage?

            If Opera, Mozilla, Netscape or the NBT browser want to be preinstalled on a PC, why don't they have to go to the PC manufacturer to get it done.

            If you are thinking about the Windows sold in cardboard boxes for installation on your home built computer, why can't the other browsers spend some money and buy some boxes, print their names on them, throw a CD in it and put it on the shelves?

            Or, how about this alternative: For every Windows/NonIE package sold, the NonIE maker would pay MS $10.
            dbisse
          • why don't they have to go to the PC manufacturer to get it done?

            You appear to be uninformed on this issue. They've been trying for years.

            The second most popular suggestion on Dell's customer ideas site is to preinstall FireFox, but it hasn't happened yet.

            Employees of HP, Dell, and Gateway have all described how Microsoft uses price changes to pressure manufacturers who try to offer competing products. Microsoft's policy of punishing OEMs is well documented.
            bmerc
          • I Guess Wayne means If it Ain't M$, it Ain't NUTTHIN!

            How - Unamerican of the EU to expect M$ to respect a level playing field! Why, it's practically [i][b]treason[/b][/i], and certainly unpatriotic, to expect Gates&Balmer to actually NOT use their market muscle to force all competition out of THEIR OS forever!

            You support open-source and agreed-to Web standards? Why do you hate America?
            drprodny
        • You are agreeing that being the default browser is an unfair advantage then

          That is one area where we can all agree!!!!!!!!!!
          DonnieBoy
          • yes, BUT

            Being integrated, not bundled, into the OS is devastating to others. Please note that despite Microsoft's attempts to equate these words, "integrated" means built into the OS, while "bundled" means simply packaged with.
            Update victim
          • Han't been for Firefox.

            They have established a large following.
            ShadeTree
          • Sure, it has been for Firefox

            Have you ever looked at _any_ of the statistics gathered by _anyone_ for how many people use which browser? IE still has a monopoly posiiton. Firefox is second, but it is _way_ behind IE in "market share". It does not have a "large following" at all, even if it ahead of all but IE.
            mejohnsn
        • moot point

          anyone can make a browser...

          and stop selling cars with factory stereo's... thats unfair to Alpine, Kenwood and Sony!!!! Laaaaawwwwwllllll.
          pcguy777
          • lulz

            i lol'd
            TacoSauce
          • No

            The factory installed stereo can be easily replaced with an aftermarket stereo, while Microsoft's browser is built so that some of what should be in the OS is instead built into the browser making the browser (IE) non removable.
            Update victim
          • cry me a river

            at least with Microsoft!!!! you can install two stereos if you want to. dugg down as lame.
            pcguy777
          • Oh god another 12 year old

            Your mommy is calling.
            bmerc
          • The factory installed stereo

            is also made by a third party not the auto manufacturer. So, Alpine, Kenwood, and Sony all have the ability to provide the service for the auto company. It also helps the auto company to remain focused on trying to improve the automobile itself.

            Microsoft has in effect put the third party utility companies that built on Microsoft's own software out of business. Had they not done that, there would have been no grounds to have even brought anti-trust charges against them. IMO it would have also given consumers a far superior OS from Microsoft than the one they have right now. They would not have had to concentrate on fixing all the security issues in the utilities attached to the OS and could have improved the actual OS more quickly. Win FS may have even been plausible for the current Vista release instead of getting canned.
            alaniane
          • You remember...

            Back in the day before Windows 95, if you wanted a browser, what did you do? I remember. Wasn't fun was it.

            My '79 Ford had AM radio. Snip snip, solder and vwalla. FM Stereo. My '84 Ford had FM Stereo. Snip snip plug and vwalla, now it has cassette, but now the clock and the dome light don't work. My '95 Pontiac had AM/FM Cassette. I learned. $700 dollars later, 12 disk CD changer. That skipped when I hit the seams in the pavement.

            How much would you pay to have someone come and show you how to connect to the internet site of any of these companies to get their browsers downloaded. Unix commands were and still are about the worse I have ever seen. Yes they do get the job done, efficiently I will add. But the 1st time I saw it in college to the last time I used it for the Dallas area BBS community, it was my least favorite part of the computer industry. Ranks just below hard drive crashes.
            dbisse
          • You remember...

            Yep, I got Netscape. Great browser, beat the pants of IE... Shame that Microsoft destroyed it with predatory business practices, just like they destroyed the company that WROTE the code for IE (AKA spyglass).
            james.faction
          • I probably would not

            have to pay very much since I've done before Win 95 came out. For that matter, I've programmed in Assembly and enjoyed it. You dislike the command line; I don't. In fact I still prefer using the commandline to perform searches, compiles, etc.
            alaniane