Microsoft set to begin browser-ballot rollout in Europe

Microsoft set to begin browser-ballot rollout in Europe

Summary: Microsoft will start rolling out the European-Commission-stipulated browser-ballot screen, which will present to Windows users a list of browser choices, as of the week of February 22.

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Microsoft will start rolling out the European-Commission-stipulated browser-ballot screen, which will present to Windows users a list of browser choices, as of the week of February 22.

As a result of its antitrust settlement with the European Commision in the Opera browser-bundling case, Microsoft is required to offer he browser ballot screen -- which lists the top 10 (by market share) browsers that run on Windows, with information about each -- to Windows users in most of the countries in Europe.

A limited external roll-out kicks off next week in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France, with the full-scale rollout across Europe commencing around March 1, according to a blog February 19 blog post by Dave Heiner, Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.

Starting next week, users in the early-rollout countries can choose to download the browser-ballot update from Windows Update. Once the full-scale rollout begins, Microsoft plans to offer the update as an automatic download via Windows Update for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. More specifics from Heiner's post:

"The software update will be installed automatically, or will prompt you to download or install it, depending on which operating system you are running and your settings for Windows Update. If you do not have automatic updating enabled, you can get the choice screen by going to Windows Update and clicking on 'Check for Updates.'"

Via the ballot, users will be presented with three options: "Install" to install one of the listed browsers; "Tell Me More" to get more information on the various browsers (with links and logos provided by each vendor); and "Select Later" to postpone having to make a default browser selection.

Microsoft originally fought hard against the browser ballot — to the point where the company almost went so far as to create a whole new Windows 7 SKU (Windows 7E) that wouldn’t provide a way for users to get on the Internet and choose a browser. In the end, the Softies decided to settle rather than fight, and the soon-to-be-implemented browser ballot is the result.

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Will the ballot screen be pushed out to non-European countries too? nt

    .
    ye
    • RE: Microsoft set to begin browser-ballot rollout in Europe

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      gogon gondrong
  • @ above Your conscience is your ballot screen

    and your prior knowledge is your choice. Don't be dependent on any random thinking.
    ArnavM
    • Choice?

      You're forced to install Internet Explorer if you want to install Windows, and you're forced to run it whenever you run any program that goes online; with [i]very[/i] few exceptions Internet Explorer is loaded inside them without you knowing, leaving you vulnerable to all of the holes in Internet Explorer. Even if you explicitly tell Windows you don't want Internet Explorer. Nice "choice". All it does is hide the desktop icon.
      AzuMao
  • RE: Microsoft set to begin browser-ballot rollout in Europe

    I hope the EU customers get confused by this and raise a ruckus just to show how stupid this whole thing was. Too many choices and they won't know which to pick and will then stick with IE. Now if they didn't have the ballot screen they would get IE anyway and none of this confusing ballot screen crap would appear. Microsoft was doing everyone the favor but Opera just couldn't take the heat.
    Loverock Davidson
    • Not likely at all

      They're just about the least likely to get confused. IE already has less than 50% of the European market, which means that alternative browsers are being used by a majority of persons.
      eMJayy
      • But if that's the case...

        ...why was there a problem with IE being the default browser? That didn't seem to stop a majority from choosing a different browser.

        Carl Rapson
        rapson
        • Well, because...

          Although 'alternate' browsers ar indeed much better represented in Europe (thus preventing compatibility lockouts as found in the US and Asia, as nobody would be enough of a fool to keep 40% of his/her potential market out), that means that IE's market share must come from somewhere.

          So, let's list IE's competitive advantages...
          - Is it faster to load? No, Opera and Chrome have it beaten here, and other browsers don't load much slower. Actually, IE 8 with a single addon may load slower than, say, Firefox with a dozen. Ouch.

          - Is it more compatible with websites? Well, no. Bank, administration websites are tested against Firefox at a bare minimum (in Europe, at least). Actually, some websites recommend Firefox or Safari over IE (any version, although 6 is the most decried one) for better compatibility.

          - Is it faster in actual use? A definite NO: all (and I mean, ALL) browsers are faster than IE in regular use: opening a tab, scrolling a page, loading a page... Depending on the browser, thay're faster on at least one point.

          - Is it more flexible? No, Opera ships with more functionalities out of the box and Firefox has far more free add-ons for it. Chrome is also getting there.

          - Is it available on more platforms? No, Firefox is available on Mac and Linux and all supported versions of Windows including Windows 2000, so is Opera, and Safari is available on Mac. Chrome is following in Firefox's footsteps.

          - Is it more stable? No. Personally, I can crash up to date IE 8 on Windows XP or Vista in less than 5 minutes. I have yet to completely crash Firefox 3.6.

          - Is it cheaper? Actually no, you have to pay for Windows (a half-recent one) to get IE. Not so with other browsers (Firefox on Linux means completely free browsing).

          - Is it more secure? In IE 8's case on Vista/7 it is debatable; however, if we consider InPrivate browsing (which writes then erases private data to disk), Firefox at least has IE beaten - as its Private Browsing suspends ALL writes to disk. Forensic tools can recover data from IE's InPrivate sessions rather easily.

          So, if it's slower, less compatible, less stable, more expensive, and more hazardous than the competition, why is it still the majority browsers?

          Answer: because of monopoly abuse by Microsoft. What do you do to prevent that? You enforce restrictions upon monopolists. But those restrictions must not hurt users nor third parties, and previous experiences show that the best way is to inform users about alternatives.

          Thus the ballot screen.
          Mitch 74
          • But...

            ...the ballot screen only applies to the EU, where apparently IE isn't the dominant browser to begin with. So how is the ballot screen going to help?

            Carl Rapson
            rapson
          • The monopoly abuse is Windows' - not IE, which is its beneficiary

            ...for no other reason than monopoly abuse.

            Please note that the monopoly abuse is not IE's (it obviously isn't a monopoly any more with a 50% market share), it's Windows'. Abuse comes from bundling a piece of software (IE) with a monopoly product (Windows).
            Mitch 74
          • Not a monopoly

            Windows is no more a monopoly than Apple's OSs. Microsoft created both IE and windows...this ruling by the EU is soooooo bogus. Everybody want to correct a REAL problem?! Stop having 85-95% of all consumer products created in China. This is a real problem that will only get bigger. IE being bundled with Windows is the same as having notepad or any of the games that windows comes with. This again was a big waste of money and time for EU citizens and Microsoft.
            colecrew
          • Oh? You're contradicting both the US DOJ and the EC...

            ...as both declared that Microsoft has a de facto monopoly on PC OSes.
            Mitch 74
          • Not the whole story.

            Every other browser feels awkward and bumbly in its layout and various function as compared to IE. At least to me and most other people I know. Sure, the people I know who do use other browsers, Firefox mostly, have gotten used to the way other browsers work and of course do like them, but as the saying goes, I might get used to somebody hitting me with a stick but I see no reason why I should want to get used to it, particularly until I actually like it.

            And good for you that you can crash IE8 in five minutes. You must be a real whiz bang with computers. Just the kind of guy who should be handing out their expert opinion on the shortcomings of a web browser.
            Cayble
          • Even if IE had been best it is wrong to force it upon OS users

            The relative advantages of different browsers is completely irrelevant to this issue. All have their pros and cons and this is a matter of taste. But I think it is not a coincidence that today more than 50% of the users in the world use Firefox. Still this is unimportant to this issue.

            The key point that EU brings out is that it is unacceptable that Microsoft misuses its dominant position by forcing their own browser upon people (to the extent that it considered making it impossible to use other browsers on their OS). This is unacceptable even if IE had been a superior browser.

            There is no reason in the world why any OS should contain a browser - any other than monopoly misuse.
            estonijaan
          • MS doesn't block the use of other browsers ...

            While IE can?t be uninstalled, Other browsers can still be used.

            If MS didn?t include a pre-installed browser, then they?d be accused of preventing users from accessing the Internet.

            ?Abusive? or not, Some will never be satisfied with MS, No matter how accommodating they are.
            BlazingEagle
          • I'm sorry, but your argument is stupid

            I have IE 8, Firefox, Chrome and Safari on my machines so that I can test web sites with all four. I don't know anyone that bothers with Opera, but I understand it has a following in Europe. I use IE, although I may switch to Chrome. Neither Firefox or Safari are sandboxed on Windows and are basically asking to infect your system. Quite frankly they do not display most of the sites I've visited correctly. IE 8 does take longer to load, although only marginally, than Safari, but is faster all the way around than Firefox. Personally I'm willing to wait another few seconds for a safer browser. Yes, even with all the security patches that come out for IE, it is still safer than both Safari and Firefox.

            But that isn't why the ballot screen is stupid. It is stupid because it isn't required by any other OS. If you buy a Mac you are going to be stuck with Safari unless you go out and download Firefox the same way you are on a Windows machine.

            Why stop with the browser? Why not make Windows ship with Linux and OSX also installed and prompt the user for which one they want to run? Somehow people can see how idiotic this would be, but not see how idiotic the ballot screen for the browsers is.

            The fact that IE has poor penetration in Europe is proof that it isn't a monopoly. If you are going to impose that they display a special screen with every browser on it, you should impose the same restriction on Macs and Linux.

            One of the reasons that IE is more popular is simply because it is the most forgiving browser for bad HTML, and there is still a lot of poorly coded sites out there, especially blogs. IE simply shows these sites best. I normally list this among the weaknesses of the browser, but outside of the development community it is considered a plus.
            baileysc
          • I'm sorry, but your argument is stupid

            And let me tell you why it's stupid...

            [i]But that isn't why the ballot screen is stupid. It is stupid because it isn't required by any other OS. If you buy a Mac you are going to be stuck with Safari unless you go out and download Firefox the same way you are on a Windows machine.[/i]

            And Mac's only have about 5% of the desktop market worldwide. M$ is at about 90% which gives it a monopoly status that Apple doesn't even come close to. Get real with the numbers.

            [i]Why stop with the browser? Why not make Windows ship with Linux and OSX also installed and prompt the user for which one they want to run?[/i]

            That point is utterly retarded and not worthy of further response.

            [i]Somehow people can see how idiotic this would be, but not see how idiotic the ballot screen for the browsers is.[/i]

            Well you obviously can't since you're using it as a basis for comparison. An OS is not a browser and vice-versa. A browser is but one component of an OS. Doh.

            [i]The fact that IE has poor penetration in Europe is proof that it isn't a monopoly.[/i]

            Then you have nothing to worry about, do you? Do you live in Europe? Is somebody about to tell you not to use your precious IE anymore?

            Believe it or not, there was a time when the browser [b]wasn't[/b] included with the OS until IE5

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Explorer#Internet_Explorer_5

            [i]If you are going to impose that they display a special screen with every browser on it, you should impose the same restriction on Macs and Linux.[/i]

            Well maybe you should tell Micro$oft to build a version of IE8 that will work with Linux or Apple. Until then, you don't know what you're talking about.

            [i]One of the reasons that IE is more popular is simply because it is the most forgiving browser for bad HTML, and there is still a lot of poorly coded sites out there, especially blogs.[/i]

            That's no excuse and only perpetuates the problem.

            [i]IE simply shows these sites best. I normally list this among the weaknesses of the browser, but outside of the development community it is considered a plus.[/i]

            Crap. Without ActiveX and OS bundling, IE would be an also-ran, regulated to joining Netscape in the browser graveyard. Two unfair advantages it has over all others.
            Wintel_BSOD
          • Really? I seem to remember things a bit differently..

            [b]Believe it or not, there was a time when the browser wasn't included with the OS until IE5 [/b]


            I think you best reread the first 4 variations on that link you posted - a bit more carefully this time.

            Under IE 1.0 it says:

            "It came with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 and OEM release of Windows 95."

            Under IE 2.0 it says:

            "Version 2 was included in Windows 95 OSR 1 and Microsoft's Internet Starter Kit for Windows 95 in early 1996."

            Under IE 3, it reads:

            "Version 3 also came bundled with Internet Mail and News, NetMeeting, and an early version of the Windows Address Book, and was itself included with Windows 95 OSR 2."

            IE 4, it says:

            "This version also was included with Windows 98."

            So it can be said that IE's been a part of Windows since 95. Most people didn't really even notice this mainly because IE 1, 2 and 3 all sucked hard boiled rotten eggs.
            Wolfie2K3
          • Gee, I also remember differently

            Gee, I seem to remember getting instructions on how to get IE through an FTP command line to my Win95 machine right after I first got it.

            Maybe we should go back to that...
            Wintel_BSOD
          • Excellent comment

            Excellent, exhaustive, competent and fair

            Thanks a lot Mitch 74!
            estonijaan