Mozilla execs raise objections to Microsoft's browser-ballot proposal

Mozilla execs raise objections to Microsoft's browser-ballot proposal

Summary: At the end of July, Microsoft officials shared publicly the company's browser-ballot proposal made to the European Commission antitrust regulators. On August 17, execs with Microsoft rival Mozilla weighed in with new and more detailed objections to Microsoft's proposal.

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At the end of July, Microsoft officials shared publicly the company's browser-ballot proposal made to the European Commission antitrust regulators. On August 17, execs with Microsoft rival Mozilla weighed in with new and more detailed objections to Microsoft's proposal.

Microsoft's browser-ballot proposal is part of the ongoing settlement talks between the EC and Microsoft over the antitrust suit filed by Opera Software against Microsoft over the bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows. The EC has yet to issue a final ruling in the case, but has been discussing with Microsoft, PC makers and other software vendors different options designed to level the browser playing field.

One option, originally repudiated but later advocated, by Microsoft is the inclusion of a browser-ballot screen in Windows that will make it clear to users that they have a choice of browsers and don't need to rely on IE just because it comes bundled with Windows. Microsoft is proposing that the ballot-screen be delivered to current and future XP, Vista and Windows 7 users over Windows Update,

Until this week, Microsoft's browser competitors seemed,for the most part, cautiously optimistic about Microsoft's ballot-screen proposal.

But on August 17, Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation made it clear she had a number of objections to Microsoft's proposal.

"(E)ven if everything in the currently proposed settlement is implemented in the most positive way — IE will still have a unique and uniquely privileged position on Windows installations," Baker blogged.

Even if the screen were implemented as Microsoft has proposed, IE still gets prominent placement in the Windows user interface, she charged. The Taskbar in Windows 7 gives IE prominent placement, she said, with IE shortcuts remaining part of the user experience unless the user turns off IE. And "choosing another browser as a 'default' does NOT mean that the other browser takes the place of IE," Baker claimed.

Baker also objected to the way Microsoft is proposing that users get their browser bits, both in the way the proposal suggests users download competing bits, as well as the way Microsoft is proposing using Windows Update. She isn't too keen on Microsoft's hard-coding of links to IE into "potentially all Microsoft products other than Office 2007."

Mozilla Corp. Vice President and Chief Counsel Harvey Anderson shared similar objections to the Microsoft proposal, which he itemized in an August 18 blog post. Anderson also highlighted the ordering of the alternative browsers on the ballot, as well as the Microsoft proposal's lack of  user education as areas where more information and specifics are needed.

Microsoft officials had nothing to say about Mozilla's new objections.

"The European Commission is reviewing the proposals we submitted July 24, and it's important that public feedback be part of that process," said Microsoft spokesperson Kevin Kutz. "While we may not align on every specific point, we welcome Mozilla's input and find their perspectives constructive.  We look forward to the next steps in the Commission's review."

One former Softie, Charles Fitzgerald, a Vice President of Product Management with Decho, had a more pointed response, which he blogged on August 20: "Attention Mozilla: less lobbying, more bug fixing."

What's your take? Do you think Mozilla's execs have any valid objections?

Topics: Operating Systems, Browser, Microsoft, 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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114 comments
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  • Mozilla should focus on its product!

    No matter what decision Microsoft makes, will never satisfy Mozilla. Why don't Mozilla use all that energy and market Opera to the world. Just like every other company in the world, they market their product to make consumer aware. Its pathetic that Mozilla is taking this approach, it made me switch to Chrome and Skyfire for my internet needs. They shouldn't dictate how MS does business. Stupid EU regulators.
    mailbox01
    • You do know Mozilla has nothing to do ...

      with Opera ?? or did I misunderstand your post

      "Why don't Mozilla use all that energy and market Opera to the world. "


      Mozilla = FireFox
      mrlinux
      • His point

        I took his point to mean why not Mozilla advertise for Operah. No differnt than them forcing MS to do the same.

        .....but I am not in that poster's head, so who knows.
        djmik
        • Completely different, and Chrome has a lot to do with it

          Mozilla advertising Opera is nothing like MS advertising other browsers. Mozilla does not supply the operating system; Microsoft does. The problem is not about a browser company being a monopoly, as we've seen IE's market share drop tremendously. The problem is an Operating System favoring one product to attempt to monopolize the browser market.

          BTW, Mozilla's biggest fear is probably Chrome, not IE. I recently read that most of Mozilla's funding is from Google, who really no longer have much of an incentive to fund a competing browser.
          davidr69
    • The reason is

      when you product is not any better than what is included. you have to get the UE courts to say its unfair.

      If their browers was so much better. Everyone would use it.
      rparker009
  • RE: Mozilla execs raise objections to Microsoft's browser-ballot proposal

    Why exactly does Microsoft have to purposefully shoot itself in the foot in the name of competition?

    Frankly, I hope the EU shoots these objections down.
    Anirask
    • I don't see Microsoft shooting their feet.

      I am curious as to how you manage to see this that way. Mozilla is the one objecting and while the new strategy is an improved one, Mozilla sees flaws with it. They are somewhat validated by the fact that Microsoft has tried to change my default browser numerous times over the years.
      nucrash
  • Wow, it sure gets complicated!!

    Amazing how complicated it gets when you try to break up a vertically integrated, hand-in-glove solution that is provided by 1 company as a single, "it just works out of the box" solution!

    Try to imagine the same process being applied to the iPod / iTunes / iTMS monopoly!

    Try to imagine the same process being applied to the burgeoning iPhone monopoly!
    NonZealot
    • Just out of interest...

      would you mind if the same process were applied to the iPod/iTunes/iPhone monopoly?
      Viva la crank dodo
      • Consistency would be nice

        Ultimately, I think that some consistency in how behavior and success is treated would be nice.

        Personally, I feel that no, MS didn't deserve any of the actions that were brought against it because there have [b]always[/b] been choices of ecosystems and [b]rarely[/b] choices once you've committed to an ecosystem. To whine and complain and moan that once you [b]chose[/b] the Windows ecosystem over the Linux or OS X or Solaris or OS/2 ecosystems that WMP was the default media player and IE was the default browser and that Windows clients worked better with Windows servers, etc. is ridiculous since this is a truism in [b]every single other ecosystem out there[/b].

        So would I mind if the same process were applied to Apple's various monopolies? Had MS not been punished for its success then yes, I would mind. However, since the precedent has been set, I will cheer any movement towards punishing Apple for their "monopolistic behavior" (monopolistic behavior having been defined by the DoJ and the EU while they were dealing with MS in such a way that the existence of choice is irrelevant and the only thing that matters is success).
        NonZealot
        • I agree that consistency would be nice..

          but this raises another question.

          Would you have felt the same way had Apple been the FIRST target? That is, had competitors already successfully challenged Apples obvious dominant position so as to force more interoperability and therefore choice, would you feel that, for consistency, MS present position is justified and should therefore comply?

          I know this is highly speculative but still would appreciate an answer if you choose.
          Viva la crank dodo
          • I think I answered that

            [i]Would you have felt the same way had Apple been the FIRST target?[/i]

            Had Apple been the first target, I would have supported Apple's desire to make its ecosystem work better than the competition's ecosystem.

            However, since the legal definition of "anti-competitive" has been so skewed from what makes sense where having [b]your[/b] browser be the default on [b]your[/b] OS is now anti-competitive, I think nearly everything that Apple does is anti-competitive. And with a 91% marketshare in the $1,000+ PC market, a 90%+ marketshare in the PMP market, a 90%+ marketshare in the downloadable media market, and the [b]leveraging of those monopolies to give the iPhone - a clone of every other pre-existing touch screen smartphone - overnight success in a brand new market[/b] (and remember, leveraging MS's client OS to break into the server OS market was deemed illegal and MS was punished by being forced to release its client / server protocols to SAMBA), I think there is a lot that the DoJ and the EU could punish Apple for were the same rules applied.
            NonZealot
          • Thanks

            I don't necessarily agree with all of your statements but I do agree that there has been a lack of consistency. Try to buy a mini stereo system with an MP3 docking station and the only type of docking station you are likely to find is for the iPod. I think that does show a bit of a monopoly in this market.

            I am not really a big proponent of the EU decision but I do not agree that a platform maker should be able to decide what I should put on the platform or use it with, especially in terms of interoperability (ie client server). I personally believe MS simply entered the right niche (desktops) when there was no other real entrants and was able to saturate the market to the point where they owned it.

            It is really not reasonable to expect that every application developer should have to build a new platform in order to build the desired application.

            I will agree that enforcing a company to carry a competitors product is going a bit to far, but enforcing it to play nice with other products designed to sit on top of it should be respected. Still that should apply to apple as well. I would like to use iTunes songs on both my iPod and Sony MP3 player, after all I wanted to buy the song, not the format. Similarly I bought (debate on licensing and owning a different topic) the platform not the companies business model.

            Appreciate your feedback and understand that there are various shades of opinion on this.
            Viva la crank dodo
          • It's not illegal to be a monopoly...

            [i]"Try to buy a mini stereo system with an MP3 docking station and
            the only type of docking station you are likely to find is for the iPod. I
            think that does show a bit of a monopoly in this market."[/i]

            It's not illegal to be a monopoly. Also, how is it Apple's fault what
            peripherals other companies build? Apple doesn't force them to build
            iPod and iPhone peripherals, not like Microsoft did with the OEM PC
            manufacturers.

            [i]"I would like to use iTunes songs on both my iPod and Sony MP3
            player, after all I wanted to buy the song, not the format."[/i]

            What's stopping you? iTunes music is DRM free.

            [i]"Similarly I bought (debate on licensing and owning a different topic)
            the platform not the companies business model."[/i]

            True, but Apple and Microsoft are in different businesses. Apple sells
            hardware. [i]All[/i] software that Apple sells is there to support their
            hardware oriented business model. That's why most of their software
            is free with the purchase of an Apple branded computer. iTunes exists
            to sell iPods and iPhones.

            Microsoft's business model is different, they're software oriented.
            olePigeon
          • Ole pidgeon

            I wasn't meaning to imply it is illegal to be a monopoly but I do believe in regulating monopolies to ensure that it is feasible for new entrants to compete without starting from the ground up. Kind of like forcing a salt and pepper shaker company to design the tables that they are to be used on.

            Also my reference to docking stations was not a shot at Apple but on the fact that manufacturers only design for the iPod shows they recognize the massive dominance. Sony stereos do not even dock their own Sony MP3 players.

            With respects to the tunes from iTunes working with any MP3 player, is this new? Its good to know as I understood in the past this was not possible. I'm not a big audio phile so I apologize if I am out of date there.

            I'm not sure I understand why a focus on HW or SW should subject either company to be subject to different rules. Please explain.
            Viva la crank dodo
          • I don't feel bad for the Zune's status

            Considering both the Zune and the iPod are sold side-by-side in most stores. They even occupy the same shelf space, inches away from each other.

            If the iPod wins in sales, oh well... At least Zune has an even display chance.

            Now, can the same thing be said for seeing Linux on PCs sold in stores like Best Buy?

            NOT.

            [i]It's not illegal to be a monopoly. Also, how is it Apple's fault what peripherals other companies build? Apple doesn't force them to build iPod and iPhone peripherals, not like Microsoft did with the OEM PC manufacturers.[/i]
            Wintel BSOD
          • You are mistaken

            Microsoft did not create the desktop or windows. Gates and Jobs disagree on who stole it first, but Gates actually admitted to stealing the idea. Bill Gates (Microsoft) stole the concept from Apple when he saw Steve Jobs was onto a good thing! Steve Jobs (Apple) stole the concept from Xerox when he visited and was given a tour of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and shown the Zerox Star (reportedly the Alto) with its mouse and Graphical User Interface (GUI). Xerox was careless and did not consider windows or the desktop to have any value. They were only interested in selling copiers...see Graphical User Interface (GUI) @ http://www.apple-history.com/history.html
            Isocrates
        • To set you clear, monopoly does not mean 'The guy with the better products"

          Also, monopoly is not bad, just using predatory tactics like Microsoft does is.

          Also, iPhone, with a 16% market share has a very long way before it becomes a monopoly.

          iPod, with a very large share, is still not a monopoly since there are over 50 competing products.

          iTunes? Well I suppose you could call the a monopoly to sync software provided with iPod hardware.

          Frankly, I think it's time to return your imaginary MacBook Pro and use the money to buy 2 Windows laptops. Microsoft needs the money!
          No More Microsoft Software Ever!
          • Why does every body get the law wrong

            IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO BE A MONOPOLY! It is illegal to perform monopolistic (anti-competitive) practice. Bundling is not an anti-competitive practice as every industry does do it. Bet lets play devils advocate and them bundling IE with Windows is anti-competitive then Apple is breaking the law, Google is breaking the law with Android, Palm is breaking the law, RIM is breaking the law. The rule of law in democratic counties states that no one is above the law - that means if you are going to charge Microsoft with their "violation" then you need to charge the rest as well.
            Djblois
          • It's not the bundling, it's the integration. [nt]

            [nt]
            olePigeon