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

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


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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  • Personally...

    I think it goes into the same boat as Microsoft whining to the government when the government tried to adopt ODF.
  • Is there a law...

    ...somewhere that says a browser has to comply with web standards? If not, how can Opera try to use the courts to force IE to comply? I can understand the bundling issue (although MS in no way hinders other browsers from running properly; look at how well Firefox does under Windows), but not the standards compliance issue.

    Carl Rapson
    • I use Opera

      And I can kind of see where they are coming from. IE is the most popular browser (based on the percentages). Web pages are going to work with IE or they probably aren't going to work at all (I'm sure there are exceptions, but I've never managed to find one). The problem is that because IE doesn't comply with standards, websites optimized to work properly with IE won't necessarily work properly with FF or Opera. Firefox is the second most popular, so sites are more likely to work with it than with Opera. Several times I have come across sites that don't work, don't display properly, or even have a banner come up that says "This website does not support Opera. Please download Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox."

      I don't agree with their decision, but I do understand how the lack of complaince in this case is hindering their marketshare. Who wants a browser that doesn't always work? More to the point - most who use it are probably like me. I have a back-up browser that I use for those sites. I don't like them as well as Opera, but I have little choice.

      So, although I agree that they probably have no leg to stand on, I see why their pissed. It bugs the crap out of me, too.
    • No, there is a ruling

      Microsoft was found guilty of anti-competitive behavior by the European Union as part of it's anti-trust settlement. Part of this finding was that Microsoft uses it's market dominance in the OS market to force consumers to use other products that do not follow industry standards, making it more difficult for customers to choose anything other than Microsoft products.

      Opera has a legitimate claim, as did Netscape many years ago, that by linking IE with Windows and making it the default web browser for most users they crowd out other products such as Firefox and Opera. When Microsoft further complicates the issue by making IE use proprietary standards, it is again using it's brute to force users, developers and businesses to user only IE.

      So yes, there is in fact a law.
      • That's not what the ruling said...

        [i]to force consumers to use other products that do not follow industry standards[/i]

        That is incorrect. The ruling only applied to the first part of that sentence. Not about following industry standards.
      • So you want affirmative action for minority corporations.

        I say for Opera to compete by offering something unique of their own. If MS was standards compliant, they would complain about that too. They would complain it was so streamlined that it was the Walmart of software like we had black telephones for 100 years. Secretly, these companies want MS to stop writing applications

        Actually Opera is not too forgiving of so so code and if it isn't 100% compliant of the standards, it doesn't render at all. I have used it and it is OK but it is picky. I use SeaMonkey and it works just fine on Windows rendering 99% of all pages just dandy.

        Actually Opera doesn't have a legitimate claim at all according to the free market system. Maybe in the EU where everything is socialized. And no one is forcing you to use IE. I am proof that you don't need it so you cannot have it both ways in your argument. I also use Firefox Portable on a USB stick. Opera just needs to make the UI a little more "less busy", render so so code without choking on it and come up with a niche feature and they will be fine.
        • Another politically illiterate American talking FREE MARKET fantasies ! -NT

          • Socialized fantasies more to your liking?

            Talk about poilictly illiterate, please tell us from where you hail, and let loose the fantasies to which you subscibe.
          • Another clueless Kommisar that will kill millions in an engineered famine.

          • Laisse faire

            did so well in the EastIndia company, or King Leopold II of Belgium's rubber corporation didn't it (a million africans killed to get rubber tyres for your car).
            Sure Laisse Faire is the way to go....

            Clearly you know nothing of history, or you'd know what having corporations without rules will mean.
          • Libertarians do not believe in anarchy

            Or the absence of rules. But comparing libertarian economics to imperialism is a bit much. But whining to the government because your competition is beating you is socialism. You are asking the refree of the game to look away. In free enterprise, not Laisse-faire economics, companies will compete freely to see who wins which is what it is about. Afterall you do not want to prop up someone who makes product that no one wants which is what you are proposing.

            It is obvious that you want protectionism for companies in a free market that are not meeting the customer needs for whatever reason. Besides the laws are to protect the customer, not so much the competition.

            By the way, Microsoft never murdered a human being and comparing them to a 19th century imperial company is overkill. There were no laws back then protecting humans like there are now. You forgot to mention Rockefeller and Carnegie while you were at it. Another thing the socialists murder over 100 million people in the 20th century with their policies of extermination. Corporations are mere pikers compared to state industries. Yep, you don't know history at all.
          • Socialism

            is about the government investing in business that capitalism won't do, hence,
            Medicare, Social Security, Welfare, the EPA, the National Parks, the Interstate
            Highway system, etc. The USA is one of the most socialist countries on Earth, look
            it up.

            Socialism is NOT the courts helping David slay Goliath unless Goliath doesn't play
            by the rules.

            Opera has a legitimate claim, Microsoft mostly owns the desktop and owns the
            browser space. Does Lotus Notes write for opening in Firefox, Opera, Safari?
            Guess what?

          • mlindl, socialism is government run economy

            Yes the government does invest in loser operations that was taken from the people in the form of taxation. Businesses have better sense then going there. The US is not the most socialist country but it is getting there.

            No socialism isn't. It is about slaying everyone in the end thru its massive inefficiencies. Propping up companies that should go under but they have a paid off "friend". Extending the hegemony of the state into everyone's lives in the name of some "social good".

            Opera has no claim for the browser is not popular for a lot of reasons. It is asking the state to slow down the competition so it can catch up. Even if IE was taken out, Opera thru the EC would have to force all the web developers to quit supporting MS. Folks will just download IE thru FTP and carry on. We all saw what an OS without WMP faired. Everyone avoided it. I know. We will call it Windows-NIE, pun intended.
          • What a waste of time...

            But ok, lets indulge in this utterly pointless academic game of one upsmanship... And Communism has done so well for the people of Cuba, North Vietnam, Eastern Europe, USSR and Red China so academics (living, ironically, in cozy western capitalist democracies) can feel justified as they debate kafka over a $6 coffee...

            Lets start listing the benefits of crimes of both systems and come up with a final accounting. I love how every excuse in the world is made for failed socialist and communist regimes by starry eyed academics (again - all living in the west), but only the evils of capitalism get highlighted. What amazingly narrow minded ignorance and bias so proudly perpetuated by the supposedly intellectual elites.
          • mlambert890, who cares what you get sick of.

            I don't know what you are taking for reality pills but communism has bumped off over 100 million people where as the West hasn't done this number in its entire existence. Communism isn't good for anyone.


            Poke around in there to see some stats on what happens when the state takes over. Even Rockefeller is a saint compared to these guys. Also ask anyone that lived under those regimes.
          • Just another lying hypocrite

            Hmm, first you said this:
            "Another clueless Kommisar that will kill millions in an engineered famine."

            Then you said this:
            "By the way, Microsoft never murdered a human being and comparing them to a 19th century imperial company is overkill."

            Are you just so stupid that you forget what you say thirty seconds later, or are you in fact a psychotic nut?

            You brought an allegation of genocide to the table, little boy. Don't you DARE accuse anyone else of overkill. You have failed. Utterly. Go away and don't come back.
          • Then stop feeding into it...

            ...and get back to the topic and hand...
            hasta la Vista, bah-bie
          • The hypocrisy is all yours.

            That is what you socialists will do if unchecked. They will murder people in the end. The free enterprise system is the best way to go. Hey if this is insulting, then too bad on you.

            Another proof that you are socialist. You don't like to let people speak freely. Sorry moron. I will dare all I want. You should open up a history book.
          • Another illertate American

            Ah, the old "I don't really have anything intelligent to say so I'll just resort to name calling" response.
            Better check the mirror NT !
          • Dude! "illertate"?

            "illertate"... not lertate?

            Name calling?