Mozilla Foundation chairperson Mitchell Baker believes that because Internet Explorer is integrated into the OS this give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the browser war. As a result of this Baker is in favor of EU involvement to try to level the playing field. Is this a bad move for Mozilla?
Baker appears to be getting ready to wade in pretty deep:
The extent of the damage is so great that it makes it difficult to figure out an effective and timely remedy. I believe it’s worth some effort to try. It’s easy to look at Firefox market share and assume the problem is gone or the damage is undone. But that’s not the case. The drag on innovation and choice caused by Microsoft’s actions remains. At Mozilla we work to reduce this drag through direct action, and the results are gratifying. If the EC can identify an effective remedy that also serves to improve competition, innovation and choice, I would find it most welcome.
I’ll be paying close attention to the EC’s activities, both personally and on behalf of Mozilla. Mozilla has enormous expertise in this area. It’s an extremely complex area, involving browsers, user experience, the OEM and other distribution channels, and the foundations for ongoing innovation. An effective remedy would be a watershed event; a poorly constructed remedy could cause unfortunate damage.
I’d like to offer Mozilla’s expertise as a resource to the EC as it considers what an effective remedy would entail. I’ll be reaching out to people I know with particular history, expertise and ideas regarding these topics. If you’ve got specific ideas or concerns please feel free to contact me. I’ll post more as the discussion develops. [emphasis added]
This post has already raised some red flags in a few camps.
I think that her position on this matter is highly questionable. There are quite a few open source software enthusiasts who would argue that, for a broad range of software products, the emergence of a Mozilla-like model is actually desirable and highly advantageous for consumers. A point will eventually arrive for many kinds of software where there is simply no point in trying to derive value from shrink-wrapping it, and then efforts will converge around collaboratively-developed open source implementations that will displace and eliminate the need for proprietary commercial implementations. Why should that be viewed as unhealthy?
It's risky to let the government perpetually equalize the market, because sometimes the greatest innovations appear when inventors have to face tougher odds. It's also worthwhile to wonder what will happen when the shoe is on the other foot.
It's disappointing, however, to see Mozilla and other browser makers looking for government intervention rather than demonstrating the unequivocal superiority of standards-compliant web browsers by defeating Microsoft on their own. It's hard to imagine anything good coming from all of this.
So, it's especially disappointing to read that the Mozilla Foundation appears to be siding with the regulators, complaining about Microsoft's actions. Obviously, Mozilla is competing with Microsoft in this space, so at a first pass it may seem in their best interests to lobby the EU to punish Microsoft. But it's disingenuous to say the least. Mozilla got where it did because it competed effectively. It built a better, more secure browser that many people made the choice to support over IE. In fact, Firefox's chief architect, apparently unaware of what his "bosses" were cooking up, seems to have recently contradicted the Mozilla Foundation's new position, where he admitted that he couldn't see how anyone with a straight face could claim that Microsoft's ability to bundle created a monopoly, noting that Firefox's success in growing marketshare showed that making yourself "demonstrably better" worked. Oops.
I'm no fan of Internet Explorer, but I agree that I can see very little good coming from this. Not only that, Firefox is a perfect example of the fact that competition isn't being stifled given that it's grabbed what Mozilla acknowledges to be a 20% market share.
Mozilla isn't going to win friends doing this, in fact, I think it's likely to make enemies, and the best upshot it can expect won't be any better than the "N" solution that was adopted to solve the bundling of Windows Media Player.