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Small browser firms are once again asking for Microsoft to show them some love.  (Source: WebMD)

"We can't compete with the sort of money that the top guys have, so this choice screen is enormously important. And it's just enormously disappointing that it happened this way." -- Flock spokesman
Small browsers can only be found by scrolling sideways

Microsoft has found itself having to alter its practices on several occasions in Europe and the U.S. after regulators stepped in and forced change. One of the most recent instances was when the European Commission asked Microsoft to make browser selection more open and fair to other browser makers in Europe.

Microsoft and the EC worked for months to come to an agreement on how exactly Microsoft would go about offering users of Windows a choice of other browsers rather than simply bundling IE with its OS. The result was the browser ballot box, or Browser Choice screen.

Microsoft's first ballot box offer didn’t make it and eventually the Redmond, Washington-based company offered to randomize the placement of browsers within the choice screen. In December 2009, the EU was reportedly set to agree to the randomized ballot box. Eventually the randomized choice screen was approved and Microsoft announced in February that it would start rolling the ballot screen out to users in Europe on March 1.

The final form of the ballot box randomized the order of the major browsers on the screen and left the five major offerings on the main page, with other significantly smaller browsers available as options if the user scrolled the screen to the side.

EWeek reports that the rational behind making the ballot screen only show the five major browser options was fear that offering 12 browsers on one screen would be overwhelming and users would simply close the box and stick with IE. Smaller browser firms whose products are not on the main page are set to ask Microsoft to alter the ballot box again to give their offerings more prominent placement.

The six smaller browser firms making the request include Maxthon, SlimBrowser, Avant Force, Flock, Sleipnir and GreenBrowser. Representatives from these firms registered a formal petition with the EC on March 3 that protested that their browsers were only viewable if the user scrolled sideways.

The petition stated, "It is clear that the final Choice Screen design leaves the vast majority of users unaware that there are more than five browsers to choose from. This is inconsistent with the EU Commission's stated goal for the Choice Screen—to provide European consumers with 'information on the 12 most widely used Web browsers and to allow users to easily download and install one or more of these Web browsers.'"

A spokesperson for Shawn Hardin, CEO of Flock, stated, "The EC recommended that the seven browser companies engage with Microsoft as a group, and if they can come to a mutually agreed-upon solution, the EC will fully support it. Flock CEO Shawn Hardin has reached out to Microsoft on behalf of the group to schedule a meeting, and Microsoft responded that they 'will get back to the group shortly.'"

The small browser firms claim that how the browser screen is configured is a matter of survival for them. Not being able to get prominent first page placement for their browsers hurts the ability for the small firms to compete according to the companies.

Hardin said, "We can't compete with the sort of money that the top guys have, so this choice screen is enormously important. And it's just enormously disappointing that it happened this way."



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Come again?
By dflynchimp on 3/15/2010 10:15:02 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
The six smaller browser firms making the request include Maxthon, SlimBrowser, Avant Force, Flock, Sleipnir and GreenBrowser.


Never heard of them, and frankly never would've had I not read this article. With Chrome, FF, IE and Safari (Opera you may join too...) the market is more than saturated IMO. It just doesn't make much sense for a small startup to expect to compete with these established browser mainstays.

Oh, and I'm of the opinion that it isn't Microsoft's onus to foot the advertising bill for other browser maker's software. They spent their billions developing Windows OS and marketing it, not to mention tech support and debugging post-release. IMO it's perfectly legitimate for them to bundle their own web surfer in with it. In fact it would be expected of them to do so for the package to be considered having a complete feature set.

Then again this is the EU we're talking about, and my opinion means jacksquat.




RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/15/2010 10:34:16 AM , Rating: 2
"With Chrome, FF, IE and Safari (Opera you may join too...) the market is more than saturated IMO. "

With the market already more than saturated...why do we need to "protect competition"?

More than anything, this news story demonstrates the idiocy of the EU ruling. There's already too many browsers for the public to choose between...a situation that happened via the free market, without the EU ever getting involved.


RE: Come again?
By TMV192 on 3/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/15/2010 11:30:04 AM , Rating: 5
Do you really think 60% of the average people care what browser they use, period?

I don't have a clue what brand windshield wipers are on my car. Maybe there's a brand that lasts 30% longer and keeps the windows 5% more streak-free....but it certainly isn't worth my time to research it to find out.


RE: Come again?
By stirfry213 on 3/15/2010 11:58:54 AM , Rating: 3
ding ding ding!!! We have a winner!

I agree, they don't care what browser they use as long as it works.


RE: Come again?
By Chocobollz on 3/17/2010 6:50:29 AM , Rating: 2
They will, when they realize that NOTHING IS PERFECT (aka. browsers have bugs, weaknesses, incomplete features, etc.)


RE: Come again?
By Synastar on 3/17/2010 10:59:58 AM , Rating: 2
What makes you think they'll realize anything? Many of them don't care. It's not that they think anything is perfect.


RE: Come again?
By Kurz on 3/15/2010 1:53:13 PM , Rating: 4
Please give this man a 6


RE: Come again?
By invidious on 3/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Come again?
By Kurz on 3/15/2010 2:12:03 PM , Rating: 2
The funny thing is the browser market was NEVER BETTER!


RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/15/2010 2:13:32 PM , Rating: 5
"we should just allow major manufacturers to use their preexisting advantage to drive all the competition out of business?"

A) The competition isn't being driven out. The number of browser alternatives is increasing , not decreasing.

B) Even were browser alternatives disappearing, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Keeping the market fragmented with multiple options that provide no real benefit over each other wastes developer resources, marketing dollars, and confuses the consumer.

In Microsoft's opinion (and mine) there is no such beast as a "browser market". A web browser is and should be a component of the operating system, just like a file browser or a format utility. Can you seriously imagine buying Windows without a browser installed? Having to go out and find a disc somewhere else to even start using the Internet? Would the "extra competition" of that scenario be worth the tremendous burden it would place on consumers?

The entire anti-trust movement began on the idea that a monopolist could exploit their position by overcharging consumers. Does anyone here really believe Microsoft is ever going to start charging for IE? What benefit are we really giving the consumer here...that they're guaranteed more options on tabbed browsing? Or a slightly better rendering speed? Is that REALLY worth getting the government involved to such a degree...especially when third-party browsers are ALREADY thriving?


RE: Come again?
By sigmatau on 3/16/2010 2:39:36 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't have said it better. Why would any company want to make their webpages compatible with every single browser? That sounds like such a waste if I was in that business.

It is also a no brainer that the browser should be a part of the operating system. It should also be an option to be able to install your own, if you so choose. Microsoft did that already. It boggles the mind why the EU would want them to advertise for the other browsers, especialy since FF has been gaining, dramaticaly, in market share.

I spit on the EU for such a stupid decision.


RE: Come again?
By icanhascpu on 3/17/2010 1:04:21 AM , Rating: 2
This is pseudo-intellectualism at its finest. Look how many people you fooled.

Browsing online cannot be compared to windshield wipers in such a way. It looks like you have a common-sense point but its really a farce. The worth of ones time comes when those wipers malfunction. Some people, lazy ignorant careless people wont take 10 min from their lives to research something that may benefit them for months or years. That is worth it, windshield wipers or internet browsers.

If you want to make believe 60% of people (or whatever made up number) has never had an issue with IE (or a windshield dwiper), you're nuts.

Given the option, once a issue arises, people 'care' enough to click the thingy to make the other thingy work.


RE: Come again?
By invidious on 3/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Come again?
By Kurz on 3/15/2010 2:07:40 PM , Rating: 2
Its bundled with windows because Microsoft realized how important the internet is for the consumer. To gimp a computer by not bundling the software makes the consumer suffer. What Microsoft did was make the whole process easy for the average computer user. Instead of getting 30+ install disks for all the various programs people would need back in the day. Microsoft bundled everything.

If you need something thats not with windows Go out and find it. There is so much advertisement on the internet for alternatives.

Microsoft is selling a product. And it so happens Notepad, calc, sound, basic outlook, Internet explorer, windows media player, are all bundled because consumers asked for it. They wanted everything in one package, especially IT departments for Corporations.

Countries like Brazil, are already switching over to linux because its free to own and its a bit more stable when configured properly.


RE: Come again?
By adiposity on 3/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/15/2010 2:38:58 PM , Rating: 1
"But let's not pretend it was some philanthropic gesture on their part."

You misunderstand the nature of a free market. Companies can best seek profit by pleasing their customers. No corporation ever does anything for purely philanthropic motives...nor should they. Even when a firm donates to a charity, it's written off on the balance sheet as a "goodwill" asset...done not for its own sake, but to improve the company image.

The best thing about capitalism is that whenever companies or even private individuals help themselves, they also help the rest of us. So we don't need to rely upon pureness of heart for products to improve and prices to decline...it happens naturally and automatically.


RE: Come again?
By adiposity on 3/15/2010 4:06:45 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You misunderstand the nature of a free market.


No, I don't.

quote:
Companies can best seek profit by pleasing their customers.


That's a stretch. They make a tradeoff between pleasing themselves and their customers. If they can increase the pleasure of their customers, without costing themselves, they will. Plenty of corporations have done things to anger their customers, without really losing marketshare. This can happen for a variety of reasons.

Microsoft, at the time they began bundling IE with Windows, most users were not really in a position to contemplate changing their OS. Therefore, even if their action angered customers (and I'm not saying it did, in general: most were probably fine with the bundling of IE), they didn't stand to lose anything.

Corporations seek profit by many strategies at their disposal. Sometimes it is by attracting customers. Other times it is by retaining customers. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the customer, but rather the destruction of a competing business.

I a not a fan of the browser ballot screen. I believe Microsoft certainly has the right to include any kind of software with their OS. I just don't agree that they included IE simply for the sake of customers. They wanted to gain dominance in the browser market, and that was the primary factor. There are plenty of quotes from Microsoft execs that confirm this.


RE: Come again?
By adiposity on 3/15/2010 4:07:57 PM , Rating: 2
err, that should read

quote:
At the time Microsoft began bundling IE with Windows, most users were not really in a position to contemplate changing their OS.


RE: Come again?
By Kurz on 3/15/2010 4:10:19 PM , Rating: 2
Does it matter who scraches whos back?


RE: Come again?
By Chocobollz on 3/17/2010 6:28:15 AM , Rating: 2
Which one would you prefer to scratch your back? Your wife, or a monkey? LOL


RE: Come again?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/15/2010 4:14:39 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
They wanted to gain dominance in the browser market, and that was the primary factor.


There is no such thing as a "browser market". Show me one goddamn browser that isn't free.


RE: Come again?
By n00bxqb on 3/15/2010 11:33:19 PM , Rating: 2
*shakes head*

Just because the CONSUMER doesn't pay for it, it doesn't mean there isn't a market. There are other ways to make money other than directly through the consumer.

Just as one of many possible examples of income, browser companies get paid by search engine companies to use their search engine as the default. Google pays Apple $100 million/year to be used as Safari's default search engine.

The more market saturation a browser has, the more desirable it is for other companies to attach themselves to that browser and the more money that browser company is going to be able to command in those deals.


RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/16/2010 9:51:17 AM , Rating: 1
No. Several things are wrong with your analysis. First of all, a market is defined as an area where a produce or service is being bought and sold. In your example of Google paying Apple...are they buying a browser? No. They're buying search engine redirects...a totally different product.

Having a large browser share may help Safari, Firefox, and others make money. But their market is not the browser...its redirects.

But there's a far more serious problem. Antitrust laws exist to protect consumers , not companies. If a company is penalized for damaging a competitor, the underlying principle is that, should that competitor disappear, the monopoly holder could then exploit their position to the detriment of the consumer. But in this case, how is that possible? Browsers are already free and ubiquitous. With the source code for many in the public domain, how could this mythical "browser market war" ever hurt the consumer?

Finally, the most damaging point of all. Browser market or no, the level of competition among browsers has never been better. This EU action isn't going to protect competition...it's going to hurt it. Competition implies the best win, and the worst lose....but this forced ballot box means guaranteed market share to a browser, no matter how good or bad it is.


RE: Come again?
By Chocobollz on 3/17/2010 6:21:48 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
but this forced ballot box means guaranteed market share to a browser, no matter how good or bad it is.

Err.. no, it only guarantee them to get a place on a small box. Consumers are freely to choose whether they want to keep their current browsers or try some other browsers. Note that I say "try", because they are freely to choose whatever browser they want to use.

IMO this browser ballot issues are practically nonexistant. And most of the time, it will do good for consumers, so what are the problems?


RE: Come again?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/15/2010 4:16:57 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft doesn't care WHAT you do with their browser idiot. They sell OPERATING SYSTEMS, not browsers !


RE: Come again?
By adiposity on 3/16/2010 1:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Microsoft doesn't care WHAT you do with their browser idiot. They sell OPERATING SYSTEMS, not browsers !


Oh, really? First of all, MS sells a lot more than Operating Systems, "idiot." They sell Office Suites, have their fingers in advertising revenue, video game hardware, and services. The search engine in browsers, to list just one example, is driven largely by which browser one uses. This can lead to a lot of advertising dollars.

Why was Microsoft freaking out when Google was buying Admob? They shouldn't have cared at all, according to you. After all, all they sell is Operating Systems. Who cares who gets the ad revenue?

Microsoft cares deeply about who uses their browser. If nothing else, if the majority of people use their browser, they can design things their own way and ignore inconvenient groups like W3C. This makes their own development easier. The IE5-IE6 days were great for Microsoft, as they basically could do anything they wanted with ActiveX, their own technology. Now, that ability is slowly being taken away. This is a pain.

If you think MS doesn't care who uses their browser, you are the "idiot." They scrambled to catch up to Netscape once they realized that the information portal for the "net" was being controlled by someone other than them.


RE: Come again?
By Reclaimer77 on 3/16/2010 5:54:19 PM , Rating: 2
Notice I said MS doesn't care what you DO with their browser. I didn't say they don't care if you DON'T use it.

So nice speech there pal. Too bad it was a waste of time.


RE: Come again?
By adiposity on 3/17/2010 11:34:40 AM , Rating: 2
If you read the original post you were replying to, I never said anything about Microsoft caring about what you DO with the browser. So your comment didn't make much sense unless I assumed you meant that Microsoft didn't care if you use their browser.

As long as we are arguing stupid semantics, though, "using" the browser is "doing something" with the browser. So if Microsoft care that you use their browser, they do care what you do with it.

If you are saying, Microsoft doesn't care HOW you use their browser, I still don't agree. As I pointed out earlier, they want you to use their browser to use their services. This is why their browser directs to msn.com (homepage) and bing.com (search engine).

So you are still wrong. I'm not sure why you are so upset that I point out Microsoft made some decisions to improve their position in the market. I'd expect nothing less. And as I've stated elsewhere, I do not support this EU browser ballot BS.


RE: Come again?
By rbfowler9lfc on 3/16/2010 12:53:51 AM , Rating: 3
Brazil shouldn't be taken as a serious example for nothing. We design digital TV systems that are incompatible with the american, the european and the japanese standards. Just because we want to boost the local industry. There are no actual industries currently able to design and produce the needed electronics for this, but that's another problem anyway, that's not an issue to be dealt by the government who decided which DTV system to adopt.

If americans didn't invent the RJ11, we'd have no computer modems for decades, since our standard-approved PSTN plug measures at least 5cm x 5cm, go figure that on the back panel of a computer.

Every house in the country has NEMA 5–15 power outlets available, since all the good equipment comes from abroad; however, all of a sudden someone decides that there's need for an all new -- compatible with absolutely nothing -- national standard for power outlets, that is losely based (but not equal) to the Swiss Type J SEV 1011 outlet.

If Brazil are switching over to Linux, you'll sure want to take the other way around, trust me...


RE: Come again?
By Qapa on 3/15/10, Rating: -1
RE: Come again?
By porkpie on 3/15/2010 1:26:16 PM , Rating: 1
"they used their monopoly position to [kill] the browser economy"

If that is true, why do we now have four times as many browsers for Windows as we did before Microsoft began bundling IE?

"...and forbidding sellers to sell with other browsers installed"

False. Microsoft never forbid anyone to bundle another browser. They simply refused to give their massive OEM discount to anyone who modified Windows substantially before reselling it. And a very wise move on their part. When you're selling OEM copies at $30 bucks a pop, one single support call from a non-standard installation can erase your entire profit.


RE: Come again?
By PrinceGaz on 3/16/2010 11:44:03 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The six smaller browser firms making the request include Maxthon, SlimBrowser, Avant Force, Flock, Sleipnir and GreenBrowser.

quote:
Never heard of them, and frankly never would've had I not read this article. With Chrome, FF, IE and Safari (Opera you may join too...) the market is more than saturated IMO. It just doesn't make much sense for a small startup to expect to compete with these established browser mainstays.

I'd never heard of those other browsers either (with the possible exception of SlimBrowser which I seem to remember from somewhere), and it turns out they are essentially just modified versions of one of the main browsers (they use the same underlying layout-engine as one or other of them).

It could be quite reasonably argued that Chrome is just a modified Safari for that matter as it uses Webkit, meaning there are only four original browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari, and Opera).


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