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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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RE: This was never about the consumer
By LRonaldHubbs on 3/15/2010 10:51:39 AM , Rating: 3
We can barely afford to develop our product, let alone deliver the quality consumers enjoy from Internet Explorer or Firefox. Please help us survive when we otherwise would/should have failed.

^ This.

Also amusing is the fact that none of these other browsers are unique ground-up designs. They are all just modifications of either IE or Mozilla. It's not like any of them offer a revolutionary experience over the big 5, they just add some extra features to already solid browser platforms.

RE: This was never about the consumer
By alexsch8 on 3/15/2010 11:19:40 AM , Rating: 3
The real question will be if these smaller companies can even offer the support needed once people select their browser and run into trouble. Microsoft will surely not help the consumer should the consumer run into trouble with a non-MS browser. Is there an option to go back to default IE browser if the non-IE browser breaks?

RE: This was never about the consumer
By Reclaimer77 on 3/15/2010 6:29:01 PM , Rating: 2
Companies ? These guys are more like a few nerds coding from their basements claiming they are a browser company. Give me a break EU. If I have never heard of them, I SERIOUSLY doubt they have anything to offer the consumer that IE or Firefox or even Chrome don't.

RE: This was never about the consumer
By sigilscience on 3/15/2010 6:36:37 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe better favorite management. IE, FF, and Chrome all have a pathetically crude favorites system.

Of course, I could download some of the other browsers to see if they're better, but I really don't care that much lol.

So thanks EU. Thanks for nothing.

RE: This was never about the consumer
By Reclaimer77 on 3/15/2010 8:08:50 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sure there are lots of slick favorite apps for Firefox though.

By Chocobollz on 3/17/2010 6:36:53 AM , Rating: 2
I don't want to make an already bloated browser to become even more bloated by using too many apps.

By Camikazi on 3/15/2010 8:09:08 PM , Rating: 2
There is a reason a lot of those browsers don't have the market share that the big 5 do, here is one they can't even get support on their own site. Almost all the comments are how the browser uses old tech and has been slow to upgrade and crashes too much. Make a good browser, do a little advertising and your share will increase, but the important part is making a GOOD BROWSER, something few can get right.

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