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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: 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.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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