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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 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.


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