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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 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?


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