Mozilla Slams Proposed EU 'Ballot Screen' Roster

According to Web metrics vendor Net Applications, Safari on Windows accounted for about 0.3% of all browsers used in September. IE, Firefox and Chrome, meanwhile, owned 65.7%, 23.8% and 3.2%, of the market share respectively. Net Applications, however, does not split out Firefox on Windows, but lumps together all Firefox users, whether they're running the browser on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux.

IE runs exclusively and Chrome predominantly on Windows; Chrome's only production version is for Windows, although some users are running the Mac and Linux developer builds of Google's browser.

Not surprisingly, Boriss' alternative idea would be to rank the browsers in order of share, with the exception of IE, which would presumably then be in the fifth, or last spot. "A user can't truly judge if a browser is right for them from a couple lines and a logo, so knowing what other users have chosen is actually not the worst way to make a decision," she said. That would put Firefox in the favored first spot, with Chrome, Opera and Safari following.

Another way to present the ballot screen would be to randomize the order of the first five browsers each time a user encounters it. "[That] does not provide users with any information about what browsers are preferred, but at least it does not give undo advantage to an unpopular browser each time," Boriss said.

The IE antitrust action dates back to December 2007, when Opera formally complained to EU officials about Microsoft tying the browser to its market-dominating Windows operating system. The EU commission charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws in January 2009, after which Microsoft made several concessions, including a plan that at one point would have meant shipping Windows 7 minus a browser.

In July, Microsoft advanced the ballot screen concept, which EU officials had earlier said was their preference.

Mozilla has been the most vocal of Microsoft's rivals in its criticism of the ballot screen. Two months ago, company executives slammed the proposal and demanded changes.

The EU has solicited comments, which must be filed by Nov. 9, and will either approve the ballot screen proposal soon after that or require Microsoft to make more modifications.

Microsoft's chief counsel, Brad Smith, said this month that his company was "very pleased" with the EU's decision to move into the last phase of the case.

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