Mozilla to EU: Microsoft Settlement Proposal Not Enough

Aug 20, 2009

Mozilla has taken a position on the European Union's proposed settlement with Microsoft about browser integration in Windows 7. Both Mozilla Foundation's Mitchell Baker and Mozilla's general counsel feel that Microsoft is benefiting all too well from the settlement.

With the imminent release of Windows 7, the European Commission must still decide in the ongoing competitive market how to rule on Microsoft's newest proposal how it plans to deliver its Internet Explorer. Microsoft's intent is to provide a choice at Windows startup whether to accept the IE default or go with an alternative browser post-installation. Shortly before the decision in Brussels was to be made public with all its details, Mozilla petitioned the Commission with a list of reasons why the proposed solution didn't go far enough to engender true market competition.

Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, enumerates her reasons against the agreement in a blog. The technical details of the settlement might still be in the works, but its overall framework "could use improvement," according to Baker.

One aspect of it specifically bothers her: "IE will still have a unique and uniquely privileged position on Windows installations." She bases her criticism on the fact that providing a choice of another default browser doesn't distract from the prominence of the IE logo, especially in the user interface. Baker: "These shortcuts back to IE remain unless the user makes another browser his or her default and then figures out how to 'turn off' IE."

Another noncompetitive aspect is Microsoft's update system and the "uniquely privileged position" IE has in it. That and the fact that IE is pre-installed in contrast to other browsers that require post-installation. Baker is also concerned that the proposal still leaves "potentially all Microsoft products other than Office 2007" to include hard-coded links to IE.

Harvey Anderson, general counsel for the Mozilla Corporation, agrees in his thoughts on the same subject. He feels that providing a download opportunity is actually a hindrance and "insufficient to fulfill user intent": "Our data shows that only ~55% of users who click a download link will be able to complete the process of downloading and installing."

Often download instructions are required and these are not provided automatically according to the proposal. His additional concern is that the five-year Microsoft proposal has no evaluation milestones to check that it really works.

Summer is a slow period in Brussels, but things should start to get back into swing in September to resolve the settlement. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to release Windows 7 on October 22, 2009.

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