Europe revives claims of Microsoft web browser monopoly

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Having escaped more severe consequences in the US, Microsoft has been put on notice by the European Union that it may have to detach Internet Explorer from Windows under claims that the web browser has an unfair monopoly.



The European Commission's Statement of Objection, delivered on Friday, gives Microsoft an early warning that the EC believes the company has abused its monopoly by linking Internet Explorer deeply with its operating system, preventing competitors from easily offering their own alternatives and giving the browser a de facto lead by including it with Windows PCs, which currently have about 90 percent of the world market.



The current situation "distorts competition on the merits between competing web browsers insofar as it provides Internet Explorer with an artificial distribution advantage which other web browsers are unable to match," the organization says in its confirmation of the statement. "The Commission is concerned that through the tying, Microsoft shields Internet Explorer from head to head competition with other browsers which is detrimental to the pace of product innovation and to the quality of products which consumers ultimately obtain."



Europe's continent-wide legal body also argues that, competition aside, the sheer "ubiquity" of the browser often pushes website owners and app programmers to build content optimized mostly or exclusively for Internet Explorer and thus limits the number of features users can get on web pages or in software.



EC officials support the argument by directly pointing to their own findings: in 2004, Microsoft was fined nearly $690 million for allegedly stifling competition in jukebox software by bundling Windows Media Player with Windows. The decision ultimately forced the American company to sell an operating system version known as "Windows XP N" that strips out the media software.



Microsoft in its formal response also reveals that it was told that the changes it made in the wake of a 2002 US antitrust ruling on the same subject, such as adding a control panel to change the browser default and to let PC makers preload outside software, aren't enough to make Internet Explorer's status legal in Europe.



The finding isn't an absolute conclusion but gives Microsoft just eight weeks to formally respond to the claims. It can also request a hearing to publicly confront the charge after the roughly two-month span is over.



If the Commission decides against Microsoft, it could exact one or more punishments that could include levying another fine, forcing the company to "cease the abuse" or any other step the agency feels would help level the playing field.



Microsoft has so far taken a cautious approach to the objection and only says it plans to obey European law, though it has fought previous EC cases.



The potential action against Microsoft arrives despite the software firm losing market share to challengers in studies by web trackers at Net Applications who note that Internet Explorer has dipped below 69 percent share while Firefox has crested 21 percent and Apple's Safari has jumped to near 8 percent.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 149
    I'm glad, IE is messing up web standards.
  • Reply 2 of 149
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bloggerblog View Post


    I'm glad, IE is messing up web standards.



    Bullshit. When IE 6.0 came out those web standards did not exist. Opera's officers which created the ACID 2.0 and 3.0 tests were the ones that pushed for various CSS standards. In fact when Acid 2.0 was released they challenged Microsoft to pass it when hypocritically the Opera browser hadn't passed yet. IE 8 does pass 2 and is better on 3 (its still in Beta).



    In addition Microsoft can't force users to quit using IE6. Released in 2001 mind you.



    All other browsers such as Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Chrome are way new browsers.



    While I do dislike certain CSS and PNG issues with IE6, if I want to cater to people using software from 2001 (when there is a free upgrade to Firefox or IE7 that doesn't have png issues) I need to develop that way. If your too lazy then your not a real web designer. The browsers will never be 100% alike as standards evolve and you should choose another job.
  • Reply 3 of 149
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,584member
    With Obama concerned over the BCS and people who receive TV from rabbit ears and the EU worried about IE, I am for sure everyone is worrying about the wrong things. Why can't they get off their butts and try to fix a few things that matter outside this crap.
  • Reply 4 of 149
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Have I travelled back in time 10 years? At my company, any websites we develop now have to be Firefox and Mac compatible. The statistics at the end of the article speak for themselves.
  • Reply 5 of 149
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    ..........
  • Reply 6 of 149
    p cp c Posts: 1member
    For me the greatest irony in this is that government departments are the worst offenders when it comes to websites that are incompatible with anything other than I.E. followed in close second place by large corporates.



    In my country the National Library has an excellent catalogue of historic photos available online. However, unless you have a PC running IE you cannot run the obscure viewer program which shows these photos in hi-res and are left with jpeg thumbnails. Our tax department also runs a great business portal which claims to have a Mac compatible plug-in. Its so buggy that you would never trust your business to it. Finally my bank has a consumer site which can be used by any browser but try and log-in to their business site and you find it is a Windows/IE-only environment.



    So more power to the EU despite the hypocrisy.
  • Reply 7 of 149
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    It takes almost no effort to switch browsers, the fact that most people don't bother to do that doesn't change that fact. Even if it's built into the operating system, you don't have to use IE for the web. It's a good idea to take the couple minutes and switch to something else. Being built into the OS has made bad security problems even worse because it gets around a couple security checks, at least that I recall.
  • Reply 8 of 149
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,584member
    I wonder if the problem comes in that IE seems pretty critical when checking for OS updates. For some reason that is where everyone goes to update their computer if they want to check for updates. Is this still the case?
  • Reply 9 of 149
    moochmooch Posts: 112member
    so.....



    how exactly would you download a browser if your OS didn't come with one?



    it seems kind of silly to talk about monopolies when we are dealing with products that are free anyway.
  • Reply 10 of 149
    daseindasein Posts: 139member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    It takes almost no effort to switch browsers, the fact that most people don't bother to do that doesn't change that fact. Even if it's built into the operating system, you don't have to use IE for the web. It's a good idea to take the couple minutes and switch to something else. Being built into the OS has made bad security problems even worse because it gets around a couple security checks, at least that I recall.



    Yeah, I never understood the worry and concern here either. I think I use IE 2 or 3 times a year on my PC. Nowadays I reach for a Mac whenever I go online. I think the EU is grandstanding again.
  • Reply 11 of 149
    walshbjwalshbj Posts: 864member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mooch View Post


    ...it seems kind of silly to talk about monopolies when we are dealing with products that are free anyway.



    That's a knee-jerk reaction. Look at the power Google gets having a search field in Firefox. Would people be using MS cloud services if IE didn't lead them there? Probably not to the same extent.



    Windows Media Player* is free. Is it still not significant with regard to iTunes? And vice versa?





    *Or whatever it's called now.
  • Reply 12 of 149
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mooch View Post


    so.....



    how exactly would you download a browser if your OS didn't come with one?



    it seems kind of silly to talk about monopolies when we are dealing with products that are free anyway.



    Genius! You saw straight to the heart of the issue and cut through all of this 'monopoly' nonsense.



    I hate to be annoying, but the only monopoly here is the EU. At least people can compete with Microsoft - the success of safari and firefox are proof of that. What about competing with the EU's services? Why aren't there 3rd party companies that also provide the service of regulating monopolies? Or private police to compete with the EU's? Clearly, there's a double standard here. The government is a monopoly - the first monopoly, the biggest, a monopoly that has killed countless people in wars and failed social experiments. Whatever Microsoft has done, i'll bet you the EU has done worse, so it seems strange to me that the EU of all organisations should be in charge of this. Maybe that's just me, but it does seem a bit silly for people to be directing their energies against Microsoft. No matter how you justify it, i can assure you that Microsoft doesn't start wars, they don't have the power to tax you, to jail you for harmless activities, or to forcefully control how you run your business. Microsoft simply don't have this kind of power - if you don't like them, you are free to choose someone else's products! People, get your priorities right. You know better than this, we all do. Not to mention the practical side of this: If you ask for a world where governments can regulate businesses at will, then companies like Apple will not survive. Government stifles creativity - innovative companies will disappear, and be replaced by the businesses with the most 'political influence'. And that is certainly not a world where you can have nice shiny iPods and all of the good stuff that Apple keeps bringing us.



    Anyone who supports this cannot claim to be against monopolies at all. People are picking and choosing which monopolies are 'good' and 'bad' on nothing more than a whim. You can't say "Monopolies are bad, so we really need to create an even bigger monopoly called the government to regulate the smaller monopolies, because monopolies are good!" That's a contradiction. If you don't like monopolies, then I am afraid that the first place you have to direct your energy towards is the government, not some decaying software company with shrinking market share.
  • Reply 13 of 149
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by use-reason View Post


    Genius! You saw straight to the heart of the issue and cut through all of this 'monopoly' nonsense.



    The only monopoly here is the EU. At least people can compete with Microsoft without getting thrown in jail. Try competing with one of the EU's monopoly services, and you will be forcefully thrown in jail, or worse. Why not open up a 3rd party court, or a 3rd party regulatory body that regulates the EU as an anti-competitive monopoly, and you will quickly see the hypocrisy and inconsistency at the root of all of this. People, the government is a monopoly - the first monopoly, the biggest, a monopoly that has killed over 200 million people in the last century. And you're directing your energies against Microsoft? Really? How many people has Microsoft killed, enslaved, taxed, jailed or physically forced to do anything? People, get your priorities right. You know better than this, we all do.



    Anyone who supports this cannot claim to be against monopolies at all. People are picking and choosing which monopolies are 'good' and 'bad' on nothing more than a whim. You can't say "Monopolies are bad, so we really need to create an even bigger monopoly called the government to regulate the smaller monopolies, because monopolies are good!" That's a contradiction. If you don't like monopolies, then I am afraid that the first place you have to direct your energy towards is the government, not some decaying software company with shrinking market share.



    Dude, everyone knows that the Saucer people made a deal with the reverse vampires years ago that completely stopped this kind of thing. Why, it was renewed just last week at the Tin-foil hat seminar in London.
  • Reply 14 of 149
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member
    European Union has much more civilized laws that don't favor any interest group of company.

    I don't think they can force this kind of rule, but im glad they can. In other parts of the world Microsoft buys all kinds of these regulations by discounting their software and supplying 3rd word countries with cheap PCs. By making such deals with Dell, HP and other ones they do create monopoly.



    EU is not that stupid. They just want real neutrality and choice.



    With IE numbers dropping, Microsoft will make it follow web-standards and be much more friendly towards web developers. But Internet Explorer is such piece of SHHHH, developers and web-designers found that out the hard way. Average users will never tell a difference between browsers because web-designers have to work their asses around stupid bugs and errors in IE.
  • Reply 15 of 149
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post


    Bullshit. When IE 6.0 came out those web standards did not exist. Opera's officers which created the ACID 2.0 and 3.0 tests were the ones that pushed for various CSS standards. In fact when Acid 2.0 was released they challenged Microsoft to pass it when hypocritically the Opera browser hadn't passed yet. IE 8 does pass 2 and is better on 3 (its still in Beta).



    In addition Microsoft can't force users to quit using IE6. Released in 2001 mind you.



    All other browsers such as Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Chrome are way new browsers.



    While I do dislike certain CSS and PNG issues with IE6, if I want to cater to people using software from 2001 (when there is a free upgrade to Firefox or IE7 that doesn't have png issues) I need to develop that way. If your too lazy then your not a real web designer. The browsers will never be 100% alike as standards evolve and you should choose another job.



    Oh don't defend Micro$oft, they created their own mess because they wanted to. Ease of use and standards is nowhere to be found in any of Micro$oft programming.
  • Reply 16 of 149
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by UltimateKylie View Post


    Bullshit. When IE 6.0 came out those web standards did not exist. Opera's officers which created the ACID 2.0 and 3.0 tests were the ones that pushed for various CSS standards. In fact when Acid 2.0 was released they challenged Microsoft to pass it when hypocritically the Opera browser hadn't passed yet. IE 8 does pass 2 and is better on 3 (its still in Beta).



    In addition Microsoft can't force users to quit using IE6. Released in 2001 mind you.



    All other browsers such as Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Chrome are way new browsers.



    While I do dislike certain CSS and PNG issues with IE6, if I want to cater to people using software from 2001 (when there is a free upgrade to Firefox or IE7 that doesn't have png issues) I need to develop that way. If your too lazy then your not a real web designer. The browsers will never be 100% alike as standards evolve and you should choose another job.



    IE is the worst browser on the face of this planet.
  • Reply 17 of 149
    Boy oh boy, thank goodness we have the benevolent EU to protect us from this dangerous world we live in.



    If IE is such a monopoly and if IE discourages competition and innovation, then why are Firefox and Safari thriving on the desktop, and why is mobile Safari (iphone) providing far more mobile internet surfing than IE's mobile edition? Also, why is Google--a major competitor of Microsoft's and potential a lethal one--jumping into the fray with Chrome?



    This is ridiculous. This is what happens when you hire too many stuffed shirts into government...they start looking for things to keep them busy and justify their paychecks, and they quickly come up with meddling, costly, cumbersome, burdensome, destructive ideas like this.



    God, I hate big government.
  • Reply 18 of 149
    daseindasein Posts: 139member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post




    EU is not that stupid. They just want real neutrality and choice.




    Meaning what, though? That we, the people, are stupid and need parental oversight? We don't want choice and need it legislated on us? I made my choices (not IE) very easily as has everyone else I know. If they asked my opinion, I gave it. I don't remember anyone asking the State Legislature or Congress which browser they should use.



    'Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself."

    Mark Twain



    A politico is a politico is a politico. I'd rather take my chances with MS.
  • Reply 19 of 149
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    While not a fan of MS' monopolistic practices, this is not one of them.



    PS: Does Vista use IE to update the OS or does it use a seperate app like *nx-based systems?
  • Reply 20 of 149
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dasein View Post


    Meaning what, though? That we, the people, are stupid and need parental oversight? We don't want choice and need it legislated on us? I made my choices (not IE) very easily as has everyone else I know. If they asked my opinion, I gave it. I don't remember anyone asking the State Legislature or Congress which browser they should use.



    'Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself."

    Mark Twain



    A politico is a politico is a politico. I'd rather take my chances with MS.



    The people deciding whether to sue MS or not on competition grounds are civil servants and not politicians. They will not limit your choice on IE or any other browser. They just do not want IE to be incorporated in the operating system. MS would be free to install it as a free standing browser.
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