EC Principle 2: Windows Must Not Provide a Technical Advantage to IE

March 18th, 2009

Microsoft has used Windows to make competition in browsers difficult in a variety of ways that aren’t obviously apparent to a consumer. These techniques are generally apparent only to other developers. Some of these will seem small when considered alone. But taken together these add up to a significant burden for other browser makers, and a significant advantage to IE.

Windows has provided technical advantages to IE through techniques such as those listed below. This list is not meant to be conclusive. It is meant to illustrate the range of ways in which Windows can and has made it difficult for other browsers to provide a competitive experience on Windows.

  • Making information available to IE before or differently than that information is available to others.
  • Making it difficult for other browsers to access browsing information stored in Windows, thus making migration and syncing painful for users and difficult for other browser makers to implement well. This includes information such as formats and metadata related to IE favorites, website passwords, and website cookies.
  • IE use of undocumented Windows APIs.
  • Providing APIs to IE available to Windows developers as part of the “Windows” API. As a result applications developed by third party developers can send URLs directly to IE rather than to the browser the user has selected as his or her choice.
  • Requiring the use of IE to use the Windows update service. (Microsoft appears to have phased out this practice, or to have provided alternatives. I include it as an illustration of the ways Microsoft has, and could again, use Windows to damage competition in the browser space.)

The ubiquity of Windows brings this artificial competitive advantage for IE to almost every single person using a personal operating system. Redressing this setting will help refocus competition on the merits of the browser itself.

To go further with this principle we should identify all the ways Windows provides technical advantages to IE. If you’ve got examples please feel free to leave them here (we’ll review comments to previous posts for examples already given) or provide them by whatever means you feel comfortable with.

2 comments for “EC Principle 2: Windows Must Not Provide a Technical Advantage to IE”

  1. 1

    Aqualon said on March 19th, 2009 at 2:54 pm:

    “Making information available to IE before or differently than that information is available to others.”

    Can you give further explanations, what information you’re talking about?

  2. 2

    steve said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:04 pm:

    I’m not sure how embedded this is in Windows but I can open hyperlinks from a variety of applications in Windows. Some applications correctly open my “default browser” and others “hard code” links to open in Internet Explorer.

    The MSDN documentation *should* be quite clear (it may be, I haven’t checked) that the *preferred* option is to send link requests to open in the end-users’ default browser.

    It bothers me greatly as an end user that the first thing I need to do is copy the URL from Internet Explorer to my default browser in order to get a better browsing experience.

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