EC Principle 5: Microsoft must educate people about other browsers

April 7th, 2009

One of the results of the Windows / IE integration is that millions of people believe that the “blue e” icon IS the Internet.  They are unaware of of Microsoft’s control over their online lives through this blue “e” or that they have additional choices.  This principle asserts that Microsoft should participate in correcting the misconception that it has created.  The monopoly of Windows and Microsoft in people’s computer experience means there is no other entity that can substitute for Microsoft here.

Mozilla has done an amazing job at educating some people about this.  We do this through community and word of mouth.  But Mozilla’s ability to reach some portion of people is not remotely the same as Microsoft’s ability to reach everyone.  Microsoft touches every single person who starts up a PC and touches those people, over and over and over again.

There are a number of ways in which this principle could be implemented.  Some could involve providing information about other browsers in Windows, which are included in principle 3.    There are certainly options beyond Windows, which is why I’ve made this a separate principle.

In the past the EC has levied fines against Microsoft.   A number of people have suggested that these fines could / should be used to educate people about their ability to have some control over their browser and resulting Internet experience.  I don’t know what kinds of structures EU law would impose on how this can be done.  So it’s possible this is something the regulatory structure doesn’t allow.

14 comments for “EC Principle 5: Microsoft must educate people about other browsers”

  1. 1

    DigDug said on April 7th, 2009 at 7:15 pm:

    What do you think about solving this by just requiring that MS open up the Microsoft Store ( to other software developers? I see Firefox offered on Apple’s site (mostly because its a Top Download there). At the same time it would move the “problem” away from being simply centered on browsers and offer up help/advertising for all sorts of apps. Maybe even provide a way to filter some of the malware that plagues Windows from dodgy yet professional looking download sites. A simple solution that doesn’t have ya’ll coming out looking like you were just hungry for money (which is how it looks to me and lots of bloggers I’ve read right now).

  2. 2

    Dan Borba said on April 8th, 2009 at 6:25 am:

    I don’t feel that having other software availiable at the Microsoft Store would specifically have any impact on this issue. In fact I’m not even sure how often people end up at the Microsoft Store. As far as IE is related, the only place it would be useful to have mention of other options would be in it’s default homepage. Other than that you are counting on the user’s browsing habits, which you know nothing about. The other big issue here is that you can’t expect Microsoft to willingly help the competition. Companies are in no way required to educate their consumers if it is not in their best interest, so I surely don’t see MS doing so unless they are directly forced to. Personally though, I feel the best way to inform people about the internet, is through the internet. What we do know is that an overwhelming majority of internet users surf through at least one of the largest portal sites online. IMO that’s where this info should be. Perhaps through partnerships, perhaps through advertising – but that’s where it will likely reach the largest amount of the intended audience.

  3. 3

    Ethoxyethaan said on April 8th, 2009 at 7:08 am:

    Well A good way for Microsoft to solve this is to start 3 sister companies and modify some of the exciting web-browsers and put Locks and DRM on all of them (perhaps let users pay for using it).
    tune down the peformance and stability and call it a alternative for IE / advertise it!

    I don’t think its fair for M$ touch, they have the majority of the browser market here, because its shipped with the system and users have IE6, IE7 or IE8, perhaps don’t use the web that much, don’t pay attention to details and are unaware of software freedom. Those users wont benefit from switching to another browser, most of the time users will just click on the IE icon simply because they don’t care, all my older family members are a example of this. to assure their safety on the web i have to manually remove all those Nasty IE icons and lock it away as far possible.

  4. 4

    foo said on April 8th, 2009 at 7:19 am:

    I don’t think forcing any company to directly promote it’s competition is realistic, where else do you find a product where upon using it you are told about competitors products you could be using. The best you can aim for is if there is any fine that it will be spent on increasing awareness, but this would need to avoid favouring any particular browser so would have to promote Internet Explorer equally to yourselves.

  5. 5

    mitchell said on April 8th, 2009 at 10:27 am:

    Foo, yes it’s certainly not realistic to expect companies to do this themselves. But once a company is judged guilty of illegal behavior the company can be required — just as individual people can — to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. The EC has said it believes Microsoft has behaved illegally. Assuming that is their final conclusion, then the European judicial system probably can require microsoft to do things it wouldn’t do of its own accord.

    The other big question is, of course, what things the EC might require that will have long term positive effects.

  6. 6

    Eric said on April 8th, 2009 at 10:57 am:

    If Mozilla is serious about this, then I would ask that all OS’s be required to do the same. Imagine if OSX becomes the “monopolist” OS, or some Phone OS takes over (Name your favorite phone OS here), the same outcome will occur in 5-10 years and you will be posting about the same problem again and re-visiting this issue. While I agree that special cases might need to be made due to a monopoly, all competitors in that monopolistic arena should be required to do the exact same to prevent these situations going forward when some other company becomes the new monopoly.

  7. 7

    Lennie said on April 9th, 2009 at 12:21 am:

    There is an other problem with offering Mozilla at some Microsoft store, that is that the Mozilla-website is currently the only website where you can download it.

    I’m sure this is to make it clear where people should download it, to make sure that people download it from a trusted source.

    (other then Linux distribution, which are an other trusted source ofcourse)

  8. 8

    Asa Dotzler said on April 9th, 2009 at 9:35 am:

    Eric said “If Mozilla is serious about this, then I would ask that all OS’s be required to do the same.”

    Mozilla has no way to compel all OSes (or any OSes) to do anything.

    And as far as I know, there aren’t many legal mechanisms for protecting against some possible mis-behavior by known or unknown parties at some unknown point in the future.

    Mozilla is serious about this because one particular OS vendor, Microsoft, may be compelled by the EU to change its business practices in ways that could impact (both positive and negative) Mozilla and the Firefox Web browser.

    Eric, if you’ve got some authority over these OSes, please do let me know. Until then, I don’t think that Mozilla (or anyone elase) making demands it cannot hope to enforce should preclude Mozilla from discussing how a particular and specific legal issue, that is before us today, might impact Mozilla, Firefox, and the Web.

    – A

  9. 9

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  10. 10

    Andy Newsham said on April 24th, 2009 at 2:00 pm:

    I use Mozilla on my laptop, and my deptartment at university sticks it on its machines for the same reason – it’s more stable than IE (google still have some way to go, too before they’re up to fiefox standards) and, I guess, there are far fewer people with an axe to grind trying to make it go wrong at every turn of daily web use. So I am a fan of the browser, and also of Mozilla as an organisation because its commitment to open source, widely accessible software that works properly. But I can’t go along with the proposition that microsoft alone is reponsible for the conflation between the internet and their big, blue ‘e’. That’s like the conflation between hoover and vacuum cleaner: it’s not just about the company ‘Hoover’; it’s about broader patterns of word usage in which words – and symbols take on a life of their own. If the big ‘e’ means internet to so many people, it is the result of an interaction between them and that letter/symbol, and I think we have to respect that also. Seeking to control that process of interaction is potentially just as dangerous and politically charged as monopolising it in the way microsoft currently do.

  11. 11

    kmtianxu said on May 12th, 2009 at 12:39 am:

    Seeking to control that process of interaction is potentially just as dangerous and politically charged as monopolising it in the way microsoft currently do.

  12. 12

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