Mozilla says IE browser ballot is not enough

The EU may be happy with the new proposal, but rival Mozilla thinks nothing has changed.

browser ballot

Microsoft's browser ballot proposal may have impressed the EC, but rival Mozilla says it's not much of a change.

The browser ballot is in response to anti-competition charges against Microsoft. The software giant will pop up a page in Internet Explorer showing users that there are other browsers out there and where to download them.

Mitchell Baker, the chair of the Mozilla Foundation, detailed the plan's many flaws in a blog post, saying many changes are necessary before the scheme will really work.

Still the default

Baker noted that the ballot still means IE is preloaded onto new computers, while others like Mozilla's own Firefox have to be downloaded and installed.

"This may seem irrelevant to those of us who live and breath internet software, but it's a significant barrier for a lot of people," he noted, calling for the ballot to help people install and set new browsers to default as well as directing them to the download site.

"As proposed, we expect to see many people who want other browsers get lost in the process before they actually succeed in making an alternative browser their main browsing tool," he added.

That feeling was echoed by Harvey Anderson, general counsel of Mozilla, who said in a separate blog post that Mozilla research shows just 55 per cent of people who click a download link will be able to actually figure out how to install the new browser. "A download link, therefore, is insufficient to fulfill user intent," he said.

Unique position

Even if a user manages to set a rival browser as the default, IE will still have a "unique and uniquely privileged position on Windows installations," Baker continued. It's built into the interface, has a shortcut on the desktop, and has a prominent place in the Windows 7 taskbar.

"Nothing we've seen suggests these items will change when a person chooses to make a different browser his or her default," Baker said. "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."

In addition, Baker said that IE is used for other bits of the Microsoft ecosystem, including the update system and the Office suite, which includes hard links to the Microsoft browser.

That said, Anderson said the proposal is a "good step forward" if rolled out properly. "The ultimate success of the proposal, however, will depend on Microsoft's long-term commitment to realise not just the words of the proposal, but its spirit, so a lot still remains to be seen," he added.

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