Mozilla Execs Want Changes to Microsoft’s ‘Ballot Screen’ Proposal

By | August 18, 2009 | 19 Comments


Computer World writes:

Mozilla executives today began a concerted campaign to prod European Union (EU) antitrust regulators to demand more from Microsoft than the browser “ballot screen” Windows will offer users later this year.

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Vygantas is a former web designer whose projects are used by companies such as AMD, NVIDIA and departed Westood Studios. Being passionate about software, Vygantas began his journalism career back in 2007 when he founded FavBrowser.com. Having said that, he is also an adrenaline junkie who enjoys good books, fitness activities and Forex trading.

  • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael

    Do they wanna it alphabetically? +_+

    • Foo

      Harvey Anderson’s analysis

      Protecting User Choice of Non-IE Browsers:
      [...]

      Windows Update. Not offering updates through Windows Update to an off-switched IE is a good start. But most users won’t have IE turned off, even if they have other browsers as their default. When IE is not the default, any launch of IE, user intended/initiated or not, may prompt the user to restore IE as his default browser. [...]

      Tie-ins with Microsoft Applications. Not including links, shortcuts, or icons for launching an install or download inside of Office 2007 is a good start; however, it’s just not enough. Microsoft Office 2007 and other Microsoft programs should not “hard code” links, shortcuts, or icons to launch an already installed IE when IE is not the default browser. If Microsoft applications need to launch a browser, they should only launch the user’s default browser. [...]

      Ballot Mechanism:
      [...]

      Ballot Application. The proposal states in Section 2, Paragraph 7 that “Microsoft will distribute a Ballot Screen software update to users within the EEA of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Client PC Operating Systems, by means of Windows Update as described hereafter:..” The proposal later states in Section 2, Paragraph 8 that “The Ballot Screen will give those users who have set Internet Explorer as their default web browser an opportunity to choose whether and which competing web browser(s) to install in addition to the one(s) they already have.” It is unclear how this applies in the OEM channel. If Microsoft or other 3rd parties have paid for pre-installation of IE (or an IE derivative) in the OEM channel, the ballot mechanism should still apply.

      [...]

      There’s another more complex question of whether the ballot should apply to any browser pre-installed with OEM distributions. Some would say it should, since there are only a few parties who can compete economically in the distribution game, so why tie Microsoft and leave everyone else free to engage in the same behavior. Conversely, such other parties are unlikely to have monopoly power in the operating system market, nor are they the subjects of an investigation based on practices found to be anti-competitive. [...]

      Download Process. A download link is insufficient for fulfilling user intent. If a user clicks the download Opera link in the ballot, he is signaling intent to, at a minimum, try out Opera. Our data shows that only ~55% of users who click a download link will be able to complete the process of downloading and installing so that they may at least try out the new browser. [...]

      Ballot Screenshot. The ballot as described in the screenshot is not unbiased as MS claims in the written proposal. It suffers from two major bias issues. [This seems to be the section that interests you the most...]

      The first is that IE may become the default browser in more scenarios than the alternative browsers. IE may become the default by being selected. It may also become the default if the user simply ignores the ballot. It may also become the default if the user is unable to figure out how to use the ballot. Finally, it may become the default even if the user expresses a desire to try one of the other browsers but fails to achieve an alternative browser install (point 1. above.) The other browsers have only one, difficult and failure prone scenario to becoming the default. I don’t know how one would remedy this except partially by requiring the user to make a choice rather than treating no choice as a user preference for IE.

      The second issue of bias is the ordering of the browser choices on the ballot. When presented with a question that interrupts the user’s “flow” the most common user response is to take actions, without serious consideration, that will remove the interruption. That often results in users simply closing the Window containing the interruption or in choosing the button or option they believe is most likely to remove the Window. We strongly suspect that placement matters, and being the farthest most left position has some inherent advantage. Thus, having a mechanism to equitably mitigate this inherent advantage would make this a much better remedy. This will likely require further evaluation and testing, so the notion that the proposal can be adopted, implemented, and filed away, without subsequent iteration doesn’t seem plausible.

      De-selection of IE. Section 2, Paragraph 8 further states that “Microsoft shall ensure that in the Ballot screen users will be informed in an unbiased way that they can turn Internet Explorer off.” Merely advising the user with text on how to turn IE off in the ballot is simply not enough to achieve the intended purpose of the remedy. The commitment should be modified so that IE is turned off seamlessly when the user selects a non-IE browser through the ballot screen, rather than through a separate procedure.

      Education. The ballot, as proposed, does nothing to educate the user as to what a Web browser is or how different browsers might offer different experiences. A user with no understanding of what a browser is and no explanation in the ballot to educate him will likely just dismiss the window as an unexplainable interruption. [...]

      Testing and Evaluation. The term of the proposal is five years; however, there are no interim evaluation milestones. To evaluate the efficacy of the remedy, there must be some ongoing evaluation, otherwise how will we know if the ballot proposal made a difference, and if so, what did it actually change. Thus, an annual review by the EC should be part of the proposal. The review should include only data derived from public sources and Microsoft that comports with all applicable privacy directives.

  • somebody

    Haha. Will we see a call for boycotting Firefox now? or is it bad only when Opera whines ? :)

    • Foo

      From what I can remember* Opera has sounded mostly as a brat who aren’t allowed to eat candy. Whereas Mitchell Baker on the other hand sounds civilized and are able to outline what she consider to still be a problem** and while Harvey Anderson’s analysis are a bit more aggressive it’s far from an attack on Microsoft.
      I think the post by the marketing machine, Asa Dotzler, managed to leave a good impression on me too (although I only managed to skim over most of the text :P).

      * I tried to find an official/CEO blog post or the like but the only ones I found had the latest post dated as early March.
      Are Opera’s CEO only able to communicate though the ‘news’? If so, I can understand why their image is as bad as it is. (News corps. do anything to get a handful more readers)

      ** Note that there are still no official announcement made by the Mozilla Organization nor are there any statements made on the official blog or the European blog.

      • Daniel Hendrycks

        Opera should have an official blog. Twitter doesn’t count.

        • Foo

          Hey, I had completely forgotten about Twitter, thanks! Though, as you say, it doesn’t really ‘count’. Twitter is more of a place to put out short summaries and links to posts and releases rather than a place for the announcements themselves.
          I would have expected that at least Håkon would have a blog, but apparently it isn’t so (no matter how sure I am that I have read it :P).

          They have got a press center that I managed to overlook, though the latest relevant release there are from early January.

          Btw, is it only me or are the ‘in the news’ page broken, all I get is a blank white box where the articles should appear:
          http://www.opera.com/press/articles/?region=europe

        • NibLer

          Opera has several official blogs, including the desktopteam blog, the Opera Mini blog, the Opera Mobile blog, the Choose Opera blog, the Opera Community blog, the Core blog, etc. etc. etc.

          • Foo

            I’m talking about a blog by a central leading person from Opera or similar not developers talking about coding which isn’t really official statements made by the company, or have I overlooked a post on one of the blogs?

            Desktopteam Blog:
            http://snapshot.opera.com/faq.html

            What is the Desktop Team blog all about?

            The Desktop Team blog is a place for the Desktop Team to post news, plans for new features, and pre-alpha-quality releases of Opera for Desktop for experienced testers to use.

            Opera Mini and Opera Mobile blogs don’t appear to have any “about page” but they are clearly about development for those two browsers.
            The Choose Opera blog is a ‘marketing’ blog and seems to consist solely of “vote for us!” and new product announcements.
            Which blog do you refer to as “the Opera Community blog”?
            The Core blog is yet another place for the developers to post about what they are doing.
            By the by, you forgot about the sort of dead Opera Watch blog. Which lists this site (favbrowser.com) under “Opera fan blogs”. Just a fun thing to mention for the people raging about FavBrowser being anti-Opera :)

            And just for your information, I had already looked at those blogs you listed before writing my earlier posts.

          • Foo

            Oops, found it. Searching didn’t turn up anything relevant, but there’s apparently a link at the bottom of My Opera in the footer that I didn’t notice before.

      • NibLer

        Opera has sounded mostly as a brat

        This is your biased, and frankly hypocritical opinion.

        You have already decided that you hate Opera and everything about it, so you will always interpret everything in the worst way you can when it comes to Opera.

        So when Mozilla basically does the same thing as Opera, you get yourself in trouble because now you will either have to criticize Mozilla the way you are always criticizing Opera, or you will have to come up with some wild things to explain away the double standards you have displayed.

        In other words: You have no credibility in this case.

        Are Opera’s CEO only able to communicate though the ‘news’?

        Of course not, but it is only natural that Opera are the first ones journalists talk to about this case, since Opera reported Microsoft’s crimes in the first place.

        Note that there are still no official announcement made by the Mozilla Organization

        Mitchell Baker and their lawyer’s comments are the official responses.

        • Daniel Hendrycks

          Yes, so Mozilla is “mature” while Opera is a whining brat.

          Opera has many official blogs but the CEO or CTO should have a blog.

          • Foo

            @Daniel

            Yes, so Mozilla is “mature” while Opera is a whining brat.

            I take it that were directed to me?
            If so, yes this is the impression I get. Of course I do realize that ‘the news’ twists things a bit here and there to get more views/money. Still, I think it’s their own fault when they don’t have a public official channel that they control. No Nibble, I’m still not talking about developers :)

            I think it would improve their image outside its “cult following on the net” if the CEO or Håkon had a blog. Heck, even a one-way channel of communication would have the possibility of improving things dramatically.

        • Foo

          You have already decided that you hate Opera and everything about it, so you will always interpret everything in the worst way you can when it comes to Opera.

          “You have already decided that you hate me and everything about me, so you will always interpret everything in the worst way you can when it comes to me.”
          Look, I can do it too! :D

          Anyway, I never said it were some sort of general opinion, did I?

          So when Mozilla basically does the same thing as Opera, you get yourself in trouble because now you will either have to criticize Mozilla the way you are always criticizing Opera, or you will have to come up with some wild things to explain away the double standards you have displayed.

          Some of the members of Mozilla commented on Microsoft’s plans, trying to improve some unclear points. This is a clear contrast to Opera’s simple complaints of “This isn’t enough!”.

          Of course not, but it is only natural that Opera are the first ones journalists talk to about this case, since Opera reported Microsoft’s crimes in the first place.

          They never reported ‘crimes’, they turned in a complaint to try it in court. They are the complaintant in this case.
          Just in case you haven’t realized I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure a ‘new’ case has to be tested in court when it comes to laws as unclear as these, or have I been misinformed?
          By the way, what are these other channels of communication that the Opera CEO uses? Internal memos?

          Mitchell Baker and their lawyer’s comments are the official responses.

          To me it looks like Mitchell Baker posted as a private person on her private blog not as a CEO.
          Where are these comments by lawyer’s you’re speaking of? Do you mean Harvey Anderson, but is he (they?) really more than one person? Besides he/they are the most fit to look over legal documents, being the legal counselor he/they are after all, right?

          • Daniel Hendrycks

            Who said Håkon Wium Lie represented Opera? You said Opera sounded like a brat, (Håkon didn’t sound like a brat, people will make things sound however you want them to) but that was just Håkon who expressed his opinion and not Opera Software’s opinion. If Mitchell doesn’t represent Mozilla then Håkon doesn’t represent Opera’s take (unless stated otherwise).

          • Foo

            As I said, or at least I’m trying to say, that’s just the impression I get from the channels Opera use to communicate. The articles I’ve read always made it sound like the official stand-point of Opera Software just like they are doing now with Mozilla. (No, I’m not able to recall which articles in particular it were, it’s been too long ago for that)

  • Grrblt

    Oh my god when will Mozilla stop whining and realize that people don’t want their product! They had an ok browser 10 years ago but not I’m never touching a Mozilla product again simply because they are an evil company that doesn’t do anything except whine. I hope the ballot screen includes all browsers except Firefox, that’ll teach them.

    etc etc etc.

  • http://a.deveria.com Fyrd

    I can’t believe how many people consider what Mozilla and Opera are asking for as “whining” or as acting “spoiled” or “childish”. Have you tried making a web browser that competes with IE? Do you realize what these companies are up against?

    We’re talking about an application that the majority of people over the world simply assume IS the internet. One that many companies have installed on all their employee computers, without giving them the option to use another. One that gained this devotion not by being better than other browser, but by coming pre-installed on the world’s most popular operating system. This is what we call a monopoly.

    And when a monopoly abuses its power, is it not reasonable for the competitor most affected by this abuse to report the problem to a governing agency? If they don’t, who will?

    Keep in mind that there are multiple ways that Microsoft’s monopoly hurts other browsers:

    1. The obvious, being pre-installed makes people less aware of alternative browsers, and gives users little incentive to try another.
    2. By being a de facto standard for so long, many websites decided to only support IE and its non-standard rendering. This means other browsers have had to reverse-engineer IE’s workings so sites will appear up as expected. All extra time, money and resources that only non-IE browsers have to spend.
    3. The same rendering issues have led to many intranet sites based on IE-only behaviour, causing companies to stick with the browser. Since generally alternate browsers can’t even modify their codes for these sites (since they have no access to them), there’s even less they can do to compete in this situation.
    4. Since users are used to sites always working in IE, all it may take is running into one bad website in an alternative browser to make them switch back. Sure, that’s mostly the website’s fault, but it’s IE’s monopoly and non-standard practices that has led to situation alternate browsers have to deal with today.

    When you consider all these issues that these browsers have to deal with, the action that Opera and Mozilla have taken is really quite logical, and I certainly understand that they want this to be done right and without any visible advantage to Internet Explorer whatsoever.

  • NibLer

    …and the regular people who always whine about Opera are mostly absent. Guess they might as well not say anything, lset they expose their double standards.

  • http://my.opera.com/community/download.pl?ref=DanielHendrycks&p=opera_desktop Daniel Hendrycks

    @Foo OK, gotcha. Bye :)