Mozilla: IE Ballot Box Isn't Enough

When you capitulate too easily, the victors always want more. This week, three Mozilla executives complained that Microsoft's plan to offer consumers a web browser ballot screen in Windows doesn't go far enough. Instead, the Firefox maker says that Microsoft must make further changes to Windows so that Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) browser no longer receives its "unique and uniquely privileged position on Windows."

In separate blog posts, Mozilla chairperson Mitchell Baker and general counsel Harvey Anderson both described the company's official position on the browser ballot screen. Both posts also reference a late July posting from Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's director of community development, creating a bizarre set of cross-links in which the three seem to bolster one another's arguments.

Baker's primary argument is that Microsoft's ballot screen doesn't change the key problem with IE: that it's always there, on the Windows desktop (or, in Windows 7, on the taskbar). To change this configuration, the user must both install another browser and figure out how to "turn off" IE.

Anderson's comments are more circumspect. He praises Microsoft for taking a "good step forward," for example, but notes that the success of this change will depend on how well Microsoft follows the spirit of the proposal. Like Baker, he raises a somewhat nonsensical issue—that IE will somehow try to become the default browser when a user accesses Windows Update—without acknowledging that Windows Update in Windows Vista and Windows 7 doesn't require IE, and that Microsoft has already committed to changing Windows XP accordingly.

All three Mozillans fret over language in Microsoft's proposal that specifies removing ties that IE has with Office 2007 specifically—but not with other Microsoft applications, including, ominously, Office 2010. "If \[any\] Microsoft applications need to launch a browser, they should only launch the user's default browser," Anderson says, in case that wasn't obvious.

Buried deep in Anderson's post is a call for real change, however. He wants the download link for alternate browsers in the ballot screen to both download and trigger the installation of whatever browser the user chooses. He also complains that the sample ballot screen provided by Microsoft is biased for IE.

The most nonsensical comment, however, comes from Asa Dotzler, who notes, "It's my view that to make the ballot meaningful, Microsoft would have to address all of these issues, and possibly a few more I haven't thought of."

An anxious world awaits.

You can read more about Mozilla's view of the Microsoft proposal on the blog posts noted below.

Mitchel Baker: Proposed Microsoft - EC Settlement
Harvey Anderson: Thoughts on Microsoft's Settlement Proposal...
Asa Dotzler: Microsoft's Settlement Proposal

TAGS: Windows 8
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