Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Browsers powered by user choice

Last month the European Commission confirmed that it had sent a statement of objections to Microsoft about the tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system, which it said "harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice." Then in a blog post earlier this month, Mozilla's Mitchell Baker weighed in, saying that "Microsoft's business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet."

We are applying to become a third party in the European Commission's proceeding. Here's why:

First, browsers are critical to the Internet -- they enable us to surf the web, search, chat, email, watch videos, or connect to our social networks. And because they are so central to every user's web experience, browsers are crucial to innovation online.

Second, Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive, which holds back innovation for users. This is because Internet Explorer is tied to Microsoft's dominant computer operating system, giving it an unfair advantage over other browsers. Compare this to the mobile market, where Microsoft cannot tie Internet Explorer to a dominant operating system, and its browser therefore has a much lower usage. The value of competition for users (even in the limited form we see today) is clear: tabbed browsing, faster downloads, private browsing features, and more. Even greater competition will drive more innovation within browsers themselves - as well as in web design, enabling sites to load faster and offer new kinds of interactive tools and applications.

Finally, we believe that we can contribute to this debate. We learned a lot from launching our own Google Chrome browser last year and are hoping that Google's perspective will be useful as the European Commission evaluates remedies to improve the user experience and offer consumers real choices. Of course creating a remedy that helps solve one problem without creating other unintended consequences isn't easy - but the more voices there are in the conversation the greater the chances of success.

We don't know how the Commission's proceeding will evolve. But we are confident that more competition in this space will mean greater innovation on the web and a better user experience for people everywhere.


Scott Banks said...

an unfair advantage over other browsers.

An advantage, yes. But there is nothing unfair about it.

While Microsoft's advantage may stifle innovation within it's own browser, it does not stifle innovation in competing browsers.

Also, firefox's browser share is high enough that it's extremely rare to find a site that only supports internet explorer.

Josh said...

Amazingly, no one yells at Apple for bundling Safari with Mac OSX. If you are going to get involved in the debate, Google, try not showing so much favoritism in your policies.

Carboneyes said...

Oh what about Chrome being distributed via OEM partners then...

Terabyte said...

If Chrome were usable Google wouldn't have a problem getting people to use it, but as it is Chrome just has too many little "gotchas", too many sites that don't work with it, etc... In fact, Google doesn't even listen to complaints like it's ridiculous demand that every downloaded file be saved before being used so when I download a set of virus defs that need to be installed right then and there is no future need for the .exe I still have to save it and yet IE allows me to use it immediately by saying "Open" the file from the Internet. Furthermore, Acrobat files rarely open properly in Chrome and overall formatting of many web sites simply don't work.

Google is taking part in the EU's witch hunt because it knows its products are inferior and think the right way to gain market share is to sue vs. innovate.

dapxin said...

It sure tastes good to see Google talk of Opera, competition and all against Microsoft.

How many times have Google themselves locked out competition - rolling out technologies that breaks standards to support Mozilla firefox's traction and blindly doing it for IE...

Its a hypocritical ask, hope they get it anyways.

caveman said...

While you are at it why not have a go at Apple with the EC they are getting bigger all the time (so they say).
With their including their web browser "Safari" with OSX.
It is the same thing !!!
And does Linux come with its own browser, if so have a go at them too !
This is bloody ridiculous stay out of it, people will slect the browser that they want to use whether it is bundled or not. Firefox is a classic example of this. Google stay out of it !!!

caveman said...

So does this mean that Google is not coming out with its own Operating System ???
Because if it did you guys would be the WORST hypocrites God put of this earth !!

Matt S said...

In the spirit of competition, will Google also petition for a different default search engine in Firefox?

app said...

Yeah and what about Safari in OS X or Firefox in Ubuntu? And how do you download an alternative browser if your OS doesn't come with a browser? There's nothing wrong with what Microsoft is doing, I just wish it would force people to update from IE6 already. :P

Paul said...

What happened to the do no evil doctrine? Instead of litigating in the EU shouldnt Google focus instead on developing a competitive browser? Or perhaps addressing flaws with GMail which went offline for the 6th time in 8 months? Isn't this what a VP of Product Management is chartered with?

ac said...

Microsoft's exclusionary practices in the browser market were proven in the U.S. case, but the Bush Justice Department dropped the tying claim and adopted Microsoft's flawed theory of the case. See http://www.unclaw.com/chin/scholarship/microsoft.htm for details. Hopefully the EU proceedings will address the unfinished business of the U.S case: restoring competition on the merits.

Ted Howard said...

Where is my browser choice in Android?

Google is the default search engine in Chrome and Firefox. Where is my choice as a user? If Microsoft is supposed to offer users choice, will Google and Firefox promise to do the same in their browsers as they are forcing Microsoft to do in their OS?

Why isn't Google complaining about the lack of browser choice with iPhone or Mac? Isn't Apple's inclusion of an email client on Mac OS X an unfair bundling preventing users from using gmail's interface?

Compete outside of the courts, please. At least don't be hypocrites if you start complaining to judges about other company's product designs.

Xepol said...

This idiocy ought to be entertaining to revisit when Google finally starts attracting a few similar lawsuits itself.

xc said...

How about chasing mobile phone manufacturers who bundle OS, browser and applications?

EU should look at Nokia, Apple and RIM also as smartphones are new computers.

Primefalcon said...

Give Google a break they do have an unfair advantage that they're leveraging, no big surprise though MS have a long history of unfair business tactics.

If we're all luck MS will go out of business before this recession is over.

BorisT said...

I think that search engine is even more crucial than browser in user internet experience, and i am very dissapointed that google integrated google search on igoogle.com. Give us a choice to add our own search engine on igoogle, gmail,... It is not fair to other search providers. Google is acting very monopolistic!

Jiihaa said...

Bad pr for Google, I want to have everything bundled for the price I pay for Windows license.

Still I download with IE the latest Mozilla and Chrome to use, but I would really hate NOT to have IE there for conviniency when those two other browsers don't show some page properly or have some other problem.

How is it bad for customers to get more value for their money??? This I still don't get - see how many bought the N version of XP without Media Player? Close to zero..

Gleb Arestov said...

no words about topic starter — Opera?

Daniel Tunkelang said...

Google believes that the browser market is still largely uncompetitive

I'd be curious to see how you arrive at that conclusion. Internet Explorer's share of the browser market doesn't seem much different than Google's share of the web search market, and yet Google claims that the web search market is competitive. Is that because competitors in the latter space are only "one click away"? downloading a new browser is only one click away too--maybe a handful of clicks, but hardly an onerous process.

Microsoft's past tactics make it an easy punching bag, especially in Europe. But I think Google should be careful not to pursue tactics that smack of hypocrisy, or someday it will have to suffer from the history of its own tactics.

Karnok Dávid said...

Lets assume Microsoft removes Internet Explorer from Windows. If you install Windows, how would you download any browser from the web, without a browser?

Jaap said...

For many years google take advantage of Ie,to be as big as you are now,instad of take distance of Microsoft,you must take them in your arms.if not,i hope your one browser will sink to the bottom ot the ocean!!

Terabyte said...

The other problem with Chrome is it allows a NON-admin to install it and thus gives admins no control over how it's used. Security folks should be up in arms over Chrome. A general user cannot update IE, Firefox, Safari, or Opera and with IE on a Windows Domain users can be prevented from changing any settings. Now Google wants to remove IE and replace it with their junk?

I vote for MS to tell the EU what Apple told France, 'stay out of our business model or we're pulling out of Europe and will no longer sell or license our products in Europe.' It'd be about 5 seconds later that every EU elected official gets millions of phone calls and e-mails demanding they shut up.

Finally, I propose MS change their EULA to include a statement that says ‘No Microsoft product may be used to generate legal documents against Microsoft’. How much would you bet that pretty much every prosecutor who has ever sued MS has used Word to generate their legal briefs! The defense has no legal obligation to help the prosecution and seems to me that by them using MS products to file court documents would be helping them. Let them go out and use Linux and OpenOffice to do everything. If MS wanted to they could really make life miserable for all who attack them, they should be congratulated for not doing just that.

billyzelsnack said...

Cut it out. Don't be evil.

SteveV said...

Google just jumped the shark.

I think in the spirit of competition you should no longer use your dominant position (90% in france, 80+% in US) in search market share and untie your mail application, blog search and map service from your search engine.

On your YouTube site (innovation through acquisition) where you enjoy similar market dominance, you should untie it from your dominant search engine as well.

Finally, I think we should force everyone to learn how to download a web browser from the command line and not allow OEMs to bundle browsers with their hardware since that would help users get onto the internet and foster competition.

Lastly, I would also like to suggest that Apple jump on the bandwagon here and unbundle Safari from the MacOS which has a nearly 100% market share on Macintosh hardware.

Let's all rally for competition and beating down anyone who has made strategic decisions that help the shareholders and the public adoption of technology.

FredsFriend said...

The EU suit isn't trying to get Microsoft to install lots of other brwsers on windows, or for it to uninstall IE.
The aim is to force Microsoft to stop tying IE to Windows too deeply. At the minute you can't uninstall IE and even if you have another browser set as your default Windows doesn't respect that all of the time and still sometimes uses IE. The whole point is to make Microsoft allow their customers to properly chooses which browser they use.

Stefan Gustavson said...

The point most of you are missing is that MS is not simply bundling IE with Windows. If that was the only thing they did, it would not be any worse than Apple bundling Safari with MacOS, or Ubuntu providing Firefox in the default installation. A web browser is a pretty indispensable part of the modern desktop, and Windows would be crippled without one.

However, three important points to consider are the following:

1) MS has effectively forbidden OEM vendors to install any competing browser along with Windows on new computers. Doing so would make them lose their heavy discount on OEM Windows licenses.
(Yes, MacOS bundles Safari, but only Apple sells Macs with MacOS preinstalled, so no shady OEM deals are involved there.)

2) MS has, for no obvious technical reasons, tied the browser component very tightly with the OS. It is actually impossible to uninstall IE from Windows - you are stuck with it. (Removing Safari from MacOS is simply a matter of deleting the application, and then it's completely gone, for good. Apple's system software update does not arbitrarily require a web browser to function.)

3) For a very long time, Internet Explorer did not adhere to international web standards, so web sites that wanted to support both IE and other browsers had to jump through a lot of hoops to work around incompatibilities. Most of these incompatibilities were designed into IE on purpose, they were not bugs. (Yes, Netscape did some ugly things too back in the nineties. The world is not black and white.)

These are the anti-competitive issues. Bundling is OK. The case is about MS removing choice for Windows users and trying to take control over the Web by making a majority of web pages incompatible with existing standards and inaccessible with competing browsers.

So, people, read before you write, OK? You need to know what you are talking about before you can make any useful comments.

Arci Servizio Civile Torino said...

Google, I think you absolutely should make a new post and explain more deeply the decision. Most people are against your decision just because they think the matter is a "Browser bundled in a OS".
Stefan Gustavson explained it all very well.
Just admit you didn't explain the question well, go ahead and clarify the intentions.

Madhu said...

Lets all forget for a moment that Microsoft ever existed, and think about the world where computers are only for the scientists and used in very big organisations for mathematical reasons. Where can we find all these so called IT professionals in such huge numbers...
If not for microsoft there is no google with their search Engine with so many people (at least not the comman man)using it..neither will there be so many IT Professionals.. just give it a thinking.... Just for the sake of blaming just do not blame MS.

Il Quiquiri' said...

that's not fair.
you guys make an OS which can compete with Windows Vista, and then you can put Chrome as the default browser.... makes sense?

Robert said...

This just goes to show how big business is slowly committing suicide. It is only a matter of time until Google is scrutinized for "anti-competitive" behavior in some way. When that happens, they will have no leg to stand on, because be persecuting Microsoft's success today, they are sanctioning their own persecution in the future.

ngf said...

OS's must ship with a default browser.

Just like browsers must ship with a default search engine.

There is nothing unfair here...

Apparently hypocrisy doesn't qualify as "Evil"

rene said...

Lets see google owns the internet search market. owns the price for per click market and owns the ad market on the net. yet they complain about some browser that is used to view the content that they steer the average user to? Sort of like ABC wanted only people who viewed the programs to own RCA TV's..Really Google are you serious. I tried your crappy browser make it better then the masses will switch.

W. Shedd said...

Wow - so many stupid people.

Windows and Internet Explorer are default OS and browser on most (if not almost all) PC computers. They are preinstalled. This isn't because of consumers choice, but because of Windows business practices, which are heavy-handed to questionable to monopolistic. This has already been proven in prior lawsuits, and they haven't significantly changed tactics.

Google has become a top-rated search engine by consumer choice. They aren't forced upon anyone by powers-on-high. I'm not sure who these idiots are who claim it is the default search engine on Firefox, etc. but that is nonsense. It is easy as pie to set up any search engine you want as default, and many are already contained within the Firefox browser (this is true with IE also). Many of you act like you don't know how to type in a web address or create a bookmark.

Further, this is not Google participating in a lawsuit against Microsoft. Learn to read. Google has requested to be a third party in the proceeding. If this was your work industry, you would do the same.

Lastly - it is NOT "extremely rare" to find a website that only supports Internet Explorer. Easy example - try watching movies online at Netflix with Firefox or Chrome.

Drone said...

> it does not stifle innovation
> in competing browsers.
It does! When webmaster creates site, it is impossible to disregard IE and it is doubtful someone is willing to put DOUBLE (or more) amount of efforts to support other browsers with more modern standards.

Robert said...

W. Shedd:

I don't know what version of Firefox you are using, but I just watched a Netflix movie using Firefox 3.0.6 with no problems.

In a free country, it is up to Microsoft what software they bundle into the Operating System. Just as people can easily switch their default search engine, they can also easily get or use another browser. You act like people don't know how to type in a web address or install software.

People even have the choice to use other Operating Systems. Consumers get what they want by voting with their dollars, not by "heavy-handed" government tactics against business.

People do not have a "right" to have their whims fulfilled. If people buy "crap", then complain that they have "crap", then that is their problem.

Of course, Microsoft software is not crap, because if it were, people and business would have switched long ago. Instead, people and businesses have made billions use Microsoft as a technology platform, and they did it by voluntarily choosing Microsoft as their platform. Many people are very productive and effective using Microsoft software, myself included. (Although their direction after XP is causing me to consider changing, which would be my free choice)

Whether the issue is browsers, or prayer in school, the government should stay out of it.

The government has a monopoly on the initiation of force; restricted by the Constitution to be used solely for the preservation of individual rights. I would point you to the works of Ayn Rand for much more complete discussion of these issues.

And by the way, if web sites aren't platform neutral, that is the web sites' decisions. I personally think they are making a mistake and reducing their market share - but in a free country, nobody can force you to make good decisions. You have to learn to make them yourself.

Information Technology said...

I am the owner of the site or a group of Palestinian positions, and I actually users
Mtvh Explorer is a new user and hard to Chrome browser, but I think
Or the great love of Google and its services do not want to interference in this
Issue because the next Microsoft and its services will respond to Google
The prevention of one of their services or barriers to the formation of large and it I always Google
Partnership and not be against you, regardless of party, because I as a specialized knowledge and the
Youth specialist
Take, for example, Palestine
Mbermjeha in and talk programming to separate the two pro-Windows
Section supporter of Linux and they are perpetually at war
But I love Google's services and what Hua Arugea position and the position of others
After the call and the case will probably diminish me or love to Google
Google abandon because of such actions and to engage in cases against Microsoft
Please take into account these points and personalities of people Tvkaddoni Please do not love Google because it is the center and love for all

Ian M said...

Where did the post go?

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Chris M said...

IE is a good browser. Its over forgiving and renders sites as they were intended to look, even if the markup is crap.

Techies need to pull their collective heads from up their arses and realise that the majority of computer users are NORMAL PEOPLE and as such couldnt give a rats arse if Firefox or Chrome is more standards compliant. As long as the sites load properly theyre happy.
The majority also cant be arsed installing a new browser, hence the huge number still on IE6.

As for google jumping on the Opera "lets blame our crap numbers on IE" bandwagon, sack chrome off and add your efforts to the Mozilla project; the last thing we need is a fragmented web to develop for. It's quickly becoming like building sites in the 90's i've never had so many bloody browsers installed.

T☺bias said...

It's a shame that Google is participating in this!
"We are applying to become a third party in the European Commission's proceeding. Here's why:

First, [...]

Your arguments are irrelevant. The ends DON'T justify the means!

Hoopskier said...

Hypocrites! Just a few months after making this post, Google announces its own OS (Chrome OS), which not only includes a browser but whose sole purpose is to run said browser!

Maybe, just maybe, when Microsoft first started bundling IE in 1996 they were heading in the same direction, that they knew the web was the future?

Tim Acheson said...

Is it time to ban Notepad?

This text editing software has a uniquely privileged position in the market, because it comes free with Windows. Also, Notepad has become intolerably popular, because it does its job so well.

Nobody is lobbying the EC about Notepad yet, because rival companies aren't trying to push competing products.

JL3 said...

By limiting google+ compatibility to only the newest internet browser version, google is losing millions of federal workers who do not have the administrative authority to upgrade their computer software at work. It seems that to maximize marketting/Ad revenues google would want Federal workers to be able to access google+. It is like google is gifting the buying power of federal workers to facebook.