News
  •  Shawn
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  • Member Topic Starter
2010-02-20T09:16:35Z
A ground-breaking event is about to occur in Europe, and it's probablynot something that most will expect. It's not some sort of UFO landingor global climate pattern; instead, it's a move by Microsoft that couldvery well change the browser world forever. Awhile back, the EuropeanCommission found it unlawful for Microsoft to sell their operatingsystems with a single, pre-built-in Web browser. Basically, the EUargued that Microsoft wasn't giving consumers a choice in their Webbrowser, while no integrated document processors or A/V editingsoftware was bundled (as an example).

Microsoft has just announced that "internal testing of the choicescreen is underway now," and that a limited roll-out will begin nextweek. By March 1st, the much-hyped "Browser Ballot" will be rolled outacross Europe. What this will do is notify Windows users that they have a choice in their Web browser, and they can also disable or enableInternet Explorer much more easily than that has been in the past.According to Microsoft, the " browser choice screen will present a listof browsers, with links to learn more about them and install them."



The first external tests will begin in the UK, Belgium and France, andanyone in those nations who wish to test out the new screen (whichshouldn't be many, considering that anyone reading this now is probablyadept enough to know that IE isn't the best browser option) can tapinto Windows Update for the new file. The Browser Ballot screen updatewill be pushed out through Windows Update for Windows XP, Vista andWindows 7 machines, so pretty much everyone in Europe should get this.It will also be included on new copies of the operating systems.

It should be interesting to see if other nations take notice here;Microsoft clearly caved in order to keep a good standing in the highlyprofitable European sector, and you would think that it would do thesame if similar pressure were applied elsewhere. We've seen that Sonyhas started to include Google's Chrome on their VAIO notebooks (seen above), and wethink this is fantastic for the consumer. Providing a choice of havingFirefox, Chrome, IE, Opera or any other free browser means that thesecompanies have to continue to innovate in order to maintain marketshare. Over the years, Microsoft took it easy with IE innovations sinceit had such a huge market share, and now it's widely viewed in the techcommunity as the browser not to get. For those wondering about how theupdate will change their experience, have a look below.

If you are running Internet Explorer as your default browser, here iswhat you will see after the software update is installed. Anintroductory screen appears first. In the screen shot below we added afew comment bubbles to point out certain features. The introductoryscreen provides context for the next screen, which shows browseroptions.



The browser choice screen, shown below, will present you with a list ofleading browsers. In keeping with our agreement with the EuropeanCommission, this list is presented in random order. You can also scrollto the right to see additional browsers, which are also presented inrandom order. The browsers that are listed and the content relating tothem will be updated from time to time. The screen provides threeoptions: Click on “Install” to install one of the listed browsers.Click on “Tell me more” to get more information about any of thebrowsers. These links (and the browser logos and associated text) areprovided by each browser vendor. Click on “Select Later” to review thechoice screen the next time you log onto your computer. This softwareupdate will also add a shortcut to your desktop, from which you canlaunch the choice screen at any time.



3vi1
  •  3vi1
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2010-02-20T19:41:02Z

I believe this is a good thing, for users and for Windows security. Greater diversity will make it harder for crackers to compromise as many machines with a single exploit.

Also, maybe this will be a catalyst for the lazier web designers to actually write standards-compliant sites instead of adding javascript to test if your browser is IE or Firefox and failing if it's not.

InfinityzeN
2010-02-20T20:07:02Z

I do find one thing about not letting IE be installed on machines sold in Europe funny though. Tell me someone, how is it that you are supposed to be able to download the web browser of your choice if you are not tech savy and do not have a browser installed on your machine at all?

"I'll just install Firefox... wait a minute. How the $&*%! am I supposed to download it?"

3vi1
  •  3vi1
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2010-02-20T20:15:42Z

The "choice" utility does the download for you.  (And probably won't go away until at least one is installed.)

If you were stuck on a machine with absolutely no browser, you could always boot a Linux LiveCD to download a Windows browser... haha. And, there's always FTP, wget, or curl if you know the URL and want to do the download via the command line.

Inspector
2010-02-21T00:58:34Z

wasn't this done a while ago? im confused...

gibbersome
2010-02-21T02:10:37Z

So this is shipping with 12 browsers? All the main ones are there on the first screen, how soon till we see this number ballooning to unmanageable proportions?

@3vi1 I agree, the browser diversity will make it much harder for hackers, but I'm not sure about having to download a browser. A few should be available on the Windows installation disk, especially for computer novices.

rapid1
2010-02-21T03:33:33Z

Rofl; this is funny though make Microsoft pay to advertise other people's product, as well as make an auto installer for it. I mean in all truth if Microsoft said forget Europe then. We won't sell Windows there anymore and disable every version in the country, by our wonderful new GA tool what would they say then?

I am not saying any of it's right or wrong, it just seems quite ludicrous to make the market holding company advertise, and develop installation links etc for there competition.

mhenriday
2010-02-21T05:59:36Z

Nice that less computer-savvy users in Europe are being made aware of the fact that 1) such a thing as a web browser exists and 2) that they actually have a choice as to which browser to use, even if they have, without possessing sufficient knowledge to make a choice in the matter, purchased a computer with an pre-installed OS (what's an OS ?) from you know whom. Hopefully, this will further encourage competition in the browser field, something which should benefit us all, those who know more about computers as well as those who know less. I'm no fan of the EC, but I applaud this particular decision. As to Microsoft disabling every Windows OS in Europe with that wonderful (and wonderfully named) GA tool, that would indeed be cutting off its Pinnocchio-length nose to spite its face....

Henri

3vi1
  •  3vi1
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2010-02-21T11:10:26Z

>> if Microsoft said forget Europe then. We won't sell Windows there anymore and disable every version in the country, by our wonderful new GA tool what would they say then?

They'd say something like:

"Too bad you just threw away your monopoly; Thanks for turning on 832 million users to Linux and OSX. Luckily, we've been pushing Linux at the governmental levels for years."

I'm not sure you're aware of how bad Microsoft actually behaved: The problem was that MS leveraged their OS monopoly to specifically run Netscape out of business in order to make sure browsers did not give you, the consumer, more freedom of choice.

Microsoft had tried to get NetScape to work with them - the idea being to expand the browser in a non-standards-compliant proprietary Win-only way to make sure that large portions, if not all, of the Internet would only be accessible via their OS.

Netscape wouldn't go along, so Microsoft created their own browser and tied it to the OS (which would later prove horrific for security) in a manner such that normal users could never remove it. Microsoft's own words were that this was to "cut off [Netscape's] air supply". Netscape had actually been a profitable company, until then - selling boxed copies and actively developing their standards-compliant browser.

Microsoft knew that if people wrote code to the APIs of the browser, and not the OS, that customers wouldn't be artificially locked into the OS and they would have to compete on price and features. Everything they've done has been to reduce consumer options and eliminate competition, not improve things for their users.

After Netscape was dead in the browser market, IE6 would sit unimproved for years while MS tried to steer everyone toward using ActiveX Win32-only APIs.

The EU remediations are to ensure that Microsoft has a harder time leveraging their monopoly share in this manner to prevent fair competition.  Microsoft, in the meantime, sees HTML5 coming and that Adobe Flash has actually become a viable cross-platform middleware API, so they're pushing SilverLight as a way to kill both of those and re-lock the users into a Windows-only API, regardless of browser.

There's a great EU document that details how Microsoft continually does this. I think everyone, love or hate MS, should read it: http://www.ecis.eu/documents/Finalversion_Consumerchoicepaper.pdf

 

Soupstyle
2010-02-21T11:26:47Z

It's too bad that the US gov't loves money too much to ever force MS to force them to do this here.

@ Inspector - Yes the decision for MS to have to do this was handed down a while ago, but MS ignored it while they appealed it, then they ignored it even after they lost appeals so the EU fined them (again) and MS is finally following the rulings.

mhenriday
2010-02-21T12:42:27Z

Thanks for posting this link, 3vi1. Amazing that some people in the US attempt to defend these preditory practices on the part of Microsoft on the grounds that it is a US-based company ! What they don't seem to realise is that, next to the Chinese, people in the United States constitute the major victims. But then again, some people naturally run with the fox, while others run with the hounds....

Henri

realneil
2010-02-21T13:40:20Z

By 3vi1: "Microsoft created their own browser and tied it to the OS (which would later prove horrific for security)"

Horrific for security was an understatement. Each new iteration of IE proved to be less secure than the last and using IE was like being 'Slowly Pecked To Death By Chickens'. I had so many computer crashes caused by IE's lack of security and standards that I swore to NEVER use it again. I have stuck with my oath and never looked back. I'm not missing a thing either, except an exploit or two. (hundred)

Nowadays, the people writing hacks are supported by big money and resources too. They will not be going away anytime soon. This means that having a browser that is 'basically' secure is only the first step. Luckily there are many free anti-virus and anti-spyware solutions out there for us to tap into.

rapid1
2010-02-21T13:45:03Z

Oh wow there is a new posting monster it seems. I was just finishing with a 4 paragraph response on this and bang it refreshed and was deleted.

rapid1
2010-02-21T13:45:35Z

Keep a clip in the clipboard per paragraph I guess :)

rapid1
2010-02-21T14:31:23Z

Deleted my monster post and moved it to the lounge!

http://hothardware.com/cs/forums/t/46856.aspx