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Microsoft Agrees to Browser Ballot Terms

By Craig Buckler



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browser ballotThe European Commission has dropped their anti-trust charges against Microsoft following long-winded arguments over the legality of providing Internet Explorer within Windows. Under the terms of the deal, around 100 million PCs throughout Europe will show a browser ballot screen in March 2010.

The ballot screen will appear during a Windows update for XP, Vista and 7 assuming the user has retained IE as their default browser. Those that buy a new PC will see the screen the first time they access the web.

12 browsers will be offered. Yes — you read that correctly — there will be a bewildering choice of 12 browsers:

  • the 5 most popular browsers will appear in random order: IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome
  • another 7 browsers will also appear in less-prominent positions: AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir and Slim Browser.

The browser list will be updated at least once every six months with choices changing with the popularity of the software.

The ruling will remain in effect for at least five years and applies to all EU member states. European regulators have warned Microsoft that it may be fined up to 10% of yearly global turnover if the company does not fully abide with the terms of the deal during that period. movie downloads

Neelie Kroes, the EU’s competition commissioner, stated:

Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use.

The ruling will act as an incentive to rival browser makers to continue developing and improving their products.

Whilst I’m pleased users will be educated about alternatives, I’m not convinced the ballot screen will have a major impact on browser market share. A choice of 12 options will be confusing for many novices. Those making an uninformed or random choice will still have a 50:50 chance of opting for an IE-based browser!

Do you think the browser ballot screen will make a difference? Should Microsoft roll it out worldwide? Does the use of the word “ballot” annoy you? Is it a case of alliteration prevailing over interpretation?!


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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

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