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Readers Talk Sense on Microsoft Browser Democracy

With regard to Microsoft's plan to offer a ballot of browsers in European versions of Windows 7, we'd like to thank John from Kentucky for pretty much writing today's newsletter for us:

"I just don't understand why the EU keeps pushing this issue. Browsers don't inherently deliver ads or make money (at least not off me). They're a free 'product.' This whole debate seems so 1997!"

Let us just stop you right there, John, to say bra-vo! (Yes, we liked that so much that we accentuated the syllables in "bravo" for emphasis.) We at RCPU have never understood the modern, post-Netscape browser wars. Is it not the applications and the advertising that matter, rather than the browser itself? Can we not Bing in Chrome or Google in Internet Explorer? Do Google and Microsoft not serve ads and run apps in browsers other than their own?

We just don't get why browser market share, browser competition and the like are so important. Browsers are a commodity -- a free one, at that -- and almost interchangeable as far as we can tell. If somebody would like to explain to us why browser market share is so important and why vendors, regulators and analysts are so concerned with browsers, please feel free to do so at lpender@rcpmag.com. We just don't understand the hype and the controversy.

But we digress. Now, back to John:

"I'm not ashamed to admit I prefer Paint to Photoshop (or Gimp or Paint.net) on most projects I undertake for its sheer simplicity of just moving something around. There are times when you need to bring out the big guns, but my point is, why is IE a 'product' prone to antitrust lawsuits but Paint is not? I know plenty of Firefox and Safari users who consider IE to be the 'Paint' of browser choices. What sets a browser apart from any other essential part of an operating system? If they added layers or a selection wand to Paint, would it become another monopoly issue? 

"I remember when I first signed up for the Internet in 1995. I had a Windows 3.1 machine and a little too late realized I had to wait a week for my ISP to ship me a Netscape Navigator CD before I could use the Internet. Talk about torture! I couldn't imagine going through that in 2009! Microsoft should release a browser-less 7 and replace the IE icon with a text file that says, 'Please contact the EU for a browser to get on the Internet. Have a nice day!' Why doesn't the EU give it a rest already?"

Applause, John, applause. That's really all we have to say. And thanks for articulating better than your editor ever could how RCPU feels about the whole browser debate.

On the same topic, we received an e-mail from an actual European, who also wasn't too impressed with Microsoft's browser democracy. Notes Remco:

"The point is that we, as the people of Europe, are made able to choose a browser we want to use, including my and your preferred browser mentioned in the article [that's Firefox -L.P.]. All browsers should have an equal chance in the market.

"The proposal Microsoft is making to the European Union is exactly the opposite of that! I think it's hilarious. They should split the OS and browsers, just like they do with all the other software they are making. And that is a big list of software; they know how to do it."

Remco, we know what you mean. Microsoft's vision of browser democracy isn't exactly all-inclusive; the slots on the ballot are based on weird market-share calculations and other odd metrics. As for separating the browser from the OS, though, we like John's suggestion: Let the EU pass out browsers in Europe if the regulators there are so worried about Microsoft having an unfair advantage. (By the way, we noted this week that Firefox passed the 1 billion download mark -- and ate up some more of IE's market share. Just sayin'.)

Can you explain why browsers are such a big deal? Please do at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on August 06, 2009 at 11:55 AM


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