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Microsoft’s Ballot Screen is a Farce, Decoy

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, Google, Microsoft at 9:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft uses its Web browser to promote its own Web services while pretending to offer Web browsers in addition to its own

THERE is a lot of coverage this week about the Web browsers ballot screen which Mozilla employees like Asa are covering in their blogs, whereas Microsoft employees are pushing as ‘news’ — making it their own biased ‘coverage’ — into R&D Magazine (there is a lot of Microsoft-written material there). This is yet another example of Microsoft’s control of the media (there are more examples coming later). As mentioned before, right after SJVN had brought this up, people are missing the more important news and instead covering irrelevant subjects [1, 2, 3]. IE8 is reducing choice even in the search bar. As a reader of ours explained it yesterday:

I’m sure you have covered this topic, but I haven’t read about it on Boycott Novell yet. I use Windows only rarely for 2 things: 1) as a VMWare ESX client, 2) if I need to experiment with Outlook. The administrator of the Windows instance which I use upgraded to Server 2008 R2, so I decided to give it a try. I can now share my experience with trying to make Google the default search engine on IE8. As previewed, Microsoft does indeed make it difficult to add or change the default search engine. It’s necessary to navigate a menu, go to a Web page on “microsoft.com” and click the right links there. The first time I tried it, I got a security pop-up which said that “download.microsoft.com” is not a “trusted” site. My change didn’t take effect. I tried again after adding “download.microsoft.com” as a “trusted” site and, while I didn’t see any more security popups, Bing remained as the default search engine. Finally, I went to Google manually, searched on “make Google default search engine IE8″ and saw a Google discussion group: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p… as the first result. The first suggestion I saw outlined the steps which I took but which didn’t work. I tried the second suggest, which was to go to a different page which purported to do the same thing, except for IE7. That worked for me the first time I tried it. All in all, this process is a very clumsy one which is far more difficult than it should be.

This is another example of Microsoft playing dirty. Will the European Commission pay attention to it? Almost nobody is discussing it.
[1] Microsoft’s About To Lose More Web Browser Users

This is in compliance with a December European Commission antitrust agreement that stops it from pushing its own Internet Explorer exclusively, and is likely to mean a market-share hike for Google’s Chrome, Firefox and Opera, whose complaint to the EC kicked off its year-long competition inquiry.

[2] Microsoft Browser Poll could be heaven for hackers

Hackers find a way to get into every corner of the internet and Microsoft’s antitrust-busting ‘Browser Poll’, due to launch in Europe next week, could be no different.

[3] EU Browser Ballot: Which Would You Choose? — A Poll

After years of legal squabbling between Microsoft and the European Commission, Redmond will soon make it easier for Internet Explorer users in Europe to switch Web browsers. Starting next week, Microsoft will offer a “Web browser choice screen” to Windows users in Europe who have IE as their default browser.

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  1. your_friend said,

    February 21, 2010 at 12:47 pm


    Browser choice is not a substitute for OEM OS choice and it is a shame that so much regulatory attention has been wasted on this way. Microsoft has a long history of breaking competitor’s software on Windows, so the “choice” is always false. Users who jump through all these hoops will have trouble later. Microsoft will also be make competing software more difficult to install later, using a “security” excuse and the user’s previous choice against them. Regulatory effort that leaves users trapped in Microsoft’s hostile playground is a waste of resources that should be concentrated enforcing existing laws that protect real market choice. There’s ample evidence of OEM anti-trust violations and criminal retail manipulation by Microsoft. These efforts continue to block technically superior free software on platforms people crave, and to greatly limit the kinds of hardware offered to the public [2]. “Browser choice” is a hollow fraud. People should demand free software instead.

    Robotron 2084 Reply:

    Just like the browser itself, few people are educated or interested enough to really know the differences between different operating systems. I have enough trouble trying to explain that Macs won’t run software made for Windows and vice versa. It’s not like VHS vs DVD. Most people just don’t see the differences in the format. They just see a computer, that’s it.

    People don’t need to demand free software. No one is actively keeping it from them. It’s free and they are welcome to use it if they choose. You don’t get to make that choice for them. It’s not your right and it’s not something people would accept. You need to accept that there will always be people that don’t want to follow your choices.

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> few people are educated or interested enough to really know the differences between different operating systems. I have enough trouble trying to explain that Macs won’t run software made for Windows and vice versa.

    The different operating systems are like different language systems. If an application is written in French but requires English to run, then it won’t run.. and vice-versa. Some applications have translators/translations to allow them to run in different environments.

    This is not too far from the truth. Applications must follow the protocol established by the underlying support system (operating system) in order to leverage such support. Else it may not even run at all.

    The application can’t run by itself (like a business). It requires the help of lots of other components of society.. and it must speak the same language as its environment.

    Pick an explanation. Try them all.

    Then explain how, with Windows, Microsoft is judge, jury, and executioner. They make up all the rules, as they go, to maximize profits.

    Open source has open rules and procedures and anyone that doesn’t like it can clone that society and modify to suit (assuming they develop the skills or collaborate with enough others that do have the skills). For example, you can clone the society, then fire the judge you don’t like and hire another one that you think is more fair (or even more biased). Copy/paste and replace is allowed by the open licenses but not by Microsoft. Each person can control their own society (their own computer).

    So which society do you want to support?

    Internet Explorer only runs in Microsoft’s land. Firefox and others run in both lands. They speak both languages, but their future is clearly in open land, despite each having started off in Windows land.

    I think people care or will care at some point. Give them a custom livecd distro and show them how to modify it further. I think they will get the idea that free and open yields a better more efficient society (less exploitable by tyrants, for example).

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> People don’t need to demand free software.

    Free software, as is suggested by your first paragraph, is not being marketed well to most people.

    BTW, I am a part of “people”, and I absolutely do essentially demand free and open source software. Anything less is almost unacceptable to me in most cases. I don’t trust closed source software; thus, I avoid vendors and or services with whom I can’t interact while using Linux.

    >> No one is actively keeping it from them.

    Microsoft actively works to impede open source and other threats to their monopolies and revenue streams. They leverage their network of partners and other levers for this purpose. They are the dominant platform, and they create incompatibilities and make decisions that make it more difficult than necessary to run open source alternatives. They leverage their large market share to pressure partners. They also leverage a broken and almost surely illegal software patent system. In short, Microsoft is a crime machine working to protect their monopolies and revenue streams. Clearly at least they are actively working to keep Linux+FOSS from gaining traction.

    >> You don’t get to make that choice for them.

    In light of your prior inaccurate comment about no one actively working to keep FOSS away from people, I can’t understand this comment.

    Are you really saying that no one is working to keep FOSS from people BUT someone is working to keep Windows from people?

    Have you realized that open source software developers share the entire set of instructions and workings of the software they create while closed source vendors do the opposite: take serious steps to hide these details?

    Are you aware of how much more power a large multinational monopolist has than a few bloggers or what have you?

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “Microsoft has a long history of breaking competitor’s software on Windows…”
    Yes, but for browsers? Not that I know of.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Netscape, Firefox, Opera, everything. You seem not to have followed this closely. I can give you examples for each.

    your_friend Reply:

    Is there a practical difference? I’m old enough to remember them resetting “preferences” to push Netscape aside but I was unaware of their other activities until I read the emails for myself. No one should trust Windows for any kind of program performance because Microsoft has show they are willing to break competing software and then blame the competitor. This is a general principal that applies to all non free software and why the public must demand software freedom to have real choices. Free software does not have those kinds of malicious features.

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> “Microsoft has a long history of breaking competitor’s software on Windows…”
    >> Yes, but for browsers? Not that I know of.

    That’s the problem with closed source. “You really don’t know nothing.”

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Microsoft has had hidden and preferential APIs.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, the FSF has already said that it’s a lost opportunity.

    your_friend Reply:

    It is a surprise that Microsoft would rub their fraud in regulator’s faces so soon. What better way to demonstrate the malicious nature of non free software than a rigged ballot?

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    The French authorities were looking into it at one point, IIRC.

  2. NotZed said,

    February 21, 2010 at 6:54 pm


    How the regulator could let this pass as restitution is beyond me.

    As covered by lamlaw.com – Microsoft are STILL forcing EVERYONE who buys windows to buy a copy of IE.

    But the competing browsers have to give theirs away for free to be included in the ‘ballot’ screen (I presume? Or force users to pay separately).

    So MS still `wins’ even if nobody actually uses IE once given a choice. And because they retain control over the OS, they can still force snot like silverlight down your throat if they want, and hence still control your view of the internet.

    your_friend Reply:

    Microsoft wins if everyone who buys a computer is forced to pay for a copy of Windows regardless of what OS they end up running. This is the crime that regulators should end.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    OEMs fear retaliation. That’s what they would get it they offered choice. Extortion is a crime.

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