Mozilla Doesn't Like the Way Windows 7 Boosts Internet Explorer

by Ostatic Staff - May. 07, 2009

We've reported before on the declining market share that Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is experiencing as it competes with innovative open source browsers, particularly Firefox. That's been complemented by a very aggressive effort from the European Commission to force Microsoft to offer more choices in browsers on its Windows operating system. The biggest news of all on the Microsoft front at the moment is its upcoming Windows 7 operating system, slated to ship later this year. It's been getting good reviews, and is predicted by some to rejuvenate the company after the shaky ride that Windows Vista has had. Now, though, Mozilla chairperson Mitchell Baker is charging that Windows 7 gives Microsoft unfair advantages in the browser battles.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Baker said this:

"Our initial review suggests this is a blatant use of the Windows operating system to change the market dynamics of browser usage."

Officials from Opera have echoed that conclusion, and Baker has also officially joined the European Union's effort to police Microsoft's distribution practices with Windows and Internet Explorer. She has also written extensively on her blog about how deeply Microsoft's practices steer users toward its own browser.

The central problem here goes all the way back to the Department of Justice's case against Microsoft from the 1990s. When it mandated changes in Microsoft's business practices at that time, there wasn't enough specific language forcing Microsoft to offer other browsers right on the Windows desktop. That's a big part of the problem with Windows 7, along with other versions of Windows: When computer users unbox new systems they'll see Internet Explorer on the desktop, and many of them will just use it by default.

The problem goes beyond that, though. Mozilla's Baker has pointed out that Microsoft's widely used developer tools result in applications that steer people toward Internet Explorer:

"Microsoft has a history of using its tools to lock out other products. For example, Microsoft web development tools have often resulted in code that only works with IE."

With Windows on 90 percent of desktops, encouraging users to favor Internet Explorer, and with Microsoft's own development tools steering users in that direction as well, open source browsers such as Firefox and Google Chrome face an uphill battle. It's to their credit that both browsers are gaining market share while Internet Explorer declines, but Windows 7 is likely to give Internet Explorer a boost if it succeeds as many people are predicting. Let's hope that efforts from the EU, Baker and others result in some changes, and a more level playing field.