Why Aren't Mozilla and Opera Vocal About Microsoft's EU Settlement Offer?

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 09, 2009

This week, the European Commission announced its preliminary satisfaction with a settlement offer proposed by Microsoft that would end an antitrust battle that has been simmering for over 10 years. Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith posted a response that said: "We welcome today’s announcement by the European Commission to move forward with formal market testing of Microsoft’s proposal relating to web browser choice in Europe. We also welcome the opportunity to take the next step in the process regarding our proposal to promote interoperability with a broad range of our products.”

As Smith alludes to, a big part of the proposed settlement has to do with Microsoft including a browser ballot window in Internet Explorer that lists a broad array of browsers and allows users to choose which one to use. Opponents of that proposal, including Mozilla and Opera, have criticized the fact that the ballot screen is found within Internet Explorer, which is still bundled with Windows, and the fact that any alternative browser must be downloaded, which many users will be too lazy to do. So why are Mozilla and Opera being so reticent in the wake of the European announcement?

In 2007, a complaint filed by Opera Software helped fuel the European Commission's focus on Microsoft's bundling practices with the Internet Explorer browser within Windows, where Opera charged that Microsoft should be bound to offer more browser choice. Mozilla also weighed in on the issue, and officials at the company have said that they don't think Microsoft's proposed browser ballot screen goes far enough to encourage browser choice.

In the wake of this week's announcement from regulators in Europe, though, Mozilla head Mitchell Baker has a post up that doesn't really take a stance, and has a pronounced "we'll see" tone to it. "The ultimate effectiveness of this remedy depends in part on the implementation specifics and can only be determined over time," she writes.

For its part, Opera has at least taken a stance on the proposed settlement, but it isn't being hugely vocal about its objections. Reuters reports that Opera officials feel  the need for "modest changes" to the settlement offer. "The proposal announced today will not effectively remedy the abuse. But it can be made effective with modest changes," Opera's CTO has said in a statement.

I suspect that both Firefox and Opera will see market share gains if Microsoft's proposed browser ballot screen goes through. The proposal is better than nothing. Still, though, I would have expected Mozilla and Opera to be more vocal given how vocal they've been in the past about Microsoft's practices with Internet Explorer.