Months ago, European lawmakers deemed that Microsoft was abusing its monopoly position (and engaging in other murky shenanigans) to push its Internet Explorer browser onto the public. Microsoft proposed a compromise. And this morning the E.U. has approved the bargain.
Given the aggressive stance the E.U. has taken on other antitrust matters, Microsoft was probably right to worry about the situation and look for a diplomatic solution. Its response was surprisingly swift, and pretty imaginative: In order to prevent an automatic choice of Internet Explorer (not the best browser, by almost everyone’s estimation) onto the public, Windows users in Europe would be offered a “browser ballot.” The pop-up will offer download links to Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, and up to 11 others (including IE), with the intention of drawing user attention to the other options. We did worry about certain design issues the ballot might have, but Microsoft was confident that the balloting process would be fair.
After ironing out a few issues, the tactic worked. Today the E.U.’s competition commissioner Neelie Kroes noted that “Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which Web browser they use.” And with a flash, the antitrust case is history.
Immediately, Google’s public policy blog responded with a statement on the decision. Noting that the “game changing apps of the past few years–Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others–have all been built online” Google praised the “important decision designed to inject more competition into the crucial market for Internet browsers.” Google’s browser, Chrome, is of course one of those that’s poised to benefit from the E.U.’s decision.