A recent article published on the website of the Wall Street Journal suggests (paywall) that EU officials are considering forcing Microsoft to include a bunch of web browsers in the Windows operating system to dilute the advantage that Internet Explorer has over the competition.
This could lead to Microsoft having to add third-party web browsers to the installation of the operating system, or to offer users choices during installation to download and install third-party web browsers.
This poses some interesting questions: who decides which web browsers to include in the offer?
The list should probably include the most popular third-party browsers compatible with the operating system (which are Firefox, Google Browser, Safari and Opera at the time of writing).
But what about other niche browsers? What if the makers of Lynx, Arachne or Sleipnir want their web browsers included as well?
This opens Pandora's Box and will confuse the average Joe more than anything else. Many regular Windows users do not even know which version of the operating system they are running. How are they supposed to make a decision between 5, 10 or 20 of different web browsers that are displayed to them as choices when they run the setup, or load the system for the first time after unpacking it.
How would the EU suggest to keep web browsers up to date? They would lock out users without Internet connection if they would make the decision to download the web browser during installation.
If web browsers come bundled, these may need an update immediately after installation. Not all web browsers perform automatic update installations though and it is unclear how this would be handled.
Experienced users on the other hand will not benefit from this proposal as well. One of the first tasks of many after installing Windows on a computer is to download a different web browser to avoid having to use Internet Explorer.
If the EU forces Microsoft into doing this they should also force the developers of other operating systems to do the same. Force Apple to include Internet Explorer as an alternative, force Linux distributions to display other web browsers as an option.
But there is another thing that needs to be discussed. Why stop with web browsers? What about developers of calculators, media players, task managers or text editors? Should not they have the same right of inclusion if web browser companies get it?
It is without doubt true that Microsoft did use the power of their operating system to distribute Internet Explorer. Today, a new web browser is only a few clicks away and the success of the Firefox web browser shows that it is possible to be successful even without being distributed with an operating system.
I personally think something should have been done back in the last century when Microsoft began distributing Internet Explorer with Windows. What's your take on the issue?
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