Mozilla criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for using their operating systems to force users away from other browsers
Mozilla has criticizes Google, Apple and Microsoft for pushing the default browser in their operating systems aggressively. It has published a report that highlights the anticompetitive practices of the tech giants that forces users away from other browsers.
The report, titled Five Walled Gardens, analyzes the problems caused by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Meta (Facebook). Mozilla conducted a survey to find out how users around the world use browsers, and it wasn't impressed with the results. Over 6000 participants from Australia, U.S., U.K., France, India and Kenya took the survey, they were asked about their experience with using web browsers, changing the default browser, etc.
Image Credit: Mozilla
Operating systems push their default browsers aggressively
The report highlights the fact that there are just 3 browser engines used across different platforms, Apple Safari (WebKit engine), Google Chromium (Blink), and Mozilla Firefox (Gecko). This results in a lack of diversity of browser engines, which in turn offers users limited choices to select their preferred app. The research paper claims that there is practically no option on mobile devices.
Mozilla says that modern operating systems are designed against interoperability, and bundle various apps for messaging, email, maps, voice assistants, etc (Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, etc), and that such apps pose a risk to the user's privacy. The report goes on to underline the fact that it is not easy to remove a browser as the default option, or to delete the app completely.
It also took a dig at Apple for not allowing other browser engines on iOS and iPadOS, restricting app developers to the WebKit engine, stating that Apple's browser is limited to iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, and without Firefox's engine, Google's Chromium project would be the only browser engine available across platforms.
Search engines in operating systems
Mozilla criticized how Windows 11's Search bypasses the default browser preference, to open links and search results in Microsoft Edge, its aggressive attempts to promote its browser via Bing Search, and overriding the default browser setting to force users to use Edge. iOS uses Safari to perform a web search when you use the lookup feature. Android isn't any different, thanks to the Google widget on the home screen, which routes the search via the Chrome app.
Less than half of the survey respondents in some regions knew how to change the default browser on their desktop computer or mobile phone. The number of people who actually changed their browser was even lower, at around 10% to 20%. Mozilla says that this could be because of the numerous steps involved in the process, i.e, using the App Store or Play Store, searching for a browser, downloading and setting it as the default browser via the Settings.
Image credit: StatCounter
All these numbers add up, says Mozilla, adding that Apple Safari has an 27% share in the iOS browser market, while 65% of people who have Android phones use Chrome. StatCounter's latest chart (August 2022) shows that Firefox has a measly 3.16% user base across platforms (desktop and mobile), only higher than Opera which was at 2.2%, while Edge was slightly higher with a 4.3% user base. The chart toppers were Chrome and Safari at 65.52% and 18.78% respectively. I'd suspect these numbers will change drastically after Google drops support for Manifest V2 extensions, effectively killing ad blockers, which will create a domino effect and drive users towards Firefox, Brave and Vivaldi.
Would this be any different if operating systems like Android and iOS didn't have Chrome and Safari as the default browsers? That's what Mozilla is trying to say with its report, that it is an unfair practice that harms other browser makers and the users. You can download the report from Mozilla's website, it's a bit of a long read, but provides some valuable insight about the issues discussed in this article.
The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is investigating Google and Apple in an antitrust case related to the duopoly of their browsers. Similarly, EU's upcoming Digital Markets Act will prevent big tech companies from unfair gatekeeping practices.
As much as I'd like to see it happen, I don't think that Apple, Microsoft and Google will ever ask the user what browser they want to use. What do you think?Advertisement