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February 10, 2009

Mozilla joins EU case against Microsoft’s Internet Explorer

Posted by David Hunter at 6:36 PM ET.

Dawn Kawamoto at CNET reports that a source says that Mozilla has moved to formally join the European Union case against Internet Explorer that was revealed in January.

Mozilla has been granted a seat at the table in the European Commission’s antitrust case against Microsoft, an EC source said Tuesday.

Mozilla requested and was granted "third-party status," which entitles the organization behind the popular Firefox browser to receive access to confidential documents in the case and the ability to voice objections, the source said.

Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker voices the corporate discontent even if she is a trifle fuzzy on what should be done about it:

Last month the European Commission stated its preliminary conclusion that “Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.”

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the statement above is correct. Not the single smallest iota of doubt. I’ve been involved in building and shipping web browsers continuously since before Microsoft started developing IE, and the damage Microsoft has done to competition, innovation, and the pace of the web development itself is both glaring and ongoing. There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be. But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact. Microsoft’s business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet.

Swell (and I am no fan of Internet Explorer or the Web sites whose functionality is reduced for visitors using any other browser), but that is all water under the bridge at this point. The important question is what can or should be done about it now. The obvious answer seems to be that if the European Commission’s premise is accepted, then Microsoft should be required to ship other browsers with each copy of Windows, but I wonder if Baker’s coyness about remedies is actually part of an attempt to reopen the overall antitrust case against Windows.

Filed under Antitrust, Coopetition, General Business, Governmental Relations, Internet Explorer, Legal, Microsoft, Mozilla Foundation

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September 2, 2008

Google unveils Chrome open source Web browser

Posted by David Hunter at 10:51 AM ET.

Google Chrome logo After an inadvertent unveiling yesterday, Google today will officially launch a beta of an open source Web browser called Chrome in 100 countries for Windows users only. There’s a comic book explaining the technical aspects, but the net is that Chrome is designed to be a more reliable foundation for Web browsing and running serious applications than today’s Web browsers:

On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff — the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today’s complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated "sandbox", we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.

I certainly sympathize with the reliability and speed objectives, but have to observe that a good deal of useful Internet Explorer and Firefox functionality is provided by add-ons (both commercial and free) and there will be a dearth of them initially for Chrome. (I am assuming they are permitted.) Still, Chrome seems to be a long term Google project so plug-in availability will surely evolve with time.

The bigger question, of course, is how Chrome will affect Internet Explorer and Firefox. For the former, the competition will undoubtedly spur Microsoft to greater efforts than their sometimes desultory development of IE, since they will rightly view Chrome as yet another attempt by Google to move applications from the Windows client to the Web.

As for Firefox, the folks at Mozilla are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the obvious competitive threat while proceeding with their normally aggressive development schedule. That surely is the right approach for them since Google is famous for launching numerous ships, many of which gain little headway. Presumably Mozilla’s lucrative advertising deal with Google is still good, but adoption numbers may drop now that Google has a new favorite browser.

Update: A pertinent observation on Chrome from Nicholas Carr:

Although I’m sure Google would be thrilled if Chrome grabbed a sizable chunk of market share, winning a "browser war" is not its real goal. Its real goal, embedded in Chrome’s open-source code, is to upgrade the capabilities of all browsers so that they can better support (and eventually disappear behind) the applications. The browser may be the medium, but the applications are the message.

Update: Google Chrome is now available for download.

Filed under Coopetition, Firefox, Google, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Foundation, Open Source

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October 25, 2006

The battle is joined: Firefox 2.0 released

Posted by David Hunter at 9:57 AM ET.

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 just a week ago and yesterday Mozilla fired back with the release of Firefox 2.0:

Mozilla officially released Firefox 2 on Tuesday afternoon, adding security features and a new interface.

Firefox 2 was made available for free download at 2:15 p.m. PDT. Mozilla has set up two download sites for the update, which it said it has optimized for the expected high volume of traffic, at and

The revamped Firefox includes a new interface theme and more security protection such as built-in phishing protection. It also has session memory, which, when the browser is re-opened, brings back the set of Web pages that were in use when it was last closed. Changes have also been made in the technology to import RSS feeds, which now offers a feed list view with title and first lines. (Click here for the CNET Review.)

The camp in favor of having a “close” button on each tab has won over the majority who argued against them, Beltzner said. Previously, there was one “close” button at the right of the bar. Clicking on this closed only the one last viewed–but it could be difficult to work out which one this was.

“Google did usability studies with eye-tracking tools and determined that people actually look to the tab first, and it would take longer to determine if they had the right tab and were ready to close it,” Beltzner said. “NASA Ames recently did cognitive modeling for us on tabs. Not only was the ‘close’ button on a tab quicker, but people would be more accurate. They also gave us good data on how wide tabs had to be before people clicked on the wrong one.”

I guess it helps to have friends in high places. The CNET review linked in the quote concludes that Firefox 2 beats IE7 as does the PC World review, while Paul Thurrott dyspeptically calls Firefox 2.0 a “dud.”

Practically, Internet Explorer got back in the browser game with a radically updated IE7 while the changes in Firefox 2.0 were more modest, but neither is going to knock the other out and webmasters will get to deal with users of each for the foreseeable future. Here at, I’m already getting 12% Firefox 2 users and 26% IE7 users.

Filed under Coopetition, Firefox, Google, IE7, Internet Explorer, Microsoft, Mozilla Foundation, Open Source

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August 22, 2006

Vista buzz roundup – August 22, 2006

Posted by David Hunter at 12:40 PM ET.

Joe Wilcox discusses Windows Vista’s Speed Bumps:

About 18 months ago, I suggested that Microsoft’s security challenge with Windows Vista would be “trying to make the operating system more secure without taking too much away from partners and customers.”

Unfortunately, after many months of using Windows Vista, I conclude that Microsoft has placed a thick security facade around the operating system that impedes usability compared to Windows XP. The comparison to XP is important. Microsoft must emphasize user benefits to show potential customers that the current operating system isn’t good enough compared to Windows Vista. If the experience isn’t better–as in much better–customers will be less likely to rush out and buy off-the-shelf upgrades or new Windows Vista PCs. Neither situation would be good for Microsoft partners.

For example, I am rather stunned by the enormous number of security popups introduced in Windows Vista, either by the operating system’s “User Accounts Control” or Internet Explorer 7. Because Windows Vista has been in beta and the number of popups has reduced with each new test version, I decided to stay quiet and watch–to cut Microsoft some slack because of the amount of undeserved crap the company gets. But, if news reports are to be believed, with Release Candidate 1 imminent and the number of popups still numerous, I decided to voice my concerns now. Microsoft partners should carefully what Microsoft’s approach to Windows Vista security might mean for them.

Much more by following the link. I never thought that upgrades of existing XP systems were going to be that numerous and I still expect the overwhelming majority of new PCs to ship with Vista, but this rather makes you wonder whether Microsoft is in for some really bad PR.

Still, hopes for RC1 are high and Paul Thurrott says it is planned for early September despite some problems:

… behind the scenes, the company has had to come up with a new plan for the Release Candidate 1 (RC1) version of the product after plans to use build 5520 for RC1 fell through.

There’s been lots of press buzz over Microsoft offering to help the Firefox developers ensure that it runs on Vista, but my experience in recent years as the representative of a major ISV has been that for any new Windows OS, or even a major service pack, Microsoft is all over developers of popular 3rd party applications to ensure there are no compatibility glitches. Firefox certainly qualifies for that kind of support. In fact, Microsoft proactively tests a number of 3rd party applications themselves and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had tested Firefox. Some of the information and tools that Microsoft makes available for ISVs are listed here.

How Vista screws dual-booting nirvana. Vista continues the Windows tradition of overwriting the Master Boot Record. (Via Neowin)

Filed under Beta and CTP, Coopetition, Firefox, Microsoft, Mozilla Foundation, OS - Client, Open Source, Windows Vista

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