EU’s new tech laws are working; small mobile browsers gain market share

Independent browser companies in the European Union are seeing a spike in users in the first month after EU legislation forced Alphabet’s Google, Microsoft and Apple to make it easier for users to switch to rivals, according to data provided to Reuters by six companies.

The early results come after the EU’s sweeping Digital Markets Act, which aims to remove unfair competition, took effect on March 7, forcing big tech companies to offer mobile users the ability to select from a list of available web browsers from a “choice screen.”

↫ Supantha Mukherjee and Foo Yun Chee

I can’t believe this is even remotely surprising. A lot of especially Apple fans and people from outside of the European Union complained left, right, and centre about the choice screen and how it was ugly, unnecessary, and would just confuse users. These are interesting claims, considering the fact that setting up a modern smartphone such as the iPhone takes the user through 40-50 setup screens chockful of confusing choices to make, so adding one more surely wouldn’t make a difference.

Of course giving users the option to choose a different default browser would lead to an increase in browsers other than Safari (iOS) or Chrome (Android) being set as the default. I’m pretty sure quite a few users learned, through the choice screen, for the first time, that there even are different browsers to choose from, and that some of those might offer features and benefits they didn’t even know they could enjoy. That’s the whole point of this endeavour: informing users that they have a choice, something Apple, Google, and others would rather you either do not have, or at least not know about.

It’s far too early to tell if these spikes are a one-off thing, or if the rise in browsers other than Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android is more structural. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the latter, and even if the numbers remain in the single digits or low double digits, it will still lead to an increase in competition, and a more vibrant mobile browser market.

Good news, regardless.


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