Following the EU investigation into Internet Explorer’s inclusion in Windows, Microsoft made it possible to “turn off” Internet Explorer 8 in Windows 7, by removing the executable and every mention of the browser from the system. According to Opera and Google, this is nice, but not enough.
In an interview with BetaNews earlier this week, Opera CEO Jon S. von Tetzchner said that while he thought this was a good first step by Microsoft, it’s clearly not enough. He wants a little window to pop up during setup, where users decide which browser they want to have installed. “I think clearly, it is a question of giving users choice, and how you list that,” Tetzchner explains, “it should be as transparent and easy as possible for the end users to have a choice, so that different browsers have equal visibility.”
What the interview doesn’t discuss is the implementation of such a choice window. As far as I can tell, there are two big problems with offering users a choice of browser during setup. The first problem is relatively simple: how many people actually install Windows themselves? And those that do, aren’t those more advanced users anyway? Most computers are bought through OEMs, and those machines are ready to go. Should the EU force every OEM to include a little pop-up window upon first boot where users can make a choice?
The second problem has to do with, well, choice: what browsers are we going to include? I’m sure Mr Von Tetzchner would be happy to see Opera included, and it makes sense to include Chrome, Safari, and Firefox – but doesn’t that just diverge the problem? That would give those five browsers an unfair advantage over all the other browsers that are out there, as well as any possible newcomers. What is being argued here by several browser makers is that it’s OK to have an unfair advantage – but only if they themselves have it.
The Google people take it even one step further, and are well on their way to Wtfland. I’m not entirely sure if I actually got that quote right (I can barely believe it) but the way BetaNews wrote it down it makes it seem as if Google wants that same browser choice dialog to pop up every time the user boots. I think what Google actually means is that the choice dialog should simply be accessible at all times.
In any case, we’re bordering on a very slippery slope here. Sure, it’s nice to have a browser choice dialog pop up every time you install Windows, but it also creates unfair competition by providing leverage to those browsers included in the dialog. Add to that the issue with pre-installed OEM machines and I’m not convinced that it would actually make any sense at all.