Mozilla challenges Microsoft, Google and Apple over browsers • The Register

Firefox maker Mozilla has targeted Microsoft, Google and Apple for using their operating systems to guide users to their browsers and is stacking the deck with competitors that don’t have the same OS advantages. Like Mozilla for example.

The dominance of these few large companies in such an important technology market – Mozilla calls browsers and browser engines the heart of the web – has a monopolistic ripple effect that results in limited choice for users, a drop in innovation, a lack of openness, and poor quality insecure code being forced on us, a Firefox developer concluded in recent report.

In Five Walled Gardens: Why Browsers Are Essential to the Web and How Operating Systems Are Holding Them Back, Mozilla researchers wrote that they wanted to know how web users interact with browsers and how OS vendors are stifling competition and stifling innovation.

Suffice it to say that Firefox, once considered cool and popular, is no longer the favorite of the month. It holds about seven percent of the market share on desktop compared to Chrome’s 67 percent, according to StatCounter, and it barely registers on mobile. So, you can see why the Firefox builder is a bit frustrated. But who or what is to blame for this decline in interest?

Moz’s position is that while there are alternatives such as open source Firefox for the three big browsers – Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari and Google Chrome – it is difficult or too much effort for users to migrate from them, especially given how Microsoft, Apple and Google are designing their operating systems – Windows, macOS, iOS and Android primarily – to keep people locked up. This reduces interest in competing browsers that use limited effort and development effort and never get off the ground. challenge the status quo.

What’s more, Google, Apple, and Mozilla are the only major browser engine manufacturers left, which is another indicator that users don’t have much choice. Apple is pushing its WebKit engine behind Safari to Mac and iOS users; Mozilla has its own Gecko engine in Firefox; and Google has managed to bring its Chromium Blink engine not only to Chrome for PC and Android, but also to Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, Opera and other platforms across platforms.

As Apple focused on its own ecosystem, only Gecko and Blink remained on many platforms. This, according to Mozilla, is not good for web developers and web users. A dominant engine is well placed to dictate future web standards.

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“The study we’re publishing with this report paints a complex picture with many paradoxes: people say they know how to change their browser, but many never do,” the Mozilla team wrote. “Many people feel they can choose their browser, but they prefer software that comes pre-installed, configured by default, and hard to change.”

Tech giants design their software to influence people’s choices, and OS makers use these methods to incentivize the use of their own browsers, crushing any rivals in the way, according to Mozilla.

“Competition in browsers and browser engines is essential to advance innovation, performance, speed, privacy, and security,” says the Moz team. “Effective competition requires a few stakeholders to stand up to the power of a small number of giants and not let them dictate the future of the Internet for all of us.”

On top of all this, Meta has its own Chrome-based Oculus browser with its VR headsets, and Amazon uses the Chromium Blink engine in the browser included in its devices.

old problem

Mozilla’s complaint reminds us, and probably you too, of the outrage in the 1990s that Microsoft used its Windows operating system to force its Internet Explorer browser on everyone, destroying Netscape and supplanting every other competing browser in its path. Tech giants using their operating systems to force web browsers on users is something that comes up again and again.

More recently, the UK Competition and Market Authority said in June that it was looking into the market dominance of Apple and Google in the world of browsers and games. That same month, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov accused Apple of choking web developers by shoving Safari down users’ throats.

Mozilla said that Microsoft, Apple, and Google are abusing their market power by bundling their browsers with their operating systems (again, Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android) and setting them as default, making it tedious for users to get rid of software. . and choose an alternative if the specified users even know that there is an alternative.

In some cases, you can’t even remove the built-in browser. It wasn’t until 2020 that Apple added settings to switch from Safari to another default browser in iOS, and even then you can’t remove Apple’s suggestion.

Another annoying thing some OS vendors do is find any excuse to override the user’s browser choice and point people’s settings back to the giants’ own browsers. This configuration grab is “even more egregious than a ban on competing software,” according to Moz researchers.

“This has been the case on Microsoft Windows computers for a number of years; consumers faced increasingly aggressive methods, some of which aimed to reverse their decisions to use third-party software, such as deselecting their default browser and reverting to Edge,” they wrote.

In addition, according to Mozilla, operating system developers can rely on manufacturers of computers, phones, and other devices to ensure that this hardware not only ships with their OS and browser, but also that competing browsers are not included—some are even picky about competing browsers. excluded from app stores. For example, Google is forcing Android smartphone makers to bundle Google’s software suite, including Chrome, and competing browsers are coldly received.

This is important given the widespread use of both PC and mobile browsers, according to the report. The researchers found that 82 percent of US residents and 84 percent of UK residents surveyed use their smartphone browser at least once a day, and between 54 and 88 percent use it many times a day.

“The browser is the link between our professional and personal lives and the larger world, as more and more aspects of it become digital-first,” Firefox creator wrote.

You might think it’s just Mozilla crying and saddening that Firefox is out of fashion. For example, no one is forcing you to install or run Chrome on a non-ChromeOS desktop, so we should certainly do so of our own free will.

But Mozilla’s conclusion sounds somewhat convincing:

So what should be done? Mozilla said it is working on offering some solutions. He hopes to publish suggestions in the next few months on how software can be developed to encourage choice. That is, we believe to promote Firefox. He also suggested this little side quest for politicians and watchdogs…

“Regulators, policy makers and legislators in many jurisdictions can seize this moment to create a new era in the history of the Internet in which consumers and developers will benefit from genuine choice, competition and innovation.”

Given that Netscape’s features are inherited from Firefox, we’re guessing we have a Netscape vs. Microsoft reboot to potentially look forward to again. ®

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