Windows 10 ignites new browser war with Mozilla

Microsoft’s new OS constricts browser choice, Mozilla CEO argues, as Firefox market share keeps dropping

Windows 10 ignites new browser war with Mozilla
Horia Varlan/Flickr

Mozilla is upset with Microsoft over browser settings in the newly released Windows 10, though the protests appear self-serving.

In an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella posted on The Mozilla Blog last week, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard laments that Microsoft is limiting choice of Internet experience in Windows 10. "I am writing to you about a very disturbing aspect of Windows 10," Beard said. "Specifically, that the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have."

Windows 10, he said, "strips users of their choice by effectively overriding existing user preferences for the Web browser and other apps," prompting Mozilla to discuss the issue with Microsoft. But those discussions did not result in any meaningful progress, he said. In a related blog post, Beard argues that after almost 15 years of progress, bolstered by government intervention, Windows 10 all but removes user choice.

Mozilla, of course, makes the Firefox browser, which has been bleeding market share lately. Market share for Firefox on the desktop, which had more been more than 24 percent in 2010, stood at 12.06 percent in June, according to Net Market Share, which provides market share statistics for Internet technologies. Google's Chrome browser, meanwhile, has seen its share grow from 7.5 percent in 2010 to 27.23 percent in June. Firefox's tablet and mobile market share, meanwhile, now stands at barely measurable 0.66 percent. Net Market Share collects data from browsers of site visitors to more than 40,000 websites.

Any Microsoft action that could impede use of Firefox serves to make a bad situation worse, so it's not surprising Mozilla would be so upset with what it perceives as a roadblock to use of Firefox in Windows 10.

In a prepared statement responding to Mozilla, Microsoft said users still have their choice of browser. "We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade," Microsoft said. "During the upgrade, consumers have the choice to set defaults, including for Web browsing. Following the upgrade, they can easily choose the default browser of their choice. As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so."

Beard acknowledges it was still technically possible to preserve settings and defaults, but he argues that the upgrade experience and default settings APIs have been changed to make this "less obvious and more difficult." He said the changes in Windows 10 are not unsettling because Mozilla makes Firefox, but because of "millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored." Anyone who makes a choice differing from Microsoft's preference faces Increased complexity, Beard said.

Windows 10 introduces the Edge browser, but Internet Explorer is still in the OS.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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