Feeds

Opera alerts EU to hidden Windows browser-ballot

IE wizard obscures choice?

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Just when it seemed like Microsoft's European anti-trust tangle on browser choice in Windows was over, trouble is stirring again.

Opera Software has told The Reg that it has informed the European Union of a possible problem with a fix that was designed to make Internet Explorer in Windows comply with EU antitrust law. Opera has also informed Microsoft.

Opera said the browser-ballot screen Microsoft introduced to Windows so users could pick a browser rather than take Internet Explorer by default is being almost completely hidden by a set of 10 IE configuration screens. Opera illustrated the problem at The Reg's San-Francisco, California, offices with a set of screen shots taken from a Thinkpad X31 running Windows XP SP2.

The fear is that PC users will click through these screens and won't bother to then pick one of the five browsers on offer on the browser ballot screen. The ballot offers Chrome, Firefox, Opera, IE, and Safari.

In a statement, Microsoft said that Opera's example only applied to a user "very likely" to be opening IE for the first time, which was "unrealistic" in the case of a user already running Windows on their PC.

A spokesperson told The Reg: "This scenario is very easy to reproduce in a test lab, but would occur only in unusual cases in the real world. For it to occur with the Browser Choice screen, the user would need to have IE set as their default browser and have never configured it for use. Opera’s example, where a Windows XP user has rejected installation of IE 8 for the year it has been available but suddenly decides to install it is not realistic.”

The ballot screen was introduced after a settlement between Microsoft and the EU last year, to close the Commission's investigation of Windows and IE.

The Windows browser ballot screen obscured

Spot the browser-ballot screen: one of 10 IE set-up Windows to click through

Hakon Wium Lie, Opera's chief technology officer, said Opera hasn't decided whether to make a formal complaint to the EU, which would re-initiate the investigative machinery. It was Opera's 2007 complaint over browser access in Windows that sparked the investigation and produced the settlement.

The Commission has the power to fine Microsoft for not complying with antitrust law. Microsoft was fined $1.39bn (899m euro) in 2008 for not meeting the terms of an earlier antitrust ruling in a separate case in 2004.

According to Lie, the ballot screen is now being hidden by the IE configuration wizard when you download IE and the ballot screen in the same update from Microsoft's Windows Update service.

The browser choice screen is offered by Microsoft as an automatic download for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, to reach PCs already running the operating system rather than new copies of Windows 7 that will be installed fresh.

Lie said the problem could be that the browser ballot screen runs in IE, so IE must therefore be configured when it's been downloaded and set up for the first time.

Lie said: "When you've been through the 10 screens of IE settings, you are limited with what you can be bothered doing next."

This is not the first challenge to the browser-ballot screen. Opera, Google, and Mozilla last year challenged the screen before settlement was signed, saying the ordering of the browser logos alphabetically would give priority to IE, while the IE logo itself would be too familiar and distort the choice. Last month, Microsoft updated the ballot-screen's algorithms following further criticism that screen was favoring the placement of Google's Chrome and IE.

Lie noted Opera has better things to do with its time than chase Microsoft, but: "I'm a little stubborn on this, I want this thing to work." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Microsoft: Your Linux Docker containers are now OURS to command
New tool lets admins wrangle Linux apps from Windows
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
First in line to order a Nexus 6? AT&T has a BRICK for you
Black Screen of Death plagues early Google-mobe batch
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?