The case for unbundling Internet Explorer

While I personally think focusing on enforcing standards alone would be the best solution in an ideal world, there is still a strong case for unbundling IE. …

Remember that there are two issues here: 1) Microsoft's dominant position, and 2) IE's poor standards compliance. Without Microsoft's dominant position, ignoring standards would be less of a problem. With proper standards support, Microsoft's dominance would be less of a problem. Dealing with both of these issues means that the situation is sure to improve.

Here's a list of reasons why there is a strong case for unbundling IE:

  1. Enforcement is clear-cut: Whether IE is bundled or not is a lot more clear-cut than what being "standards compliant" means. As such, it is easier to measure whether Microsoft is following up correctly (depending on the outcome of the complaint).
  2. Remove the possibility to impede competition: Unbundling IE would remove or impede the tool used by Microsoft to prevent competition in the market. To use an analogy: If someone keeps beating you with a stick even after you have repeatedly asked him to stop, is it not more efficient to remove the stick he is beating you with (or ask someone stronger than him to do so) if you want to keep him from doing it?
  3. Limit the damage: If IE had not been in a dominant position, its damage would have been far more limited if Microsoft still failed to live up to the promises of proper standards support.
  4. Encourage actual competition: If Microsoft had to compete on the same terms as everyone else, they would have to keep improving the product rather than putting the project to sleep for many years. In other words they could end up coming up with new innovations that would benefit everyone. As a response to Firefox, among other things, Microsoft released IE7 with the Quick Tabs feature, which I find to be rather cool. A company like Microsoft, with vast resources at its disposal, could have been an innovative and productive member of the community.
  5. Encourage good Web development practices: If Web developers could no longer code just for IE because it was no longer the default option in Windows, they would have no choice but to do it in a cross-browser manner.
  6. Better standards compliance for all browsers: Not having to worry about being compatible with IE anymore (a lot of time is spent on IE compatibility) would free up a lot of resources for browser vendors which could be spent on improving the support for actual open standards. This would benefit Web developers who could find themselves somewhat frustrated by the previous point, at least until all browsers reach a decent level of standards compliance.

Bonus point: Help the good forces at Microsoft: I know from talking to colleagues of mine that there are people in Microsoft who do care deeply about standards, and who work hard to promote them. I think unbundling IE would make their job much easier since there would be no incentive for the higher-ups to work against them.

Note that Opera doesn't want everyone to be browserless when they install Windows. That is not the goal of this complaint. The point is to give users an actual choice. It doesn't even have to be Opera 🙂 Any standards compliant browser will benefit both Opera and the market itself.


4 thoughts on “The case for unbundling Internet Explorer

  1. Note that Opera doesn't want everyone to be browserless when they install Windows.

    Well, that's what would happen if Opera's complaint is succesful! That's the definition of unbundling.Personally, I don't care, because I don't think I'll upgrade to Windows 2010 anyway. (Why 2010? It's gonna take years to resolve this and certainly won't be retroactive.)

  2. There are various possible solutions to prevent the user from being stuck without a browser, but that's not really what I wanted to talk about in this blog post.

  3. Luchio: why not go the linux way, where you can tick on — in the installation process — the software you actually want to have? this way you have the choice and you will not end up without a browser.

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