Mozilla joins Opera’s antitrust complaint against Microsoft

A few days ago, Mozilla's Mitchell Baker announced that Mozilla supports the EU antitrust investigation of Microsoft which is based on a complaint from Opera. The reason why couldn't be clearer. …

I’ve been involved in building and shipping web browsers continuously since before Microsoft started developing IE, and the damage Microsoft has done to competition, innovation, and the pace of the web development itself is both glaring and ongoing. There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be. But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact. Microsoft’s business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet.

While one can discuss how to solve this, there is no doubt that Microsoft has prevented competition, hampered innovation, and harmed the market.

Some have claimed that Firefox's growth shows that Microsoft did not break the law (or that it doesn't matter that they broke the law since they "clearly" aren't anymore), but Baker begs to differ:

Equally important, the success of Mozilla and Firefox does not indicate a healthy marketplace for competitive products. Mozilla is a non-profit organization; a worldwide movement of people who strive to build the Internet we want to live in. I am convinced that we could not have been, and will not be, successful except as a public benefit organization living outside the commercial motivations. And I certainly hope that neither the EU nor any other government expects to maintain a healthy Internet ecosystem based on non-profits stepping in to correct market deficiencies.

This is echoed by Mozilla's Asa Dotzler in a blog post:

When the only real competition comes from a not for profit open source organization that depends on volunteers for almost half of its work product and nearly all of its marketing and distribution, while more than half a dozen other "traditional" browser vendors with better than I.E. products have had near-zero success encroaching on Microsoft I.E.'s dominance, there's a demonstrable tilt to the playing field.

That tilt comes with the distribution channel – default status for the OS bundled Web browser.

In a followup post, Dotzler emphasizes this point:

That there's gobloads of money to be made and there are a dozen vendors or more trying to get a piece of that pie and they are all failing to take significant market share from Microsoft and Apple and while producing competitive and in many cases superior products, is a clear demonstration of a commercial market that's out of balance.

A single anomaly outside the "normal" market ecosystem does not change Microsoft's past and current actions. Those who have been reading my blog for a while will know that even today, Microsoft continues to undermine and ruin open standards.

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14 thoughts on “Mozilla joins Opera’s antitrust complaint against Microsoft

  1. It's interesting that Mozilla's stance is so different from Firefox's:

    Firefox architect Mike Conner also said this of Opera, 'Opera's asserting something that's provably false. It's asserting that bundling leads to market share. I don't know how you can make the claim with a straight face.

  2. If Opera claims that not many knows about other choices, how in the world some novice will trust Firefox for example, when he had never saw its logo or heard about it?

  3. @NFGman: in the article, 1 paragraph up it says: "My personal view is that it's not the right outcome," he said. "The choice [when installing Windows] would be weird. There's no good UI [user interface] for that."Connor also attacked Opera's claims that bundling harms competition. Opera's asserting …"So he starts with 'My personal view', making it the opinion of "Mike Connor" not the one of firefox (or at least that what I think after reading the article(s))

  4. @NFGman: Mozilla is the company behind Firefox, and Mozilla s official position is as stated in the article above. Mike Conner is speaking for his own person, not for Mozilla.

  5. tomas said Mr. Conner was not speaking for Mozilla. I never said he was, but I did suggest he was speaking for Firefox. The article said several times that he was the 'Firefox architect', but while it did say that 'he wouldn't be in favour' and 'My personal view' it also had a headline 'Firefox exec: we don't want to be bundled with Windows' (emphasis mine).I cannot tell if it's a personal opinion or the official position, the article is not clear. Considering however that the post Haavard made on this page discusses two blogs (blogs, not Mozilla statements or press releases) I think it's fair game.

  6. The article is indeed not very clear about it, but I figured that since he said: 'My personal view…' it would have been his personal opinion.But after reading that title (maybe, I should have started with that. * blushes *) I think he was talking about the official position and then somewhere in the interview started about his personal opinion a couple of times. It doesn't really matter (to me) though, I only want to know what microsoft (and the EU) will do now…

  7. Mike Connor's comments were his own and his personal opinion. So were mine (the ones quoted from my blog). The title of that article was simply invented by the writer (or his editor.) and it is most certainly not a direct quote from Mike or anyone else at Mozilla.Mitchell Baker is the Chairman and she's got a lot of experience dealing with these issues (going all the way back to the mid-90s when she witnessed first-hand the illegal Microsoft tactics that took down Netscape.) Her words, personal opinion or not, carry a lot of weight and should be taken much more seriously than mine (or Mike's).It's nice to know that for at least one or two days a year, I'm not a bad guy 🙂

  8. Haavard: by that logic, no one can speak for Opera (the browser) either. ;)In any case, I was only pointing out the different messages, which I think are fascinating.Asa: You're not the enemy. I think we all know who is though. =)

  9. NFGman: Yes, you are actually correct. No one can speak for Opera the browser. However, Opera Software is a company, and has spokespeople.If I am not mistaken, Mozilla has at least 100 employees. It should be no surprise that there are many different opinions there, just like not everyone at Opera agrees on everything. Connor's statements were unfortunate, though.

  10. You are not mistaken, Haavard. We have over 100 employees. We're very near 200 employees though it'll be a long time before we catch up to you all (are you all 700 yet?)I agree that Connor's statement was unfortunate. I think though that he was answering questions that aren't even relevant. I sort of agree and don't think that OEM bundling would make a huge difference for any of the not-Microsoft browsers. I'm not particularly interested in a "must carry" outcome because the same advantage that MS gets from bundling wouldn't necessarily follow for others.This is where I think the big problem lies. Microsoft has done wrong. The obvious remedies probably can't right that wrong so we have to think really hard about what non-obvious remedies could right that wrong. As I said, I'm personally not a huge fan of any of the obvious "must carry" scenarios and I don't think they'll have much positive effect. So, what would work? That's a very difficult question to answer. I think the OEM channel may be broken beyond repair. There just are no positive incentives for it to move towards a better state. So, in my view, we need to be thinking really hard about alternative channels to the OEM bundling. – A

  11. I am still looking forward to the day that a website does not block a person just because they don't use IE. I would like to see the end of the browser blocking. This case against is only a step.

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