Is A Ballot Screen For Choosing Your Browser Really Fair?

Internet Explorer is the incumbent browser, making the EUC's browser ballot screen more like a 2nd term re-election.

Microsoft's proposing to use something called a "ballot screen" that would require users chose which browser they would like to use. It's something akin to the default search engine chooser you're presented with the first time IE8 starts up. Great, one more install question we'll get to answer. But is it really fair that IE 8 will come, installed and ready to go with the OS, when other browsers must be downloaded and installed separately. It really makes the process less like a ballot and more like an opt out process from IE8. IE8's there and you can opt out if you want to use an alternate browser. It's not really a ballot, but more like a re-election. (See this related blog post about web browsers.)

But is a browser ballot really all that helpful? Does it really solve the anti-competitive issues the EUC is pushing back on Microsoft about? Anyone who's going to use Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Opera, already knows how to easily find the needed download link. If they don't, just Google (or Bing) it.

If the EUC really wants to make choosing your browser happen on a fair playing field, then IE8 shouldn't come installed with Windows 7 at all. It should have to be downloaded just like all the other browsers. That would really show us which browsers are preferred by users because they would have to choose, and not use IE8 just because it's already there or because they don't want to go through the hassles of downloading and installing an alternate browser.

That's not necessarily the best usability option, requiring users to download such an important piece of software when using a computer. It means users wouldn't have access to other Microsoft features and apps, like Windows Live, SkyDrive, Live Essentials or other web based apps until they download a browser.

Do I really want to have to download IE8 when I install Windows on a computer or when I buy a new computer? No, not really. I already have to go and download Firefox and I still need Internet Explorer to access many Microsoft sites. The whole browser thing is rather silly actually. I'm much prefer Microsoft focus on making the best, fastest, and most web compliant browser on the market so we wouldn't have to worry about all of this silliness.

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