“This January, the European Commission (EC) announced it would investigate Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows. The EC thought that perhaps throwing an IE in with every copy of Windows was harming competition between web browsers and reducing consumer choice. And you can see their point: Internet Explorer makes up 67.7% of the European browser market, and Firefox comes in second at 25.3% (as of Q1 2009),” Jenny Boriss, Firefox User Experience Designer, blogs.
“As Mozilla is an interested party in the browser market in Europe, Mitchell Baker created a list of potential principles to be followed in the EC case, which Microsoft drew on heavily in their settlement proposal. The third principle she wrote was that Windows must enable people to choose other browsers,” Boriss writes.
“In response to this, Microsoft came up with an all-American proposal: a vote! Give users a ballot in XP, Vista, and Windows 7, and let them pick the browser they want from a list. Liking the cut of that gib, the EC gave Microsoft the go-ahead begin formal market testing of the ballot. On October 7, the EC announced a formal settlement proposal,” Boriss writes. “Awesome, right?”
Boriss writes, “Wrong.”
“The current design that Microsoft has proposed includes a whopping 10-17 browsers to choose from,” Boriss explains. “The five most popular (IE8, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome) would be grouped together on the first screen, and the rest would be visible if the user scrolls horizontally. At first, it was proposed that the browser be listed in order of market share (first IE, then Firefox, etc). However, since unfair market share is the reason the EC got hot and bothered in the first place, the current design puts the browsers in alphabetical order by name of the company that creates them. That means the first item is Apple Safari, then Google Chrome, etc.”
“This ordering is about the worst option possible, both for user choice and the web as a whole. Microsoft wrote in their proposal that ‘nothing in the design and implementation of the Ballot Screen and the presentation of competing web browsers will express a bias for a Microsoft web browser or any other web browser,’ but this is exactly what the current design does. Windows users presented with the current design will tend to make only two choices: IE because they are familiar with it, or Safari because it is the first item,” Boriss writes. “Users selecting the IE logo because it is the image they associate with using the internet isn’t too surprising. After all, many users do not know or care that other browser are available. But the disproportionate advantage to Safari is what really makes this design poor.”
Boriss writes, “By presenting Safari as the first item in a list, this ballot implies that it is the item recommended to most users… So what’s so bad about presenting Safari as the first, recommended item? Aside from being unfair to the other browsers, the problem is that past consumer choice has shown that Safari does not provide an ideal browsing experience on Windows… Safari has the smallest market share of the five other browsers at 2.6%. Frankly, Safari is a good browser for Apple computers, but Apple hasn’t put much effort to make it competitive on Windows. It’s just not their priority. So, by listing Safari first, the ballot is presenting as the recommended item the browser that is least likely to be the one the user wants. This leads to users having a bad experience using the web, and ultimately hurts the user and the market.”
Boriss continues whining like a widdle baby in her full rant here.
MacDailyNews Take: Jenny’s fear is palpable. Safari is the only web browser that provides an ideal browsing experience on Windows: Only Safari scores an Acid3 perfect score of 100/100 and passes both the pixel-perfect rendering and performance tests. Boriss should be working on getting Firefox up to par instead of trying to talk down a browser that kicks its whiny ass in standards compliance. We challenge Windows users to download Safari 4 for Windows, importing their bookmarks (favorites) and committing to trying it for one week. More info about and download link for Apple’s free Safari 4, the world’s fastest web browser, for Mac and Windows here.
All that said, we have no problem with randomizing the ballot screen (one of Boriss’ suggestions), but we do not agree with using market share weighting as most popular hardly ever equal best (exceptions being Coca-Cola, iPod, and iTunes, for three examples).
And Apple should get a large Apple logo on there immediately; no sense not leveraging the world’s most famous logo!