By Gregg Keizer
October 15, 2009
After fighting for users to get a choice of browsers in the EU edition of Windows 7, Mozilla is upset that rival Apple gets the top slot.
Mozilla again slammed the browser "ballot screen" proposal that Microsoft's made to European antitrust regulators, saying that the voting will be skewed Apple's way because its Safari browser will be the first choice on the list.
In a long blog post yesterday , Jenny Boriss, a Firefox user experience designer, argued that Microsoft's ballot screen, which has been given preliminary approval by the European Commission, is unfair.
Microsoft has proposed listing five browsers on the first screen of the ballot, including its own Internet Explorer (IE), Apple's Safari, Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and Opera Software's Opera. Although Microsoft first suggested that the browsers be ranked in order of market share from left to right, the commission objected, since its antitrust action was triggered by complaints that Microsoft stifled competition by bundling IE with Windows.
Instead, the ballot will list the browsers in alphabetical order, ranked by the name of the browser maker. That gives Apple the first spot, followed by Google, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera.
"This ordering is about the worst option possible," said Boriss. "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 was especially hard on Apple. "The disproportionate advantage to Safari is what really makes this design poor," she said, citing several studies that claim first position in a ballot gives an advantage, in part because Western voters scan from upper left to lower right when they read.
The problem with putting Apple first, continued Boriss, is that Safari on Windows is a mess. "Safari has the smallest market share of the five other browsers," she said. "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."
According to Web metrics vendor Net Applications, Safari on Windows accounted for about 0.3 percent of all browsers used in September. IE, Firefox and Chrome, meanwhile, owned 65.7 percent, 23.8 percent and 3.2 percent, of the market share respectively. Net Applications, however, does not split out Firefox on Windows, but lumps together all Firefox users, whether they're running the browser on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.
IE runs exclusively on Windows, and Chrome's only production version is for Windows, although some users are running the Mac and Linux developer builds of Google's browser.