Friday, December 14th, 2007

Opera sues Microsoft of standards compliance

Category: Microsoft, Opera

<p>Ah, the courts. The latest case aimed at Microsoft is from Opera, as they urge Microsoft to give consumers a genuine choice of standards—compliant Web browsers:

The complaint describes how Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards. Opera has requested the Commission to take the necessary actions to compel Microsoft to give consumers a real choice and to support open Web standards in Internet Explorer.

“We are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them,” said Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera. “In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers, we are a champion of open Web standards and cross-platform innovation. We cannot rest until we’ve brought fair and equitable options to consumers worldwide.”

Opera requests the Commission to implement two remedies to Microsoft’s abusive actions. First, it requests the Commission to obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows and/or carry alternative browsers pre-installed on the desktop. Second, it asks the European Commission to require Microsoft to follow fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities. The complaint calls on Microsoft to adhere to its own public pronouncements to support these standards, instead of stifling them with its notorious “Embrace, Extend and Extinguish” strategy. Microsoft’s unilateral control over standards in some markets creates a de facto standard that is more costly to support, harder to maintain, and technologically inferior and that can even expose users to security risks.

Mary Jo Foley quickly chimed in on why it is a bad idea:

  1. Should antitrust courts be the ones in charge of determining which versions of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), XHTML, Document Object Model (DOM) and other Web standards are the ones to which all browser/Web developers should be writing? Participants in various standards bodies can’t even agree among themselves which version of these standards is the best. How are judges supposed to wade through the browser-standards confusion in a good/fair way?
  2. Would it be positive for customers if Microsoft were suddenly forced to create a version of IE that looked good on paper, in terms of more complete standards compliance, but which broke third-party and custom Web applications? Microsoft has argued that it is trying to avoid this situation with IE and is working on various ways it can make IE more standards-complaint without breaking existing apps, completely upsetting the partner/customer universe.
  3. With Mozilla, Firefox has proved you don’t need government intervention to wrest a substantial percentage of the browser market from Microsoft. You just friends with deep pockets (like Google) and a community of dedicated developers — plus a guaranteed customer base who prefer anything other than Microsoft technologies.

    In the end, Microsoft’s own inertia, browser-security problems and inability to react quickly to market changes (where, oh where, is IE 8?) will continue to help its browser competitors more than a ruling by the EU or other antitrust body would.

    What do you think? Is Opera’s attempt to get the European Commission to force the unbundling of IE from Windows too late? And what’s your take on Opera’s attempt to get the courts involved in enforcing Web-standards compliance?

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Posted by Dion Almaer at 12:01 am
34 Comments

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4.3 rating from 49 votes

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Opera is one of my favorite browsers. In fact, I’m using it right now. But this lawsuit is ridiculous. It just looks like a publicity stunt.

Comment by WillPeavy — December 14, 2007

At this point I don’t care anymore by which means we dethrown Microsoft. When someone abuses it’s power it isn’t by elegant means that they are unseated. Only a ruthless revolution can have the desired effect.

We’ve seen how fed up web developers are with the Microsoft’s IE team. We stopped believing it was incompetence that made IE7 so poor the day it came out. Now we know it is malice that determines the course of future IE development, unless we can change that.

The internet is at stake. Microsoft does everything it can to slow it down so they can adjust their monolitic entreprise to fit the market. Thankfully the market isn’t willing to wait for the dinosaur anymore. The web has too many opportunities to let Microsoft f’ it up for everyone.

Comment by xutopia — December 14, 2007

I don’t see why Microsoft should be forced to unbundle their browser from their OS. Will text editor companies be allowed to force Microsoft to unbundle Notepad? It wouldn’t be much fun to buy a computer that has no software. Microsoft certainly shouldn’t be forced to bundle Opera with Windows.

Comment by Peter Michaux — December 14, 2007

Mary is quite obviously not a web developer, then.

Comment by peter svensson — December 14, 2007

I think that there are those lawsuits which reinforce Microsoft power. Opera’s guys are really deceiving. Why firefox is gaining success despite Microsoft pratices ? I just think that Opera does not have a great technical advantage and that lawsuits are their only ways to be “present”. too bad! Money spent for lawyers should be invest into R&D and advertising. It is like that others make their way.

Comment by pattchen — December 14, 2007

@pattchen,
Have you even looked at what Opera can do before you posed that little comment? Are you starting to start a flamewar here?

Comment by Zsolt — December 14, 2007

I fail to see how this is a lawsuit. Opera have failed an antitrust complaint with the EU, that isn’t the same thing.

Also, for all of you naysayers, Firefox won’t overtake IE for another ten years unless something is done. All ms has to do is make their new version a bit shinier and support some new trinkets and most people won’t care, they don’t even know what a browser is. This is the crux of the people, ms don’t have to do a single thing to retain relevance and meanwhile developers have to spend millions of dollars fixing bugs and cutting features. That’s what I call abusing your position.

Comment by peroo — December 14, 2007

Microsoft’s main argument is that they don’t want do ‘break the web’. As a rough guess from looking at various browser statistics 20% (and growing) of users are using modern standards compliant browsers. So surely the web is already ‘broken’ for a large percentage.

Comment by Pete B — December 14, 2007

The main article (also posted on slashdot) states that the complaint here is not (just) standards compliance, but being dominant (eg. bundling IE with Windows), so please don’t start a flamewar here.

The original context:
“obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows and/or carry alternative browsers pre-installed on the desktop”

Comment by deadcabbit — December 14, 2007

*sigh* Opera does NOT sue MicroSoft.

They filled a complaint to the EU Commission for abuse of monoply and preventing inter operability of web pages through it’s [deliberate] non support of the open web standards it even contributed to.

Even if I did not work for Opera I would applaud this complaint. It’s sad that it is to be done this way but it’s good to see someone finally have the balls to push Microsoft in the only right direction.

Microsoft has and still hurt the web by stalling open standards in favor of its “proprietary web”.

Comment by Mathieu \'p01\' Henri — December 14, 2007

Firefox has proved you don’t need to employ these crybaby tactics to be successful and it is foolish to think that you can over through the largest browser in a few years. It takes time for people to realize what is going on and why IE is a bad thing.

IMO, Opera is to blame for their poor market share, they have arguably the best browser on the market today but for years they forces ads on the browser and many people still have that perception of Opera dispite all the good they have accomplished.

Comment by Site Smart — December 14, 2007

Smells like sour grapes to me.

For my money, I like having a diversity of choices out there, with different and unique features and selling points. I also understand completely the need for IE to remain backwards compatible with the features they’ve implemented (and many sites have taken advantage of) in the past.

It is also my sincere and general conviction that rigid enforcement of standards only serves to stifle innovation.

flame on.

Comment by Marty — December 14, 2007

I think this lawsuit is a great idea. Anything that can get all the browsers to follow the same standards is a great thing.

Comment by Benjamin \"balupton\" Lupton — December 14, 2007

Just because Firefox is ‘successful’ at putting a dent in the browser market share doesn’t mean that all web developers code for web standards.

So long as IE is the dominant player because of monopolistic practices we still have to support an old version of the web too. We all lose in this common denominator situation.

Comment by xutopia — December 14, 2007

@Marty, standards compliance and innovation are not mutually exclusive, I don’t understand why anyone would think standards slow innovoation. Take for examples cars, MPG Standards lead to innovation of more efficient cars. There is also a difference between diversity/unique features and abusive tactics being used in the market place. You can be diverse and have unique features with out the later. I hate having to code branch because ie chooses to be different then every other browser on the market, that is what I consider abuse. When for no good reason microsoft decideds to implement things differntly just because they can.

Comment by j4606 — December 14, 2007

This isn’t a terrible idea, but it seems kinda pointless. Like Peter Michaux said, Microsoft shouldn’t be forced to package other software with Windows. If Opera wants that so badly, make your own OS.

I’m all for pushing Microsoft to better implement standards in their browser, but I can still understand their need to maintain compatibility as well which could make it much more difficult to do.

Comment by Andy Kant — December 14, 2007

‘cry baby tactics’? Please! This type of comment is so spin-like I’d bet someone was running for office.

MS is terribly abusive with their power and whether this is through ignorance or by design I’m not sure, but I’d bet an awful lot MS knows exactly what they’re doing when they decide to bundle their own internet browser with their operating system at seemingly no cost and ready to go.

Most real users don’t know what a browser is and if they do they certainly don’t care how it works, let alone if it’s standards compliant – and they shouldn’t. We should. the power user geek web devs and we’re clearly the minority in comparison. MS knows this and has fully taken advantage. Good business? Well, in the short term it has helped make MS an awful lot of money. But that’s so obvious – so easy. MS has so many smart people and resources at their disposal that’s it’s really, um, disappointing when they don’t get it.

So, those who care how browsers work are the ones responsible for checking and challenging MS in real ways.

‘Cry babies’? Give me a break.

Praise to Opera for taking this action.

Comment by Eric — December 14, 2007

There was some validity to the initial complaint against microsoft: that it used unfair practices to force oem’s to bundle its software with every new unit they sold. The growth and innovation in the personal computer market was stifled at the software level by the difficulty faced by developers and other software companies in making their products interoperable with windows.

Now it seems that any company who doesn’t immediately fetch 20 or so percent of the market has lawsuits against MS to subsidize their products. And this nonsensical corruption of market principles can have no better midwife than the socialist bureaucracy of the EU.

Perhaps GM should worry. Clearly OnStar is only available to their company and partners. I have a competing remote assist product. Yet nobody is taking out GM’s and intalling mine. My company isn’t growing. Is GM to blame?

Comment by jimbob — December 14, 2007

we like opera, not ie

Comment by Alexey Bass — December 14, 2007

@jimbob – Of course GM is at least partially to blame. The question isn’t – is it GM’s fault? Instead the question is – does it matter that they hold some responsibility and to what extent? Are their practices hurting more than helping their clients in the interest of gaining market share now?

Comment by Eric — December 14, 2007

@Jimbob perhaps you should read the article before ranting. Their were no lawsuits filed. It was a complaint with the European Commission. All they asked for was that MS adhere to the open standards agreed upon. No one is looking to blame anyone and or trying to subsidize thier products. Also the comparison to onstar is meaningless because for the most part a person buying a computer can not say to the manufactuer that he/she doesn’t want windows installed. If you are buying a car from gm, onstar is optional not mandatory. Most computers sold around 90% have microsoft preinstalled, with ie. Since such a monopoly exists Microsoft has been able to shaft every other web browser by consistantly making cross browser development a tiring and painful process. You analogy to GM would be valid only if 90% of cars on the road were gm, and gm cars by default came with onstar installed AND gm was intentionally making it hard for other companies to compete with onstar by making thier products work differntly than the standards they agreen upon.

Comment by j4606 — December 14, 2007

Thank you to those of you who clarified that this is a complaint, rather than a lawsuit. I’d like to retract the comment I made above where I wrote “this lawsuit is ridiculous.” Instead, I’d like to say, this compliant is ridiculous.
.
I absolutely do not want judges telling software companies how to release and bundle their software.

Comment by WillPeavy — December 14, 2007

@WillPeavy: I guess you work for Microsoft, eh? I can’t see any other reason why someone would effectively be saying “oh, I really like that they don’t adhere to open standards and that many modern projects are taking 60% longer to complete because of the intentional bugs in MSIE”.

Microsoft has the money, resource and skills to rewrite IE in the time it took to release IE7 (and now IE8). Yet they don’t. Why is that? I think we all know and people like you are part of the problem.

Luckily, all networks inherently work round problems. We take the path of least resistance. These days, standards-compliant browsers offer the path of least resistance and developers create sites that work on those first then try and make them work on IE. We should try very hard to make sure the experience for IE users is greatly diminished, because they use a broken browser that wastes our time. If they prefer the diminished experience of the Internet, they are free to keep using MSIE. For the rest of us though, we’ve already switched to Firefox, Opera and other standards-compliant browsers and will simply leave the others behind because, quite frankly, we don’t care about them any more.

Comment by Guy Fraser — December 15, 2007

If web developers just stopped developing for IE the problem would be solved. We have more power than Microsoft.

Comment by Peter Michaux — December 15, 2007

Ya think?

Be real buddy – the power is in mindshare… developers have none. People buying PC’s get Vista, and IE. That is the standard, today, like it or hate it.

Sure people who know better run better software (XP/Firefox/What have you) … That is simply not where the masses flock, stock and barrel.

Develop for IE or be marginalized.

Comment by DigitalSkyline — December 15, 2007

I sincerely question Opera’s motives by tying a valid case—IE’s poor and inconsistent standards support is both harmful to the Web and conflicts with their supposed role in standards-creation—with one that is already destined to failure—the bundling of IE with Windows, which has fuck all to do with standards.

If it was Opera’s intention to bring the latter into discussion by leeching off of the former, they’re being manipulative and disingenuous. If it was to bring the former into discussion without any intention of following through with it (knowing the latter instantly dooms their case), this is just downright harmful to any hope of future versions of IE being anything more than half-baked crap.

That said, there is plenty of validity (at least in the US) for the desire to have IE separated from Windows. After all, personal computers and computer software are private innovations, but the Internet was financed and developed by the “public” (the government, with public dollars) and by virtue of that the public *should* own the Internet. By virtue of IE’s stranglehold on Internet sites and applications, public use of public property is being hindered for private profit and control of the market. I only think that portion of their complaint should be retraced for pragmatic purposes.

Comment by Trevor — December 15, 2007

Opera’s move is a deplorable grasp at irrelevance. Opera hasn’t managed much more than a couple of percentage points in their entire history so I guess they figure that getting their name in the press will help with that. As others have said, no one cares what browser is on their computer (or even what a browser is) or whether or not it’s standards compliant. Further, they shouldn’t have to. Anybody that thinks that the different between IE and other browsers requires some nonsense percentage of extra work like 60% is beyond clueless. My professional experience is that the extra time to make even complicated JS/CSS features work in Firefox/Safari/IE7 is marginal, at best. The solution is to find the combination of things that work well and stay within those broundaries or only venture slightly outside.

Comment by JeffHowden — December 15, 2007

“My professional experience is that the extra time to make even complicated JS/CSS features work in Firefox/Safari/IE7 is marginal, at best.”

Perhaps ironically, my professional experience is that when developers work against standards, using Firefox (or better, Safari) as a starting point, total development time including IE 6 and 7 support is shorter, the application stabler and more futureproof.

Comment by Trevor — December 15, 2007

I agree with JeffHowden somehow. Didn´t WASP offer a page before that you could refer to when a brower was outdated? I am sure that web developers could make a great impact on IE if everybody started coding using web standards and redirecting IE to such a page.

Comment by Jeria — December 16, 2007

* “With Mozilla, Firefox has proved you don’t need government intervention to wrest a substantial percentage of the browser market from Microsoft.”
* “Why firefox is gaining success despite Microsoft pratices ?”
* “Firefox has proved you don’t need to employ these crybaby tactics to be successful”

Successful? To a certain extent, but IE still has more than 80% of the market, and lots of sites STILL require IE.

* “Now it seems that any company who doesn’t immediately fetch 20 or so percent of the market has lawsuits against MS to subsidize their products.”

Opera is profitable and had a revenue growth of more than 50% in the last quarter. They also have a lot of cash. They do not need to be subsidized. They do, however, need to be able to compete.

* “And this nonsensical corruption of market principles can have no better midwife than the socialist bureaucracy of the EU.”

Like the socialist bureacracy of the US? They have antitrust laws too, you know. And aren’t afraid to use them (US v. Microsoft).

Comment by eh — December 16, 2007

It think it’s naive to present Opera’s actions as”not being a lawsuit”. One company is actively petitioning a governing body to aggressively interfere (read: block) with a rival company’s way of doing business. Just because they’re not asking for money doesn’t make it any less invasive.

It hasn’t been proven that this way of doing business is hurting anyone, is unfair, or monopolistic. As any fool knows, installing another browser is pretty much a two click procedure following a simple web navigation. Go to mozilla/firefox/etc/etc/ .com. Click download. Click install. Anyone supporting Opera in this action is someone who believes government price fixing, output control, and other centrally planned hobbling of the free market is a good thing. This action by Opera is complete nonsense, mainly due to the fact that Opera has no play because Opera has always been a weak and incomplete browser. Only recently have they managed to find a niche that works (lightweight run anywhere browser). I wonder, especially given the forum we’re in, why anyone who has any real experience building web apps (Ajax anyone?) can with a straight face claim that the industry that Microsoft invented — browser based applications, htmlhttp request, local file storage for browser apps all thanks to nobody at Netscape or Opera — is now being hindered because IE has trouble with fixed backgrounds, or whatever picky whiny nonsense this business about “not conforming to standards” is about. Safari is a joke of a browser that is a constant stumbling block to developers, run by perhaps the most insidious monopolizers in the computer industry — yet, because Apple isn’t as big as microsoft, these hypocrites like Opera choose to ignore a browser that should be taken off the market by force, literally. Opera still doesn’t properly handle rich text areas, just recently added support for the request object, has a horrendously hard to use interface, filled with so much useless crud that it should be a study in bad software design, and I’m supposed to care about what this useless and irrelevant company thinks? Indeed, my money (or, european citizen money) is going to fund committees to look into whether sanctioning a successful innovative company, which is responsible for creating the entire industry this forum deals in, to the benefit of a known behind-the-times, badly made, irrelevant and incomplete competitor is a good thing? I understand that most readers may be inexperienced teenagers who think the world is run by evil coporations with Bill Gates wearing the pointy hat, but it’s really run by corrupt government bureaucracies who make their money by pursuing these sorts of frivolous actions.

___________________________________________________________

The truth: opera is a bad option, and so people don’t use it, will never use it, and it isn’t because microsoft is making them not use it.

Comment by jimbob — December 16, 2007

Name a single fortune 500 company that has standardized on Firefox as it’s browser (internally). We all know Joe User out there uses a computer at work and tends to use the same software at home.

Comment by Chris Phillips — December 17, 2007

“It think it’s naive to present Opera’s actions as”not being a lawsuit”.”

It is not naive to present things the way they are.

“One company is actively petitioning a governing body to aggressively interfere (read: block) with a rival company’s way of doing business.”

Said rival company is a convicted monopolist which has engaged in anti-competitive practices. Look up the antitrust laws.

“Just because they’re not asking for money doesn’t make it any less invasive.”

Dealing with abuse is not “invasive”.

“As any fool knows, installing another browser is pretty much a two click procedure following a simple web navigation.”

Which is besides the point. The fact is that IE is still required to access many websites.

“Anyone supporting Opera in this action is someone who believes government price fixing, output control, and other centrally planned hobbling of the free market is a good thing.”

There is government regulation in all other markets. Aviation, public transportation, food, etc. Why not IT? If it’s Microsoft, it’s suddenly “hobbling of the free market”? Get real.

“yet, because Apple isn’t as big as microsoft, these hypocrites like Opera choose to ignore a browser that should be taken off the market by force”

Is this a joke? It is precisely the fact that Apple is not as big as Microsoft – by far – which does not make them a target of antitrust regulations.

How is it hypocritical to use the law as it was meant to be used? Get a grip.

“responsible for creating the entire industry”

Microsoft is not responsible for this.

“Opera sucks whine whine bitch bitch”

Your personal and biased opinions on Opera are completely irrelevant to this case.

“opera is a bad option”

Tell that to Nintendo, who actually contacted Opera when they needed a browser.

Comment by eh — December 17, 2007

With Norway not being a member of the European Union, I fail to how their complaint can be relevant for the Commission.

http://europa.eu/abc/european_countries/index_en.htm

Comment by Thulemanden — December 24, 2007

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