Friday, December 14th, 2007p>Ah, the courts. The latest case aimed at Microsoft is from Opera, as they urge Microsoft to give consumers a genuine choice of standardsâ€”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 Microsoftâ€™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:
- 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 canâ€™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?
- 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.
- With Mozilla, Firefox has proved you donâ€™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 â€” plus a guaranteed customer base who prefer anything other than Microsoft technologies.
In the end, Microsoftâ€™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 Operaâ€™s attempt to get the European Commission to force the unbundling of IE from Windows too late? And whatâ€™s your take on Operaâ€™s attempt to get the courts involved in enforcing Web-standards compliance?