BrowserChoice.eu was a website created by Microsoft in March 2010 following a decision in the European Union Microsoft competition case. The case involved legal proceedings by the European Union against Microsoft and found that, by including Internet Explorer with their market-dominant Windows operating system, Microsoft had used this dominance to create a similar market position in the web browser market. The BrowserChoice.eu website was created to allow users that had not made, or were unaware of, a choice to try other browsers, and thus comply with the European Commission's ruling.
However, Microsoft's obligation to display the Browser Choice screen to Windows users expired in December 2014. The BrowserChoice.eu website was discontinued as early as the next year, showing a notice advising users to "[visit] the websites of web browser vendors directly," before going offline completely. As of August 2018, the site is still offline.
Web browser choice screen
The web browser choice screen, also known as the web browser ballot box, was a screen displayed in Internet Explorer that offered ten to twelve browsers in a random order.
A patch was made available via Windows Update to provide the screen to users. It was displayed to anyone who had not chosen another browser as their default browser.
The browser choice screen listed 10 to 12 browsers in random order; the top tier of five were immediately visible and the remaining ones could be seen by scrolling the list. The order of the browsers on the page was initially planned to be alphabetical, but after criticism a random system was used with two groups.
The first group included the five most used browsers ‒ Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and initially Safari but later Maxthon ‒ representing the four major rendering engines (Trident, Gecko, Blink and WebKit). The second group contained less well-known browsers, also in random order: at different times this group included Avant Browser, Comodo Dragon, Flock, GreenBrowser, K-Meleon, Lunascape, Maxthon, Rockmelt, SRWare Iron, Sleipnir, and SlimBrowser.
The initial March 2010 list had Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari in the first tier, with Avant Browser, Flock, GreenBrowser, K-Meleon, Maxthon, Sleipnir and SlimBrowser in the second tier.
Competing browsers saw their traffic increase, suggesting that these smaller competing developers were gaining users. However, long-term trends show browsers such as Opera and Firefox losing market share in Europe, calling into question the usefulness of the browser choice screen.
The choice of browsers was also criticised. At the time of its inception, half of the suggested browsers use Internet Explorer's Trident rendering engine, thus users who choose web browsers other than Internet Explorer for the intention of avoiding it might still end up using IE's layout engine. This has resulted in criticism amongst the web development community even though Microsoft was adhering to the court agreement's methodology.
Finally, the overall ability for users to access the site was criticised. Opera Software complained that the ballot screen could not be reached in some cases because of the start configuration screens of IE. In 2012 Microsoft had issues with both Windows 7 and Windows 8 no longer leading new users in the European Union to the page. The Windows 7 SP1 retail release was initially missing BrowserChoice.eu functionality, affecting 28 million computers. The error remained unpatched for 14 months, and as a result in March 2013 the European Commission fined Microsoft €561 million. Windows 8 was also released without the browser choice screen functionality and patched several days after the release. Mozilla's general counsel estimated that 6-9 million downloads of Firefox web browser alone were lost due to the mistake.
Makers of the second-tier browsers Flock, Avant, GreenBrowser, Maxthon, Sleipnir, and Slim sent a petition to the EU to get Microsoft to add text or a graphic (rather than just the slider) indicating that there are more than five browsers. Microsoft responded by stating: "We (Microsoft) do not plan on making any changes at this time."
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