Mozilla Goes Wild Over Lack of Browser Choices
Mozilla has taken aim at Apple, Google and Microsoft, saying in a report that the operating systems make it too difficult to use other browsers, such as Firefox, on the platforms they control.
Firefox is far behind most other browsers in the world, with 7.4% of desktop users and 3.16% of overall browser usage according to Statcounter. In a report by Mozilla, platform owners, including Apple, are making it too difficult for rivals to persuade users to try other browsers available on the market.
The report, “Five Walled Gardens: Why Browsers are Essential to the Internet and How Operating Systems are Holding Them Back,” says competition is needed to advance innovation, privacy, and security, and that Safari, Google Chrome and Apple’s Microsoft Edge are just too dominant. This is partly due to operating systems doing a lot to lock users into the parent company’s choice of browser.
Mozilla adds that the only major browser engine producers are Apple for WebKit, Google’s Chromium Blink, and Mozilla’s Gecko. With Apple focusing on its own platforms for WebKit, Chromium Blink has become the most widely used engine, including Edge, Brave, Opera and other browsers.
The 66-page document claims that operating systems make it “difficult or impossible for a consumer to switch browsers”, and they do so through a variety of means. This includes “inhibiting the discovery of unrelated applications” by setting the corporate browser as the default browser and in a privileged position on the home screen or dock.
Curiously, Mozilla also complains about a lack of discovery in voice assistants like Siri, a feature that doesn’t typically rely on bringing up a browser screen for the majority of audio interactions.
There are also issues with “disallowing the adoption of independent apps” by making it difficult to remove the existing default browser instead of using a different one. In cases where another browser is selected, Mozilla also claims that an operating system overruling the user’s choice and opening the original default is “even more egregious than prohibiting the adoption of software competitors”.
Mozilla also warns against commercial practices aimed at independent companies, such as restrictive contracts that tie the browser to operating systems and limit the pre-installation of alternatives. This refers to concepts such as Google’s arrangement with phone vendors to allow the Play Store to be usable.
Restrictive App Store policies are also under attack, such as Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines to WebKit. Mozilla acknowledges that regulators are stepping up their efforts to combat such anti-competitive behavior, but also that they have “not yet taken action”.
“As these companies have so far failed to do better, regulators, policymakers and legislators have spent considerable time and resources investigating digital markets,” the report concludes. “So they should be well placed to recognize the importance of browser competition and act to prevent consumers from suffering further harm from continued inaction and stagnating competition.”
“We call on them to uphold the laws that already exist and the laws and regulations that will soon come into force. And where existing laws and regulations are lacking, we ask that they be introduced and that their importance for the future of the internet should be enhanced.”
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