FSFE engages in the EU browser case

simo simo.sorce at xsec.it
Sun Mar 22 14:50:27 UTC 2009

On Sun, 2009-03-22 at 13:49 +0100, Florian Weimer wrote:
> * Bernhard Reiter:
> > What is the difference of Microsoft integrating IE into Windows
> > to Mandriva integrating Konqueror into KDE?
> Yes, this is a less provocative way of putting it.

No it is a way to show lack of understanding of what the problem is.

Thinking along this lines fails to account what antitrust, monopoly,
dominant position, distortion of markets, ecc.. means in modern

> Actually, I'm mainly concerned about Debian.  I would like that the
> Debian Project is free to decide what to put on the installation media
> (and what to include in the main distribution).

Is Debian a convicted Monopoly that is leveraging its dominance to
impose a browser ?

> > One difference is obvious, and this is market share. 
> > Microsoft's very large market share has put them in a unique position
> > to do misschief in other areas.
> Dominant market shares lie well below historic Microsoft-like levels.

Yet the market position is still dominant.

> I have trouble with arguments along the lines, "it's okay when we do
> it because we're so much smaller".  We don't really know how small or
> big we are, and I think the FSF is the dominant licensing organization
> in quite a few areas.

"We" do *not* have a dominant market position by a *very* long shot, so
whatever "we" do is totally irrelevant for antitrust cases.

> > As far as I can say Microsoft has done deliberate technical (and other) 
> > decisions for the sole purpose of obstructing their competition in the 
> > browser market.
> "Sole purpose"?  I think this point can be made with regard to the OEM
> distribution agreements in the mid-90s.  But beyond that, I think
> there are valid technical concerns as well, such as reduced support
> overhead and more manageable regression testing, and questions of
> technology licensing.

Bullshit, the simple fact that Opera, Firefox, etc.. run on windows
without any problem except for incompatibilities and extensions
introduced in IE for the sole purpose of making it more tied and lockin
users that use services tailored for it demonstrate that your argument
about support or what not is pure fantasy.

An "Operating System" is meant to run *any* application. If they had
bundled IE with MS Office like they do for MS Outlook, *nobody* would
have complained at the antitrust level.

And another demonstration is that in other fields MS was not interested
at the moment you had freedom to install whatever you wanted, even
applications operating at a very low level, like anti-virus software
(and wonder now they embed an anti-virus software, I bet in a few years
we will potentially see another antitrust case there), or media players
(until MS embedded their and got an antitrust case), or just any other
basic application that is available until MS introduces its version that
is (one way) incompatible with whatever else on the market till that

MS could have embedded a normal browser as long as it had made it:
a) optional
b) use standards
c) had proposed and standardized whatever extension they deemed
absolutely needed.

MS made IE non optional, non-standard (not only with extensions but also
deliberately behaving differently in rendering pages for some non
secondary aspects), and didn't even try to standardize any extension
they added.

> > Because there is Free Software like Iceweasel and Konqueror
> > competing with Microsoft's offerings, supporting the EC is useful
> > for FSFE.
> Even if they don't comply with open Internet standards?  (Note that in
> this context, as used by the Commission, "open" does not exclude
> RAND-licensed patents.)

In what way do they not comply ?
And why would that be relevant, they are not in a dominant position.

> I also don't see what's in this for the FSFE.  I understand that for
> some companies, extorting money from a market leader is a viable
> business, and the EU seems to like this approach, too.  However, none
> of this strengthens the EU software industry, or promotes free
> software.  And any strong precedent against bundling will likely harm
> free software distributors in the long run (and distributors in the
> embedded space are probably affected in the short term).

Because Free Software *depends* on operating on a level playing field.
If you allow companies to distort markets then FOSS is pretty much dead
there, as it cannot compete with artificial vendor lock-in.

As I see it, for FSFE is more a matter of principle. A true free market
allows FOSS to co-exist with all other software. A distorted market
allows only a few huge companies to impose whatever they want and put a
barrier to entry that becomes very quickly impenetrable.

And on the internet, where network effects are extremely powerful, that
is much more important than for other things.


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