[FSFE PR][EN] FSFE to users: Seize your freedom of choice!

Karsten Gerloff gerloff at fsfeurope.org
Mon Feb 22 14:49:52 CET 2010

== FSFE to users: Seize your freedom of choice! ==

  22 February 2010, 14:00, Berlin, Germany

  Permanent URL: http://fsfe.org/news/2010/news-20100222-01.en.html

FSFE welcomes the arrival of greater competition in the web browser
market. From today, Microsoft has to offer Windows users in Europe the
possibility to choose among different browsers. This step puts into
practice the company's settlement with the European Commission from
December 2009. The Free Software Foundation Europe was an active
participant in the Commission's investigation.

"For the first time, Microsoft has been forced to offer all users a
choice among different web browsers," says FSFE's President Karsten
Gerloff. "This is a stop sign for the company's strategy of extending
its near-monopoly in desktop operating systems to other markets."

FSFE is fighting for freedom of choice and Open Standards. Microsoft's
own Internet Explorer browsers do not interpret web standards
correctly. The company's near-monopoly on the desktop has meant that
web designers have often catered to Microsoft users only, leaving
users of rival browsers to deal with broken pages.

"Microsoft has gained its dominant position in the browser market by
violating its consent decree with the US competition authorities. The
problem we are trying to fix here wouldn't exist if Microsoft had
complied with the laws," says FSFE's Legal Counsel Carlo Piana. "It
is no coincidence that we have recently seen more competition among
browsers, after years where there was no innovation and a total lack
of investment by Microsoft."

It is now up to the users to take advantage of the choice they are
offered. Gerloff reminds the EC that it will constantly need to
monitor the success of the 'ballot screen'. "Microsoft is a convicted
monopolist and has broken countless promises in the past," he
says. "We urge the European Commission to keep a sharp eye on how well
this measure plays out in practice."

The 'ballot screen' is currently limited to Europe. "We call on
competition authorities around the world to take a cue from the EC's
good work in this case. The effect on competition and standards
compliance would be much greater if users were offered a choice
everywhere", says FSFE's Legal Counsel Carlo Piana.

It remains to be seen how the 'ballot screen' will improve competition
in the market for web browsers. FSFE is equally concerned about the
lack of interoperability between Microsoft's products and Free
Software competitors, and the company's practice of bundling its
operating system with consumer hardware.

== Background ==

The initial complaint about Microsoft's abuse of its dominant position
in the web browser market was brought by Opera. FSFE has supported the
investigation as an interested third party, providing feedback and
helping to shape the measures imposed by the European Commission.

The settlement on web browsers is only the latest among several
European Commission investigations into Microsoft's anticompetitive
behaviour. The most famous among these actions -- where FSFE was a key
player [1] -- concerned the workgroup server operating system market. Also
known as the Samba case, it ended with a landmark decision in 2007 by
the European Court of Justice. Microsoft was forced to disclose
interoperability information that it had illegaly withheld from

On the same day that the ballot screen was announced, Microsoft also
promised to disclose interoperability information for a number of its
products, such as Windows Server, Microsoft Office, Exchange and
SharePoint. Here, an investigation by the European Commission is still

  [1] http://fsfe.org/projects/ms-vs-eu/ms-vs-eu.en.html

== About the Free Software Foundation Europe ==

  The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
  non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
  involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
  participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
  the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
  Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
  furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
  modify and copy.  Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
  issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
  people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central
  issues of the FSFE.


== Contact ==

  Karsten Gerloff
  Free Software Foundation Europe
  e-mail: press at fsfeurope.org
  mobile: +49-176-96904298

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