Trouble on the Line

I want them to stop explaining my browser options to me. I don’t want to know my browser options. The more I know about my browser options, the more I feel like a fool.

So I feel like a real consumer fool about my money, and now I have to feel like a fool about my browser, too. I liked it better back when we all had to belong to the same Browser Company, and browsers were browsers — black heavy monolithic boxes, that were routinely used in the movies as murder weapons (try that with todays browsers!). Also, they were permanently attached to your computer and only highly trained Browser Company personnel could “install” them. … It was as close as most people came to experiencing what heroin addicts go through, the difference being that heroin addicts have the option of going to another supplier.

All that is taken directly from a column by Dave Barry (he still writes for the Miami Herald) which I stumbled across recently. It’s in “Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits”, published in 1988. I’ll admit to minor editing: I replaced “phone” with “browser”. There were no web browsers in 1988.

Not much changed, eh, in twenty-one years?

It’s just a matter of serendipity that I was flipping through this tatty old humor book in the weeks following the European Union’s anti-trust decision around browsers. You can see the EU decision (PDF, 1.1MB) and the FSFE’s reaction — the latter can be summed up as “yes, this is one problem sort-of out of the way, but there’s more issues to be dealt with.”

I like choice. But I suspect Dave’s missive on the phone still largely applies and that people don’t want a browser. They want a tool with which to order pet food from the comfort of sitting in a cardboard submarine in their basement. There’s another angle on the topic as well: encouraging installation click-through. I hadn’t considered that — although recommendations that all the balloted browsers be available in some (fairly) recent version on-disk were made. That would change the issue from downloading and installing software to activating software. However, if you follow Adrian’s train of thought (that zdnet link), you end up disabling all change to the device, returning to the era of fixed-function machines that nobody can change.

Except by the Browser Company, of course.

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