As noted elsewhere (for instance Ars Technica or OsNews or the EU itself) the European Commission has reached a conclusion with Microsoft about Internet browser choice for consumers. The proposed remedy is a browser ballot, from which users of new (and possibly also old) installations of the Windows operating system will be able to select a browser to use.
The devil is, of course, in the details, and the Free Software Foundation Europe is on the case. The (well, one) thing to watch out for is freezing the browser market in much the same way that it is now; that is, suppose the browser ballot says “Arora, Firefox, IE, Opera” then we have replaced a monopoly by an oligarchy and continue to frustrate innovation and choice on the desktop. So details include questions like “how do we determine which browsers are on the ballot at any given time?” That ties in to the dynamic nature of the browser market (well, that part outside of the monopoly) where new versions are released regularly and there’s a whole forest of Free Software alternatives to the “Big Three” (IE, FF, SafOpera). Designing a ballot that prevents leveraging the existing monopoly position is another issue — of the big three browsers, only one has the word “Internet” in the name, which may skew the ballot.
So the coming months have an interesting mix of social and technical work upcoming in order to provide a remedy that is, in fact, a remedy and not a placebo. The FSFE will continue to follow the case and press for Freedom in browser selection, and supports fair access, competition and innovation in the browser market.