Mozilla calls for action to remove block browser platform • CableFree TV

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

“The experience of using mobile browsers as the main utilities and the apparent lack of differences between them means that the browser that comes preinstalled on the device has a huge advantage,” the report says. “It benefits the operating system, but not necessarily consumers. Many people are hesitant to switch to a new browser because they quickly become accustomed to their default browser and do not have a strong incentive to look for an alternative or may find it difficult to find one. This conditioning of consumer behavior over a long period of time means that abandoning a satisfying default browser is an active choice that requires some cognitive effort. If people are busy or if the process is too confusing, they delay making changes or decide not to make everything at once. Many find it easier to simply maintain the status quo or postpone a decision until later.”

The report also shows an interesting connection between desktop and mobile browser usage – Mozilla says that “nearly all” users of the Firefox (alternative) mobile browser also use Firefox on their desktop computers.

“Our research shows that in the US, less than 6% of people using a desktop browser other than Firefox report using Firefox on their smartphones,” it notes. “This suggests that the more people use Firefox or another alternative browser on their desktop computers, the more likely they are to try that browser on their mobile devices.”

This, in turn, means that Microsoft’s aggressive promotion of its own browsing software to Windows users – and especially the anti-Firefox messaging it’s embedding in its desktop OS – is helping to reduce Firefox’s share of the mobile browser market (despite that Microsoft doesn’t have a mobile platform to play these days).

However, it is clear that there is a combination of factors that make competition on mobile especially difficult for independent browser vendors. And the report highlights that the mobile space is complex due to being more tightly controlled and/or integrated (and labeled as such bundled) than desktop operating systems..

Google, for example, uses contract restrictions with OEMs to maximize the proportion of Android devices that ship with own-brand services, such as the pre-installed Chrome browser, despite Android being open source. (And the tech giant, of course, got into antitrust hot water because of some of these restrictions – for example, in the EU, where he was forced to offer a selection screen promoting search engine competitors).

However, consumer familiarity (and convenience) with Big Tech products can work in sync with anchors—although, again, platforms may well seek to shape this outcome by actively reselling the benefits of integration through suggestive messaging (and/or by creating friction for alternatives).

“Our research shows that many consumers believe that Chrome is the browser that works best on Android phones and that products from the same company will work better together (e.g. Gmail will work better on Chrome),” notes Mozilla pointing to Google. for example, the use of such messages as part of “cross-product promotion”.

“This is also closely related to web compatibility issues and the extent to which operating system vendors restrict or allow third-party browser interactions, including access to the same features and APIs provided to their own browsers,” he continues, also critical of Apple’s ban. . alternative browser engines from their App Store, which limits differentiation to compete with Safari since competitors must also develop on Webkit (which has historically slowed down their ability to compete and continues to limit how much differentiation they can offer).

“Feature development for alternative browsers on iOS remains at an impasse because Apple, which controls both the browser engine and the operating system, does not provide some necessary APIs and features to competitors, thereby limiting differentiation.”

Choice undermined

The Mozilla report also noted instances where even in cases where a consumer was able to select an alternative default browser, the platform could still revert to a self-serving choice – bypassing its choice to re-open their browser in certain circumstances, such as when performing a “search”. after selecting text in iOS (which, as noted, “has historically always opened web search results in Safari, regardless of the user’s default browser”); or opening a web link in the Windows search bar or icon that opens Edge (“again, regardless of default browser settings; or with the search widget on Android, which will “always open results in the Google browser”.

“This OCA demo demonstrates just some of the techniques used by operating systems to favor native browsers and undermine consumer choice. Legislators and politicians in some countries have begun to take action against deceptive models to protect consumers. And others have begun to address the lack of effective competition in digital markets, including through the introduction of regulation. However, very few have realized the connection between these issues and the importance of browser competition or explored the role of OCA practices as a way to implement (or prevent) consumer choice and welfare,” Mozilla says.

“We believe that if people had a real opportunity to try alternative browsers, they would find that many of them are compelling substitutes for the default browsers bundled with their operating system. These opportunities have been stifled for years by online choice architectures and commercial practices that benefit platforms and do not serve the interests of consumers, developers, or the open web. It is hard to underestimate the impact of years of dedication and undermining of consumer choice, including its impact on consumer behavior. It is also difficult to assess the disruptive innovations, alternative products and features, and independent competitors that have been lost as a result of these practices.”

Mozilla’s report does not specifically recommend regulatory intervention to force platforms to “do better for consumers and developers” as the report says, as further work on remedies is scheduled to be released in the coming months, but it does urge lawmakers to act to prevent “Further damage to consumers from continued inactivity and competitive stagnation.”

“Because these companies have not yet been able to do better, regulators, politicians and legislators have spent a lot of time and resources studying digital markets. Therefore, they must be able to recognize the importance of competition between browsers and act to prevent further harm to consumers from continued inactivity and competitive stagnation,” it says.

“We urge them to enforce existing laws and laws and regulations that will come into force soon. And where there are no existing laws and regulations, we call for their introduction and highlighting their importance for the future of the Internet. Regulators, policy makers and legislators in many jurisdictions can seize this moment to create a new era in the history of the Internet in which consumers and developers will benefit from genuine choice, competition and innovation.”

As noted above, the EU has taken antitrust action against Google’s Android contract restrictions, which has resulted in users in the EU being presented with a selection screen – at least for the default search engine. However, Mozilla’s report generally ignores existing protections that architecture of online choice and software design, stating: “The means that have been applied so far have had many limitations and have largely failed.”

His conclusion is supported by the lack of significant change in Google’s share of the mobile search market in Europe, where Google holds 96.6% of the market, a mere 0.3% drop since 2018, when the Commission fined the company $5bn and ordered it to pursue copyright infringing consumers as a non-commercial alternative to Google, Ecosia, recently indicated.

Google competitor DuckDuckGo also urged regulators to go much further in regulating remedies of choice – In recent years, it has been argued that the design and integration of such tools must provide a truly universal and shared “one-click” experience if they are to truly move the needle of competition against the ingrained power of the platform.

Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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