Mozilla urges action to unpick platform browser lock-ins • TechCrunch
“The experience of mobile browsers as essential utilities and the lack of differentiation between them means that browsers preinstalled on devices have a huge advantage,” it wrote in the report. “It’s good for the operating system, not necessarily good for the consumer. Many people are hesitant to switch to a new browser because they get used to the pre-installed browser quickly and don’t have a strong incentive to look for an alternative, or May deter them from finding alternatives. This long-term modulation of consumer behavior means that giving up a satisfying pre-installed browser is a positive option that requires a certain cognitive effort. If people are busy or the process is too Chaos, and people put off making changes or deciding not to do it all. For many, it’s easier to simply keep the status quo or put off decisions.”
The report also raises an interesting link 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 less than 6 percent of people in the US who use a desktop browser other than Firefox report using Firefox on their smartphone,” it noted. “This suggests that the more people use Firefox or other alternative browsers on desktop computers, the more likely they are to try it on mobile devices.”
This in turn suggests that Microsoft’s aggressive promotion of its own browsing software to Windows users — especially the anti-Firefox message it injected into its desktop operating system — could help reduce Firefox’s share of the mobile browser market (although Microsoft has no mobile browsers in China). platform) play these days).
It’s clear, however, that there are multiple factors that make competing on mobile devices especially tough for independent browser makers.The report highlights how the mobile space can be challenging as it is an experience that is more tightly controlled and/or integrated (and so tied to brands) than desktop operating systems.
For example, Google uses contractual restrictions with OEM partners to maximize the proportion of Android devices that come pre-installed with its own-brand services, such as the Chrome browser, even though Android is open source. (The tech giant is of course in antitrust trouble with some of these restrictions — like in the European Union, where it was forced to offer a selection screen to promote search engine competitors).
However, consumer familiarity (and comfort) with big tech can clearly work in tandem with lockdown — although platforms are likely to do so via suggestive messaging (and/or by creating friction for alternatives).
“Our research shows that many consumers believe that Chrome is the best browser to run on Android phones, and that it works better with products from the same company (for example, Gmail will run better in Chrome),” Mozilla noted — referring to Google’s use of such messages as part of its “cross-product promotion”, for example.
“It is also closely related to web compatibility issues and the extent to which operating system providers restrict or allow third-party browser interoperability, including access to the same features and APIs provided for their own browsers,” it continued, also criticizing discussed Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines from its App Store, which limited differentiation from competing with Safari, as competitors also had to develop on Webkit (which historically reduced their ability to compete, and continue to limit how much difference they can provide).
“Feature development for alternative browsers on iOS remains stagnant because Apple — which controls both the browser engine and the operating system — does not provide competitors with some of the necessary APIs and features, limiting differentiation.”
choice is broken
Mozilla’s report also highlights situations in which even if consumers successfully choose an alternative browser as their default, platforms may still revert to selfish choices — in some cases bypassing their choice to re-display their browser, such as After doing “Find after selecting text in iOS (it states that “historically always opens web search results in Safari, regardless of which default browser the user chooses”); or opens a web link in the Windows search bar or icon — – This opens Edge (“Again regardless of default browser settings; or using the search widget on Android – “will always open results in Google Chrome”.
“Such a demonstration by the OCA highlights just some of the practices that operating systems use to favor their own browsers and undermine consumer choice. Legislators and policymakers in some countries are already taking action against fraud to protect consumers. Others The lack of effective competition in digital markets has begun to be addressed, including through the introduction of regulation. However, few have recognized the connection between these issues and the importance of browser competition, or have studied OCA practices as enabling (or hindering) consumers choice and well-being in a way,” Mozilla argues.
“We believe that if people have a meaningful opportunity to try alternative browsers, they will find many compelling alternatives to the default browser bundled with their operating system. These opportunities have been chosen by online architecture for many years and business practices that benefit the platform and are not in the best interests of consumers, developers, or the open web. The impact of self-preference and undermining consumer choice, including its impact on consumer behavior, over the years Hard to underestimate. It’s also hard to estimate the loss of disruptive innovation, alternative products and capabilities, and independent competitors as a result of these practices.”
Mozilla’s report doesn’t make specific recommendations for regulatory intervention to force the platform to “do better for consumers and developers,” as it says — as it says it plans to issue a report on remedies in the coming months further work – but it urged lawmakers to act to prevent “further harm to consumers from continued inaction and stagnation of competition”.
“As these companies have so far failed to do better, regulators, policymakers and lawmakers have spent a lot of time and resources investigating the digital marketplace. They should therefore be well placed to recognize the importance of browser competition and take Action to prevent further harm to consumers from continued inaction and stalled competition,” it recommended.
“We call on them to enforce the laws that already exist, as well as those that will come into effect. Where existing laws and regulations are lacking, we call for their introduction and underscore their importance to the future of the internet. Regulators, policymakers in many jurisdictions Lawmakers and legislators can use this moment to create a new era of Internet storytelling – one where consumers and developers benefit from real choice, competition and innovation.”
As mentioned above, the EU has taken antitrust enforcement action against Google’s Android contractual restrictions, which have resulted in EU users being offered a choice screen – at least for the default search engine.However, Mozilla’s report is generally dismissive of existing remedies Choose Architecture and Software Design Online, Arguing: “The remedies deployed to date have many limitations and have largely failed.”
Its conclusions are supported by Google’s lack of meaningful shifts in mobile search market share in Europe — it owns 96.6% of the market, the commission fined the company $5 billion since 2018 and, as the nonprofit Google alternative Ecosia recently pointed out In that way, it ordered the prosecution of infringing consumers.
Google’s rival DuckDuckGo has also called on regulators to go further in regulating choice screen remedies – arguing in recent years that such tools must be designed and integrated to enable true “one-click” if they are to truly move and a universally accessible experience. A competitive needle against entrenched platform forces.