Microsoft and the European Commission

Mitchell Baker is the chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation is the not for profit organization that brought innovation to the web browser market. Get Firefox here.

She made some interesting points on her blog as she reflected on the proceedings of the European Commission against Microsoft.

The statement of objections states the issue very clearly:

… the Commission sets out evidence and outlines its preliminary conclusion that Microsoft’s tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice.

Mitchell has some pretty strong thoughts about the Commission’s statement of objections:

In my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the statement … is correct. Not the single smallest iota of doubt. I’ve been involved in building and shipping web browsers continuously since before Microsoft started developing IE, and the damage Microsoft has done to competition, innovation, and the pace of the web development itself is both glaring and ongoing. There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be. But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact. Microsoft’s business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet.

She also expresses another interesting point of view:

In the mid-1990s Microsoft began developing Internet Explorer in response to the success of the product known as Netscape Navigator. In this period Microsoft developed a fine product (particularly the version known as IE 4). Kudos to Microsoft for this. Microsoft also promoted IE through activities that the US Department of Justice and the U.S. Courts determined to be illegal. As result, Internet Explorer ended up with well over 90% market share. Once this happened, Microsoft stopped browser development; even disbanding its browser team. The product stagnated and then became a prime vector for bad actors to inject spyware onto consumers’ computers. There was no meaningful response or innovation from Microsoft.

And the role of open source software?

Equally important, the success of Mozilla and Firefox does not indicate a healthy marketplace for competitive products. Mozilla is a non-profit organization; a worldwide movement of people who strive to build the Internet we want to live in. I am convinced that we could not have been, and will not be, successful except as a public benefit organization living outside the commercial motivations. And I certainly hope that neither the EU nor any other government expects to maintain a healthy Internet ecosystem based on non-profits stepping in to correct market deficiencies.

Her post is worth reading.

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