Beginning next week, Microsoft will start rolling out a “Web browser choice screen” to Internet Explorer users in Europe, enabling them to select one of up to a dozen leading Web browsers as their default Web browser, rather than merely being stuck with Internet Explorer as Windows’ default browser. The move is part of a resolution of Microsoft’s long-standing antitrust issues with the European Union: Microsoft agreed to the so-called “browser ballot” last year and will begin a limited roll-out of the feature next week, with full-scape deployment starting March 1.
The “browser ballot” will be distributed as an automatic download for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 through Widows Update; the ballot will present users with a choice of leading Web browsers, with links to learn more about each browser and install any of them.
The ballot shows five browsers at a time in an (awkward) side-scrolling window, and the ordering of the browsers in the ballot is randomized so one browser doesn’t get top-billing at the expense of others. Internet Explorer users will be free to stick with IE, or they can choose any other browser, including options like Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. The browsers available via the browser ballot “will be updated from time to time,” presumably to accommodate new browsers and potentially remove any that cease development or wish to be removed from the ballot.
Industry watchers see the browser ballot as another way competing browsers might be able to erode Internet Explorer’s market share…although in Europe, IE isn’t quite the market leader it is in other parts of the world According to Statcounter, IE has a 45.5 percent share of the European browser market, while Firefox has 39.2 percent and Google Chrome has a healthy 6.3 percent.
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