What you need to know
- Mozilla recently published research on how people use web browsers.
- Much of the report focuses on how large companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple, make it difficult or impossible to switch default browsers on certain devices.
- Mozilla makes Firefox, a browser that competes with those made by Microsoft, Google, and Apple.
Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, Recently released a report That focuses on how people use web browsers. Mozilla focuses on many areas, including how educated people deal with web browsers and how important browsers are to modern computing. The report also argues that tech giants use a variety of tactics to make it difficult or impossible to switch web browsers.
It should come as no surprise that Microsoft, Apple, and other companies want people to use their browsers. Mozilla argues why it believes that restricting users to certain browsers can be harmful. The company shares five examples of “the harm caused by the operating system’s self-preference”:
- Limited or Frustrating Choice – The OS provider makes it difficult or impossible for the consumer to switch browsers and ultimately removes their ability to choose for themselves. It also hinders existing competitors and prevents new products from entering the market and providing more choices.
- Lower quality – where the monetary price to consumers is zero (as is the case for browsers), providers are expected to compete on quality. But without effective competition from independent browsers, consumers may receive lower quality products.
- Less Innovation – Associated with quality is innovation. Consumers are missing out on developments (eg, improved features and functionality). The lower likelihood of disruptive innovations may be associated with fewer choices for consumers.
- Poor privacy – Consumers can be left with a product that exposes them to forced data sharing, data misuse, or other privacy damage. These results could be indicative of low quality caused by ineffective competition.
- Unfair Contracts – Without the right choice, consumers may be forced to enter into contracts that may be exploitative or unfair.
Mozilla argues that major platforms, such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon, are using their market dominance to push people to certain browsers. “Microsoft Windows users searching for Firefox are faced with a barrage of alerts… to stay with Microsoft Edge in the start menu, in the App Store and even in Bing search.” He adds that many voice assistant devices don’t even offer options for alternative browsers.
Microsoft has been heavily criticized for Force some links to open in Edgeeven if a different browser is set as the default browser. Mozilla called Microsoft In retrospect how difficult it is to change the default browser on Windows.
The report warns of the risks that Mozilla believes will increase if the browser market is out of competition:
“Why does this matter? Without Mozilla’s Gecko engine, there would be no competition for Google’s Blink engine, centralizing control of the web in the hands of a single company and creating a single point of failure for security and privacy.”
Apple has its own engine, but it is only available on Apple products, so Mozilla has focused on other platforms.
Mozilla concludes the report by claiming that people would find “compelling alternatives” to default browsers if they were given a “meaningful opportunity” to search for them.
“These opportunities have been suppressed for years by engineering online choice and business practices that benefit platforms and are not in the best interests of consumers, developers, or the open web.”