09 March 2010

Browsers. You've always had a choice. Now Microsoft has to tell you.

A European Court ruling has required that Microsoft offers people a selection of browsers to choose from of which Internet Explorer will be just one. Starting around now, a Windows update will result in those with Internet Explorer as their default browser being presented with a screen showing what appears to be the five alternatives, in random order. So Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer will be offered on a panel with buttons for download.

This is good news and should result in a much more pleasant internet experience for lots of people who have never even thought there might be another way than the familiar blue e symbol and its continuous warnings and annoying pale yellow bars and boxes asking questions that even now I have to think about before clicking Yes or No.

What is particularly interesting, though, is that those five are not the only ones actually being offered. Those five are the applications that are the First Panel contenders. However, look carefully and there is a second panel. Scroll horizontally and you'll see a selection of a further seven that I have to say includes six I had never heard of before!

Goodness only knows what people will make of these! Those behind these currently lesser-known browsers are expecting to see downloads rocket as to date their growth has been 99% through word of mouth and mostly among pretty specific groups of geeky types at that. Maxthon is apparently second to IE in China and even a 1% addition to its current user numbers will double its present share of the browser market! It will be fascinating to see which of these seven do best and how they react to their new-found fame as, courtesy of some suits in Europe, an estimated 100 million Europeans could see their logos on their screens.

I say could see as the Second Panellers are a little miffed that in order to see their wares people have to perform that unnatural business of horizontal scrolling and the bar isn't exactly obvious either.

I guess I'd better download all seven now and review them on the webtools site before the European Commission start knocking on my door.

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