Opera Software ASA, the company behind what used to be the alternative web browser of choice until Firefox came along and changed all that, has urged Microsoft to give consumers a genuine choice of standards-compliant browser clients. It has filed an official complaint with the European Commission which describes at some length how, Opera claims, Microsoft is "abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards."
Opera has requested the Commission to take the necessary actions to compel Microsoft to give consumers a real choice and to support open Web standards in Internet Explorer. Specifically, it has asked the Commission to implement two remedies:
- To obligate Microsoft to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows and/or carry alternative browsers preinstalled on the desktop.
- To require Microsoft to follow fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring communities.
The complaint goes on to insist that Microsoft adheres to its own public promises to support such standards rather than "stifling them with its notorious Embrace, Extend and Extinguish strategy." Opera says that Microsoft's unilateral control over standards in some markets creates a de facto standard that is more costly to support, harder to maintain, and technologically inferior and that can even expose users to security risks.
According to Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner "we are filing this complaint on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them. In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers, we are a champion of open Web standards and cross-platform innovation. We cannot rest until we've brought fair and equitable options to consumers worldwide."
"Our complaint is necessary to get Microsoft to amend its practices," said Jason Hoida, Deputy General Counsel, Opera." The European Court of First Instance confirmed in September that Microsoft has illegally tied Windows Media Player to Windows. We are simply asking the Commission to apply these same, clear principles to the Internet Explorer tie, a tie that has even more profound effects on consumers and innovation. We are confident that the Commission understands the significance of the Internet Explorer tie and will take the necessary actions to restore competition and consumer choice in the browser market."
To be honest it all sounds more than a little desperate to me. Some might point out that Firefox has managed to compete rather well with Microsoft, with market share of around 40% in some regions, something Opera has never got close to. And Firefox does take the standards compliant route. So what is Opera doing wrong that prevents it from being a power player in the web browser world and forces it to adopt a position of throwing rocks instead? Could it be, quite simply, that it just isn't as good a browser as either Firefox or Internet Explorer? Much of its early innovation has found its way into both the big browser clients, and there is little in the way of unique features to give it any leverage.
If I were running Opera, I would probably be looking to concentrate on those markets where the software does have leverage, namely mobile devices, rather than crying that its not just fair that the desktop market has eluded them.