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01 November 2012, 12:53

Mozilla: Browser ballot glitch cost 6-9 million Firefox downloads

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Zoom The Windows browser ballot glitch reportedly resulted in a loss of 6 to 9 million Firefox downloads
Source: Harvey Anderson
Microsoft's omission of the legally-required Browser Choice screen in Windows 7 SP 1 lost Mozilla approximately 6 to 9 million downloads of its open source Firefox web browser, according to a blog posting by Harvey Anderson, VP of Business Affairs and General Counsel at Mozilla.

In 2009, Microsoft was ordered by the European Commission (EC) to present a Browser Choice screen to users as part of an antitrust case against the company. The Microsoft Browser Ballot screen rolled out in early 2010 to provide users of its Windows operating system (XP, Vista and Windows 7) a choice of web browsers, including Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and, of course, its own Internet Explorer browser. By agreeing to the deal with the EC, Microsoft was to avoid having to pay millions in further anti-trust fines.

However, the company failed to include the screen in Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) in February 2011 due to what it claimed was a technical glitch, leading the EC to give a formal warning to Microsoft once again. In all, the technical fault resulted in the ballot screen not being shown for nearly 15 months.

The number of daily downloads of Firefox decreased by 63% during this period, resulting in a low of just 20,000 daily downloads in the time prior to the problem being fixed. Once the issue was resolved in July 2012, data from the browser maker shows downloads increase by 150% to approximately 50,000 per day. "After accounting for the aggregate impact on all the browser vendors, it seems like this technical glitch decreased downloads and diminished the effectiveness of the remedy ordered in the 2009 Commitments", said Anderson.

Responding to the new complaint against it, Microsoft said that it takes the matter "very seriously", adding that it moved quickly to correct the issue once it became aware of it. "We sincerely apologize for this mistake and will continue to cooperate fully with the Commission", said the company in a statement. The Commission said that Microsoft could face a maximum fine of up to 10% of its global worldwide turnover over the issue.


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