Mozilla calls for action to unlock platform browsers

“The experience of mobile browsers as a basic utility and the lack of differentiation between them means that pre-installed browsers on devices have a huge advantage,” the report wrote. . “This benefits the operating system and not necessarily the consumer. This long-term conditioning of consumer behavior means that from enough pre-installed browsers Leaving means that it is a positive choice that requires some cognitive effort: if people are too busy or the process is too complicated, people will procrastinate or not change at all. For many people, it is easier to maintain the status quo or postpone the decision.”

The report also shows an interesting link between desktop and mobile browser usage. Mozilla says that “almost all” users of Firefox’s (alternative) mobile browser also use Firefox on their desktop computers.

“Our research shows that less than 6% of users in the US using desktop browsers other than Firefox reported using Firefox on their smartphones,” it notes. “This suggests that the more people use Firefox or another alternative browser on their desktop computers, the more likely they are to try it on their mobile devices.”

This is due to Microsoft’s aggressive promotion of its browsing software to Windows users, especially the anti-Firefox messages that Microsoft inserts into its desktop OS, which has contributed to Firefox’s declining share of the mobile browser market. (despite Microsoft not having a mobile platform). play recently).

But it’s clear that a combination of factors is making competition on mobile especially difficult for indie browser makers. The report also highlights how challenging the mobile space is, with experiences that are more tightly controlled and/or integrated (and branded and bundled) than the desktop OS..

For example, Google uses contractual restrictions with OEM partners to maximize the percentage of Android devices that come with their own branded services, such as preloaded with the Chrome browser, even though Android is open source. . (And the tech giant of course Some of these restrictions have been embroiled in antitrust issues — the EU, for example, is forced to offer selection screens that advertise search engine rivals).

However, it is clear that consumer familiarity (and comfort) with Big Tech products works in tandem with lock-in. create friction in alternatives).

“Our research shows that many consumers say Chrome is the browser that works best on their Android phone, and that products from the same company perform better when combined (e.g. Gmail works better on Chrome). ),” Mozilla said. An example of this is using such messages as part of a “cross-product promotion.”

“This also goes hand in hand with web compatibility issues and the extent to which operating system providers limit or allow third-party browser interoperability. It includes access to the same features and APIs that you have,” he also critically discusses Apple’s ban. Alternative browser engines from the App Store that limit differentiation to compete with Safari because competitors also have to develop on Webkit (Historically, they continue to make us less competitive and limit the difference we can offer ).

“Feature development of alternative browsers for iOS remains stagnant because Apple controls both the browser engine and the operating system and does not provide some of the necessary APIs and features to rivals, thereby differentiating them. because it limits the

choice spoiled

Mozilla’s report also highlights instances where, even when consumers succeed in choosing another browser as their default, the platform may still revert to selfish choices. Lookup after selecting text on iOS (“Historically, web search results always opened in Safari, regardless of the default browser the user chose”). Or open a web link in the Windows search bar or icon — this opens Edge (“always opens results in Google browser” regardless of default browser settings or when using the search widget on Android .

“This OCA demonstration highlights some of the practices operating systems use to favor their own browsers and undermine consumer choice. Some companies have begun to take action against fraudulent patterns to protect consumers, and some have begun to address the lack of effective competition in digital markets, such as through the introduction of regulations. Few have recognized the relationship between and the importance of browser competition, or studied the role of OCA practices as a way to implement (or discourage) consumer choice and welfare,” Mozilla argues. .

“If you have meaningful opportunities to try alternative browsers, you will find that there are many attractive default alternatives bundled with the operating system. have been stifled for years by online choice architectures and business practices that are not in the best interests of the open web, or by years of self-preferences and consumer choices, including their impact on consumer behavior. It is difficult to underestimate the impact of a weakening of the industry, and it is also difficult to estimate the disruptive innovations, substitute products and features, and independent competitors lost as a result of these practices.”

Mozilla’s report made no specific recommendations for regulatory intervention to force the platform to “do better for consumers and developers.” Act to prevent “further harm to consumers from continued inaction and stagnating competition.”

“If these companies have so far failed to improve, regulators, policy makers and lawmakers have spent considerable time and resources examining the digital marketplace. We should recognize the importance and be well positioned to act to prevent further harm to consumers from continued inaction and lack of competition.”

“We ask them to enforce the laws and regulations that already exist and the laws and regulations that will come into force soon. We urge regulators, policymakers and legislators in many jurisdictions to take advantage of this moment to create an Internet where consumers and developers will benefit from true choice, competition and innovation. can create a new era in the story of

As noted above, the EU has taken antitrust enforcement action in relation to Google’s Android contract restrictions, which now offer EU users a selection screen (at least for the default search engine). . However, Mozilla’s report generally denies existing improvements. Regarding online selection architecture and software design, he argues that: “The remedies deployed so far have many limitations and most have failed.”

That conclusion is supported by the lack of significant change in Google’s market share in mobile search in Europe. It has a 96.6% market share in Europe, down just 0.3% from 2018, when the European Commission fined him $5 billion. As Ecosia, the non-profit Google alternative, it ordered the infringing consumers to be prosecuted. recently pointed out.

Google rival DuckDuckGo Called on regulators to further regulate selection screen remedies —In recent years, the design and integration of such tools has needed to enable a truly “one-click”, universally accessible experience to really move the needle against the ingrained power of the platform. It is claimed that there is

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