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Windows Browser Ballot Glitch Cost Firefox 6-9 Million Downloads 245

Posted by Soulskill
from the emulating-real-ballots dept.
nk497 writes "Microsoft's failure to include the EU browser ballot in Windows 7 SP1 cost Mozilla as many as 9 million Firefox downloads, the organization's head of business affairs revealed. Harvey Anderson said daily downloads of Firefox fell by 63% to a low of 20,000 before the ballot was reinstated, and after the fix, downloads jumped by 150% to 50,000 a day. Over the 18 months the ballot was missing, that adds up to six to nine million downloads — although it's tough to tell if the difference has more to do with Chrome's success or the lack of advertising on Windows systems. The EU is currently investigating the 'glitch,' and Microsoft faces a massive fine for failing to include the screen, which offers download details for different browsers to European Windows users, as part of measures ordered by the EU to balance IE's dominance."
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Windows Browser Ballot Glitch Cost Firefox 6-9 Million Downloads

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  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @01:48PM (#41832453)

    We're calculating lost downloads, now? And I thought lost sales due to piracy was a stupid metric...

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:04PM (#41832659)

      This is an anti trust issue rather than a theft one.

      Are you abusing your monopoly power so competitors literally cannot give their product away for free - that's a competition issue. This is by the way, a business strategy, if you have enough money you can cut your prices enough, or sell a new product cheap enough, and make enough deals that no one can afford to buy your competitors product, but they can buy yours (even if that is incurring a loss for you). The issue with Microsoft is whether their 90% windows marketshare, which is essentially a monopoly is being abused to prevent other companies, such as mozilla, from staying in the market. If that is the case, we don't really want to end up in a world where there is one viable internet browser choice, and that's internet explorer.

      Are you copying something for free that you legally should need to pay for - theft/piracy/counterfeiting/licensing whatever you want to call it issue.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

        by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:37PM (#41833081) Journal

        Are you abusing your monopoly power...

        How does one abuse a sadomasochistic client? By talking politely and serving crumpets and tea?

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Luckyo (1726890) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:51PM (#41833303)

        Actually, this is a matter of breach of contract. When it became obvious that Microsoft was in violation in the anti-trust hearings at the court, they made an offer to the court: they will solve the problem by putting browser ballot into the OS. This was Microsoft's own suggestion. Court agreed and Microsoft entered into a contract with the court stating how and when it will implement this ballot.

        Microsoft stalled a few times. However the problem didn't arise because court was always willing to grand Microsoft extensions to the deadline. However at one point, folks representing Microsoft admitted to the court at the hearing about another delay that it wasn't implemented at all.

        It was probably a dumbest move of all times really. All they had to do was keep their mouths shut about it not being implemented and ask for yet another extension and court would have likely granted it.

        So this is very much not about anti-trust any more. This is about Microsoft not honouring a contract, and penalties associated with this.

        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @03:33PM (#41833917)

          Actually, this is a matter of breach of contract.

          Sure, the contract only exists because of the anti competitive monopolistic practices, but yes, ultimately Microsoft agreed to do something and isn't. But the underlying idea that this is like the made up statistics about piracy is a bit misleading. These rules all exists, and these contracts all exist because of microsofts bad behaviour.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Kalriath (849904)

        No. Stop. Right there. It's exactly the same as the record companies claiming that every person who pirated a CD would have bought it anyway. The fact that this is about Microsoft and Mozilla is irrelevant. The claim that the glitch "costed" 6.9 million downloads is fatally flawed and disingenuous.

        This is completely incidental to what type of issue this is.

    • by pla (258480)
      We're calculating lost downloads, now? And I thought lost sales due to piracy was a stupid metric...

      If only - If only - People had another way to get a browser [mozilla.org] than to pick from a menu when they first use Windows! Some sort of, I dunno, website or something [getfirefox.net], where they could choose to go to get whatever browser they prefer.

      Alas, we do not live in a perfect world.
      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

        by TheP4st (1164315) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @03:16PM (#41833673)
        I have encountered quite a few people that equates the internet with the IE logo. Many of whom that would not even know there are alternatives to the "Internet" unless they were informed about them. The ballot do create a greater diversity among the public and as an effect of that standards are becoming just that, standards. So, with a bit of luck 11 years down the road companies might not be stuck with IE9 but will be on IE16, FFxx or whatever that suit them best. Rather than the current scenario with companies being locked to a browser version that should have died 8 years ago with the release of v.7.
      • I hope this is just a brilliant troll.
        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by pla (258480) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @04:00PM (#41834357) Journal
          I hope this is just a brilliant troll.

          Sarcasm, yes. Trolling, no.

          If someone doesn't know enough to know that they want something other than MSIE, then in most cases, they don't. Making them pick a browser on first use amount to a complete crap-shoot. Sure, they might pick FF or Chrome, and get lucky (though personally, I have more philosophical objections to Chrome - which don't apply to Chromium - than to MSIE). Or they might pick Safari, now deprecated for Windows, and end up in a far worse situation than just defaulting to MSIE.
      • by chrismcb (983081)
        Yeah, but people have to know about the browser first. This was just court ordered free advertising
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The difference is, this case was clearly controlled. You can't just turn piracy off, measure the sales, turn it on and measure again. But in this case that's what's happened, the ballot was turned off and then on again, and this showed a strong correlation with the change in downloads.

      • It isn't controlled, as there is no control group.

      • by chrismcb (983081)
        What you could do is advertise your product. Then stop advertising it, then advertise it again. And see the drop in sales when you stop advertising it.
        That is essentially what happened here.
    • by Flipao (903929)

      We're calculating lost downloads, now? And I thought lost sales due to piracy was a stupid metric...

      It's not when they go down 63% when the glitch occurs and come back to normal the day it's been fixed. This is not about counting every user who pirates something as potential buyer, this is more like seeing your sales go down when a crack comes out and then go back up when the crack no longer works.

    • We're calculating lost downloads, now? And I thought lost sales due to piracy was a stupid metric...

      Surprise, you thought right. Your thinking today, however, is a different matter. You do realize that it's impossible to discuss causal relationships in any meaningful way without projecting counterfactuals. Sometimes you have a projectable baseline, sometimes you don't. Many times the causes of things are a hazy guess. It's only regret that's 20-20.

      The problem with the music industry's desire to claim e

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Shovelware proves that more is more.

        Did you mean bundled malware? Shovelware is where someone puts more stuff on a CD (or whatever) just because there's room and more is more.

    • by spd_rcr (537511)

      Reminds me of when RIAA went after pirates of "The Love Guru"...
      You can hardly call it a lost sale if no-one really wanted it in the first place.

      I stopped installing Firefox onto all the machines I work on earlier this year when Flash instances started crashing it. This has been going on since about Firefox 13-present and Flash 11-present. I'm not going to mourn the eventual death of Flash, but I'm not limiting my browsing while I wait for the websites I use to replace it. If I wanted a sucky web experience

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @01:56PM (#41832563) Homepage Journal

    How do you explain something like this? Would you think with all the people Microsoft has in their employ they would assign the duty of EU Compliance Checklist Monitor to someone?

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      How do you explain something like this? Would you think with all the people Microsoft has in their employ they would assign the duty of EU Compliance Checklist Monitor to someone?

      I'd be surprised if they didn't, but then he got re-orged.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        How do you explain something like this? Would you think with all the people Microsoft has in their employ they would assign the duty of EU Compliance Checklist Monitor to someone?

        I'd be surprised if they didn't, but then he got re-orged.

        Or if like I work, the person in that position is the dumping ground for all the little tasks others are too busy to do, don't want to do, or dump there because they feel they can get away with it.

    • How do you explain something like this?

      Hundreds or thousands of engineers working on something and a technically unimportant piece slipping through the cracks?

      Would you think with all the people Microsoft has in their employ they would assign the duty of EU Compliance Checklist Monitor to someone?

      I would expect it to be a lawyer who's not embedded in the engineering department and didn't see the need or even realize the potential of checking a service pack. Taking into account that this probably isn't their primary version of windows, and it seems pretty easy for this to legitimately slip through the cracks.

  • "glitch" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @01:59PM (#41832603) Journal
    Hah! If you believe it was a glitch, then I have a bridge to sell you. Noone in Microsoft noticed this issue for over a year? No QA process found this?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How is this Microsoft's issue? It was the OEM's fault for using the non-EU version of Windows service packs.

  • The "Glitch" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:03PM (#41832657)

    The "glitch" is a result of OEMs integrating the wrong version of service packs into their images.
    When they integrate the non-EU version of a service pack then the image won't present the "ballot screen" to the user.

    • Re:The "Glitch" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:50PM (#41833275) Journal

      The "glitch" is a result of OEMs integrating the wrong version of service packs into their images.

      [citation required].

      Every source I have read on the web shows Microsoft admitting to the "error" themselves, not blaming it on OEMs.

  • Why isn't other companies like Apple forced to include a browser selection screen in OSX?

    • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:16PM (#41832823) Homepage

      Because nobody has taken Apple to court and proved they are abusing monopolism of a market.

      Simple as that. Doesn't even mean they *aren't* doing just that. But nobody has bothered to take them to court for it. And it's not just governments that can do that, but their competitors too.

    • by Aphrika (756248)
      Because of the past. When IE6 had a huge market share (>90%, but lets be honest, at the time it was the best browser out there), the EU stepped in.

      Now the EU don't like monopolies and accused MS - rightly - of some underhandedness in getting their browser in front of punters by including it in the OS and not allowing it to be removed (even though you could just 'not use it', weird). Cue the Ballot Screen (which sucks).

      Personally, I think the playing field since around 2010 can be considered levelled an
    • by kqs (1038910)

      Because anyone claiming Apple has now, or has ever possessed, monopoly power in a market is very confused. It is perfectly legal to use one of your products to force people to use another of your products, unless you have monopoly power.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:18PM (#41832847)

    IE isn't even the most popular browser in most EU countries any more:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Countries_by_most_used_web_browser.svg&page=1 [wikipedia.org]

    And according to Wikimedia usage stats, at least, it's not even leading in usage share any more, anyway:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_web_browsers [wikipedia.org]

    Pundits are already predicting the end of Microsoft as a dominant player in the industry (which *is* a bit of an exaggeration, so far at least), yet they are still forced to adhere to an almost 10-year old anti-trust decision (an eternity in the industry). In other news, the EU is also considering sanctions against US Steel for their dominant control of the industry in 1955.

    • by houghi (78078) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:29PM (#41832971)

      It is relevant, because they ignored an order from the courts.

      And the reason that IE isn't the most popular one in the EU is precisely because of said order.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        I don't really think that's the real reason - Europe is a minority of world Internet users and can't be soley responsible for IE market share going from 80% to 20%. Chrome didn't even exist in 2004 and it's now #1.

        • by Ash-Fox (726320)

          Europe is a minority of world Internet users and can't be soley responsible

          I don't believe he stated they were solely responsible for the world, he said EU.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:38PM (#41833099)

      Why is this still relevant?

      Because this is what Microsoft agreed to.

      Pundits are already predicting the end of Microsoft as a dominant player in the industry (which *is* a bit of an exaggeration, so far at least), yet they are still forced to adhere to an almost 10-year old anti-trust decision (an eternity in the industry).

      Its not a decision, its an agreement they entered into to avoid a trial and a resulting decision. Its quite possible that an actual decision, rather than a negotiated settlement, would have involved greater up-front cost but less in terms of long-term, ongoing restrictions. Microsoft made a choice that they'd rather have what they are now subject to than take the risk of the kind of fines and other up-front consequences at risk in a trial. That may or may not have been a bad decision in retrospect, but it was Microsoft's decision.

    • More relevant than ever!

      Until MacOSX, Linux, and tablets start gaining more momentium it gives IE an unfair advantage and pisses off webmasters!

      Want a cool fluid HTML 5 of slashdot? Nope aint happening. What about bbc news? Nope aint happening. Anysite? Yeah on your phone NOT PC. Why? The answer is IE ... make that old IE since IE 9 has some support and iE 10 with full HTML 5 is right around the corner for Windows 7 hopefully this year.

      Seriously if that browser was not standard in the US, Canada, an

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Until MacOSX, Linux, and tablets start gaining more momentum it gives IE an unfair advantage and pisses off webmasters!

        Now THIS is completely irrelevant. IE doesn't even exist on those platforms, and it's absurd to think a government body should be responsible for actively trying to influence market competition for different operating systems rather than what they actually did, which was encourage competition of browsers on one system (in response to Microsoft using uncompetitive practices to limit other

  • by saikou (211301) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:21PM (#41832875) Homepage

    So, does this mean that the only reason Firefox is getting those downloads, is because users are bored and pick a pretty icon from the list?
    Cause even bing.com shows Firefox download page on the first page of "Firefox" query so I'm not sure I can believe in extra 50K people not being able to get Firefox if they want it. :)

    I know users sometimes are not smart enough to find and download something, but this is ridiculous...

    • Yep. Most users are pretty dumb and this is true especially with the aging baby boomers who are 45+ and hate change. They would buy systems with XP still if it were offered. Maybe they once used that Fox Fire browser methingie their kids installed on their older computer but why risk and try to find it?

      IE 9 is actually usable now and not a bad browser. My guess is they just got used to that.

      Now those who read slashdot are in the minority and younger users have no quarrel googling chrome or Firefox. But ther

  • by thetoadwarrior (1268702) on Wednesday October 31, 2012 @02:43PM (#41833175) Homepage
    They should develop a search engine to use to push their browser on people and then make the browser install the wrong place to avoid windows protections. If by-passing windows protections is good enough for private data stealing malware then it's good enough for a browser.

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