Boutique browser maker to Microsoft: 'Stop stealing the default' in Windows 10

Vivaldi CEO knocks Microsoft for restoring Edge as the default browser after major OS updates

browsers

The CEO of Vivaldi Technologies, the maker of a niche browser, today blasted Microsoft for forcing Edge, the default browser in Windows 10, onto users.

"I understand that Microsoft is concerned with the low usage of Edge, but instead of building a better browser, Microsoft is forcing its product onto people in the most unapologetic manner," said Jon von Tetzchner, the co-founder and CEO of Norway-based Vivaldi.

Vivaldi's same-named browser reached version 1.0 in April 2016, following more than a year of beta testing. The browser runs on Windows, OS X/macOS and Linux.

Vivaldi's share of the browser market is impossible to measure, as it's below the minimum share reported by three measurement sources that Computerworld uses: The Net Applications and StatCounter analytics firms, and the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), a U.S. government project that mines traffic to thousands of sites by federal agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service and the National Weather Service.

von Tetzchner implied that Microsoft is to blame for some of Vivaldi's struggles. "Every time Windows 10 upgrades, it changes the default browser to Edge," von Tetzchner contended. "Same thing tends to happen when a new browser is installed -- for some reason, it leads to restoring Edge as the default option. Not the new browser, and not even the browser that was there as a default one previously."

He also took Microsoft to task for making the job of changing Windows 10's default browser so complicated that some users were unable to complete the task.

"We should accept that some users prefer software created by other companies," von Tetzchner said as he called on Microsoft to halt the practice. "It is time to do the right thing. Stop stealing the default browser, accept user choice and compete on the merits."

von Tetzchner was right on one count: Each time Microsoft issues a major update -- the only one in 2016 was August's "Anniversary Update" -- Windows 10 restores Edge as the default browser. This does not happen after monthly security updates; nor should it occur when manually changing to another browser.

Even so, Edge has had a difficult time on Windows 10. Its share of the total Windows 10 browser market has slowly shrunk since the operating system's mid-2015 debut, according to metrics sources. Net Applications, for instance, pegged Edge's share of Windows 10 browsers at 22% last month, down from 28% the year before.

Microsoft did not immediately reply to a request for comment on von Tetzchner's complaints.

This was not unknown territory for von Tetzchner, who until 2011 led Opera Software, the Norwegian browser maker acquired by a Chinese private equity company in November. In 2007, Opera filed a complaint with European Union regulators, arguing that Microsoft stifled competition by bundling Internet Explorer (IE) with Windows. Two years later, the EU filed formal antitrust charges against Microsoft.

Those charges eventually led to an agreement under which Microsoft inserted a "browser ballot" in Windows 7; the ballot asked EU customers to choose a default from several choices, including Opera.

The browser ballot expired in 2014, and from all signs did not meaningfully change the browser market in the EU. An omission by Microsoft, however -- the firm said a "technical error" led to a failure to include the ballot in Windows 7 for over a year -- later cost the company $732 million in additional fines.

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