Small browser makers bitter over ballot screen layout

Flock, others ask EU to tell users there are 7 more browsers off-screen

Most of the developers whose browsers have been relegated to a second screen of the ballot Microsoft is now pushing to Europeans are mad as hell, and they won't take it anymore.

Four of the seven browser makers that have been shuffled off to an unseen page in the ballot are formally asking European antitrust regulators today to change the screen that users see when they're offered a choice of Web software to download and install.

"Frankly, we're concerned about the inability of the average user to find us," said Shawn Hardin, the CEO of Flock, a Redwood, Calif. company whose Flock browser is among the seven sent packing to the second section of the ballot. "No one seems to know that there are more than five [browser choices], and that's inconsistent with the EU's stated goals."

The ballot Microsoft started serving to users via Windows Update on Monday shows a total of 12 browsers, but only five -- Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera and Safari -- are immediately visible. To view the other seven browsers, users must scroll horizontally.

"Our request is simple," said Hardin. "We are not asking for a redesign of the ballot screen. All we want is some text or graphic that simply indicates that there is an option to view others to the right." A small arrow pointing to the right with a word or two of text would be sufficient, he added.

"We're not requesting a major change, we realize that's out of scope here, but we would like the choice screen to be consistent with the goal the EU expressed for the choice screen," Hardin said.

The ballot screen can be viewed by anyone on Microsoft's Web site. As Hardin pointed out, there is no implicit indication that other browsers are off the screen to the right. By itself, the horizontal scroll bar is insufficient. "Horizontal scrolling is non-standard on the Web," Hardin said, contrasting that with the more typical vertical scrolling that users do within their browsers.

"Without something, no one will even think that there are more than five browsers," Hardin argued.

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