Mozilla Fumes Over Microsoft Browser Ballot Glitch

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is being accused of failing to display a court-mandated option screen that would allow users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) to select their own Internet browser.

Although Microsoft has already remedied the issue, the problem has apparently caused Mozilla to lose millions of potential Firefox users.

As a result of a European Union antitrust settlement, Microsoft had agreed to present new Windows users with a screen that allowed them to choose a different web browser instead of (or in addition to) Internet Explorer.

Microsoft offered the choice screen to new and existing Windows users starting in December 2009. However, the company failed to include this option in Windows 7 SP1 upon its release in February 2011. (Source:

Microsoft eventually reinstated the web browser selection screen, but only after a formal complaint was filed with antitrust regulators at the European Commission. Mozilla says by that time significant damage had already been done to its business.

As a result, Mozilla is now coming after Microsoft, claiming the absence of the browser selection screen has had a drastic impact on the total number of Firefox downloads.

63 Per Cent Fewer Daily Downloads

According to Harvey Anderson, Mozilla's general counsel and vice president of business affairs, the effect of the Microsoft error resulted in "6 to 9 million Firefox browser downloads lost during this period." (Source:

In total, Mozilla estimates that downloads of the Firefox browser declined 63 per cent during the period when Microsoft failed to offer the browser selection screen.

In other words, prior to the fix Firefox was downloaded 20,000 times per day. Afterwards, it was downloaded 50,000 times per day.

Other Internet browser makers have not responded publicly to questions about the Microsoft error.

Microsoft Blames Technical Error

Microsoft has blamed a technical error in Windows 7 SP1 for the absence of the choice screen, and continues to reject any claims of conscious wrongdoing.

Nevertheless, the issue may prove costly for Microsoft. Reports suggest a possible fine could reach into the multi-billion dollar range.

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