Windows 8: Microsoft's 'Browser Ballot' is Back

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft says it will add the "browser ballot" to European copies of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system (OS). Many observers believe the idea stems from an ongoing investigation of antitrust abuse by the Redmond, Washington-based firm.

The browser ballot allows Windows 8 users to choose their Internet browser the first time they fire up the new OS.

First Browser Ballot Bungled, Badly

While Windows 8 is new, the browser ballot idea is not. It was first used with European copies of Windows 7 after smaller browser companies (like Opera or Mozilla) complained that Microsoft was monopolizing the browser market by distributing Windows with only its own browser: Internet Explorer.

In response, Microsoft's Windows 7 began offering a browser ballot showing twelve different browsers. The ballot started by showing the five most popular browsers. The other seven could be displayed by scrolling right. (Source:

Unfortunately, the original browser ballot sometimes failed to randomize the order of browsers it displayed. An update, intended to fix the problem, actually caused the randomizing process to fail entirely for some users.

Microsoft then failed to offer the browser ballot for users of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1). The company said only that a "technical error" had prevented the ballot from appearing.

That's when the European Commission resumed investigating Microsoft for antitrust activities. (Source:

Microsoft Faces Enormous Antitrust Fine

In an attempt to stymie that probe, Microsoft will put a new browser ballot into Windows 8. Installed by Windows Update, the ballot is presented to users through a Metro-style interface screen.

To add to the fairness, installing the browser ballot removes Internet Explorer from the desktop screen and adds the ballot to the operating system's Start screen.

If Microsoft's inclusion of the browser ballot fails to stop the antitrust investigation, and the investigation goes against the software giant, it could face a fine of more than five billion euros. (Source:

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