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Web browser choice welcomed by European Commission

Ballot screen will let you choose best web browser

Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari logos

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The European Commission has welcomed the roll-out of Microsoft’s so-called browser ‘ballot screen’, which will offer people an easy choice of alternative browsers to Internet Explorer.

Microsoft has issued an update to Windows, which will mean that users of the operating system now see a choice of web browser screen rather than having the browser included in Windows display by default.

Find out what our experts make of Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox 3.

Microsoft has introduced the new ballot screen to meet EC competition requirements. 

Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: ‘Web browsers are the gateway to the internet. Giving consumers the possibility to switch or try a browser other than that included in Windows will bring more competition and innovation in this important area.’

Browser choice a legal requirement

In December 2009 the European Commission made it a legal requirement that Microsoft address the EC’s competition concerns regarding the tying of Microsoft’s web browser, Internet Explorer, to its Windows operating system.

Prior to that, Microsoft had mooted the idea of shipping an ‘E’ version of Windows 7 in Europe that wouldn’t include its Internet Explorer screen. However, it later proposed the ballot-screen instead. 

Microsoft has committed to offering the choice screen for five years across Europe. This will enable users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose their own web browser in addition to or instead of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

Since the beginning of March, internet users in the European Economic Area who receive automatic updates for Windows and have Microsoft’s browser set as default are being invited to choose from several browsers.

Choose from eleven different browsers

In addition to Microsoft’s web browser, the user will have the opportunity to choose between eleven alternatives, including Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera which will be prominently displayed alongside Internet Explorer.

The Avant Browser, Flock, Green Browser, K-Meleon, Maxthon, Sleipnir and Slim Browser will also be displayed if the user scrolls sideways.

It is estimated that the browser ballot screen will be displayed on over 100 million personal computers (PCs) in Europe between now and mid-May. The central page of the choice screen is also available to any internet user from a browser choice website

Computer manufacturers can now install competing web browsers on Windows PCs instead of, or as well as, Internet Explorer. Microsoft has promised that it won’t retaliate against PC manufacturers who make a non-Microsoft web browser the default browser on the PCs they ship.

For lots more advice and tips on anything from web browsers to internet safety, check out the wealth of free computing articles on offer on the Which? website.

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