Mozilla, the non-profit owner of the Firefox browser, accused Google, Microsoft and Apple of “preferring themselves” and pushing consumers to use their own browsers.
Examples of consumer harm from this personal preference behavior include limited or frustrated choice, lower quality, less innovation, poor privacy, and unfair contracts, according to Mozilla.
The report comes at a time when “self-preference” remains a hot topic in the technology regulation space; the UK competition watchdog has published a final report (opens in a new tab) highlighting “substantial concerns” about Google and Apple’s market dominance.
What does the report allege?
Mozilla’s report accuses big tech companies of a wide variety of different cases of malpractice.
These include inhibiting discovery of standalone apps, citing how some companies bundle their respective browsers with their operating systems and set them as the default OS on the main home screen or dock position.
“For many people, this location is sufficient and they will not see or seek additional steps to discover alternatives,” the report said.
Mozilla also criticized some big tech firms for banning standalone app adoption, citing how Apple lacked settings to change Safari as the default browser until 2020, meaning iOS consumers trying to use another browser were locked out of continued use. Safari for 13 years.
The report then highlighted how Safari still cannot be removed from iOS.
Furthermore, the report accused Big Tech of stifling the adoption of standalone apps, calling this “even more egregious than banning the adoption of rival software.”
Mozilla alleged that this has been the case on Microsoft Windows computers for several years, “saying that consumers have faced increasingly aggressive practices, some of which have been aimed at reversing their decisions to use software that is not from Microsoft, for example, override the default browser choice and switch back to Edge.”
“Consumers should have control over their online experiences and be able to choose what software they want to use, including something different from what the operating system vendor offers,” a Mozilla spokesperson said. “People shouldn’t have to contend with operating systems that continually annoy, confuse, and reverse preferences in favor of their own software.”
“Browser wars” are nothing new, in the late 1990s, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer put Netscape’s Navigator out of business.
Google is an example of a big tech company that has responded to these accusations that it is going all out and the threat of antitrust law.
in a blog post (opens in a new tab)Google’s president of global affairs, Kent Walker, said the potential antitrust regulations would “impose a set of rules on American companies and give foreign companies a pass” and would “give the Federal Trade Commission and other agencies unprecedented power over the design of consumer products”.
Walker added: “All of this would be a dramatic reversal of the approach that has made the US a world leader in technology, and risks ceding US technology leadership and threatening our national security, as they have warned.” bipartisan national security experts.