Micro$oft Monitor

Published by NetAction Issue No. 7 July 31, 1997
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Browser Blues: A NetAction Report on Consumer Choice in Web Browsers
About Micro$oft Monitor

Browser Blues: A NetAction Report on Consumer Choice in Web Browsers

A NetAction survey of the top Internet service providers (ISPs) concludes that Microsoft's marketing strategy is preventing consumers from choosing the browser they use to access the World Wide Web, and the integration of Internet Explorer (IE) into the Windows 98 operating system will only make matters worse.

These are the primary conclusions of "Consumer Choice in Web Browsers," a NetAction Report released today. The full report is available on NetAction's Web site, at http://www.netaction.org/msoft/browsers.html.

In addition to the survey results, the report includes recommendations for actions consumers can take to ensure choice in Web browsers.

NetAction is also asking Internet users concerned about Microsoft's anti-competitive marketing practices to participate in a September 15, 1997, visit with Congress. Information about the event is on the Web.

Participants are encouraged to register by completing the form on NetAction's site.

NetAction surveyed Internet service providers earlier this month to determine how much choice consumers actually have in the browser they use to access the Web. With the Microsoft Windows operating system installed on an estimated 90% of personal computers on the market today, the Redmond-based corporation has a near-monopoly in the market for PC operating systems. The company is now positioning itself to dominate Internet commerce, in part by controlling consumer access to the World Wide Web.

As part of this strategy, the company plans to integrate its IE Web browser into Windows 98, which is scheduled to be released early next year. Linking IE to Windows is expected to have a profound effect on browser use. However, NetAction's survey reveals that Microsoft's marketing efforts already limit choice. That's because most of the popular ISPs have agreements with Microsoft that require them to include IE in the start-up software provided to new customers.

The survey found that only two of the twelve largest ISPs serving the consumer market give customers a choice of browsers with their start-up software. While this benefits Microsoft's bottom line, it doesn't benefit consumers.

According to the survey, the three largest ISPs serving consumers -- America Online, Compuserve, and Internet MCI -- all bundle IE into their start-up software. Only one of these providers lets consumers know they have the option of downloading and using Microsoft's main competitor, Netscape Navigator.

Navigator currently has a major share of the browser market, and a recent survey of Internet users found that a significant majority (81.13%) expect to use a Netscape browser in the next twelve months. But the results of NetAction's survey suggest that these expectations are unrealistic, since it's likely that most consumers will use the browser provided by their ISP.

Microsoft's marketing strategy assumes that consumers prefer not to make choices. NetAction assumes that consumers do want choices. Certainly, there are some consumers who would rather have everything provided for them in one simple package, but others would rather make their own choices.

About The Micro$oft Monitor

The Micro$oft Monitor is a free electronic newsletter, published as part of the Consumer Choice Campaign http://www.netaction.org/msoft/ccc.html. NetAction is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology-based social and political issues, and to teaching activists how to use the Internet for organizing, outreach, and advocacy.

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NetAction is supported by individual contributions, membership dues and grants. For more information about contributing to NetAction, contact Audrie Krause by phone at (415) 775-8674, by E-mail at , visit the NetAction Web site at: http://www.netaction.org, or write to:

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Copyright 1997 by The Tides Center/NetAction. All rights reserved. Material may be reposted or reproduced for non-commercial use provided NetAction is cited as the source. NetAction is a project of The Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.