Micro$oft Monitor

Published by NetAction Issue No. 32 July 7, 1998
Repost where appropriate. See copyright information at end of message.


Microsoft Expands Grip on Browser Market
Update: CETI dead
About Micro$oft Monitor

Microsoft Expands Grip on Browser Market

A year ago, NetAction conducted a survey of the largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and found that Microsoft was using agreements by ISPs to distribute its Internet browser to rapidly expand its market share. Now a new survey shows that, despite the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit, the situation has gotten worse.

NetAction's new report on consumer choice in web browsers documents Microsoft's increasing grip on the ISP market. The survey report is on the web at: http://www.netaction.org/msoft/browsers2.html.

Key findings of the survey include:

In the year since NetAction's first survey of ISPs, there has been an increasing scrutiny of Microsoft's predatory business practices and, most recently, antitrust lawsuits from both the Department of Justice and the States Attorneys General. During 1997, as Microsoft forged exclusive agreements with various ISPs and computer resellers, Internet Explorer's share rose to 39 percent from just 21 percent. While the number of computers with Netscape installed grew by only 33 percent during 1997, the number using Explorer nearly tripled.

Even as pressure forced Microsoft to end some of those exclusionary deals in early 1998, Microsoft's plans to incorporate its browser into Windows 98 has put pressure on ISPs to distribute Explorer over rivals like Netscape. IBM, which until now distributed Netscape to its customers, has announced that it will begin distributing only Microsoft browser software beginning in September 1998, because of Windows98.

While Microsoft defenders note that consumers can download alternative browsers off the Internet, this is mostly a theoretical choice for computer novices, who tend to stick with the software provided by their ISP. A survey of 7,000 computer users released earlier this year by the Georgia Institute of Technology found users of the Internet tend to stick with the first browser they become familiar with. Forty-five percent of those surveyed who had begun using the Internet in the last year said the primary reason they used a particular browser was because it came bundled with their software, while 81 percent of novices said they had not switched browsers in the past year. Given the lack of ISP support for alternative browsers, and justified fears that some Windows functions will not work with non-Microsoft browsers, it is even more unlikely that computer users will stray too often from the Internet software initially provided by their ISPs. This makes the increasing dominance of Microsoft among ISPs all the more disturbing.

NetAction strongly supports the investigations by the Justice Department and the States Attorneys General, and urges investigators to expand their efforts to fully rein in Microsoft's monopoly power.

(See our recommendations on dealing with Microsoft at, http://www.netaction.org/msoft/world/recommend.html).

Beyond that, we urge consumers to take the following actions to support consumer choice in Internet browsers:

(This article was written by Nathan Newman, NetAction Project Director. Contact Nathan at with comments or questions.)

Update: CETI dead

A quick update on the California Education Technology Initiative (CETI). Last week, the California State University system announced the collapse of negotiations to create a for-profit company with industry partners to manage technology resources for students. This followed a large mobilization of students, staff and faculty against the initiative. The mobilization was supported by NetAction (see Monitors #20, #21, #22, #25, and #28 for more info).

Condemning the monopoly control of technology embodied in CETI, NetAction and other critics had focused on the danger that CETI partners Microsoft and GTE would gain unfair advantages in the broader marketplace if given exclusive control of the technology students would be trained in on campuses across the state. When pressure forced the university system to drop a requirement for a complete monopoly for Microsoft software in the deal, Microsoft dropped out of negotiations in April. Last week, GTE decided that without the monopoly profits promised in the original CETI proposal, they had little interest anymore and pulled out of negotiations themselves.

All those who wrote and called to protest against the CETI deal can cheer that California has avoided a $3 billion mistake that would have hurt students, faculty and broader technology innovation in society.

(This article was written by Nathan Newman, NetAction Project Director. Contact Nathan at with comments or questions.)

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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Copyright 1998 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.