back to article Europe wants easy default browser selection screens. Mozilla is already sounding the alarm on dirty tricks

Europe's Digital Markets Act, which goes into effect next year, will require that companies designated as gatekeepers provide users of most popular operating systems with browser choice screens that ask them to select a default browser. Among the designated gatekeepers – Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Choice screens are the least of the problems. Much worse is the growing habit of web sites checking the browser and refusing to play if it isn't one of their favoured ones - which is increasingly likely to be Chromium based.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Chromium based

      Chromium and all the derivatives are banned in my home. The only browsers that work reliable (or via a VPN) are Firefox, WaterFox and Safari (on IoS).

      Anything that starts sending data to the likes of MS, Google, Amazon etc trigger an outgoing firewall alert. Then they get blocked pronto.

      Those annoying sites that demand access to Google for Captcha's are only usable via a VPN that shows that I have an IPofP (Internet Point of Presence) in Palo Alto , not the UK.

      I wonder how much Google/MS are paying sites to demand a Chromium based browser? Any that I encounter get blacklisted. I have seen it once on my iPhone. Numpties the lot of them.

      Google etc can go FSCK themselves.

      1. stiine Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: re: Chromium based

        As long as you remembered to block all of google's domains, like safebrowsing.googleapis.com...

        And there's no way you can verify that Firefox itself isn't using DOH behind the scenes.

        1. eldakka

          Re: re: Chromium based

          > And there's no way you can verify that Firefox itself isn't using DOH behind the scenes.

          There is, a MITM proxy.

          All devices are blocked from accessing the internet, they must connect to a proxy and only the proxy IP is allowed through. Set the proxy up as a MITM proxy, and you get to see all traffic.

    2. Simian Surprise

      Growing, again. I remember "Best Viewed With Internet Explorer" being popular once.

      On the other side, web developers don't usually enjoy having to test their work in multiple rendering engines (boo hoo, right?) and as Chrome is often the default browser they have access to, "works on Chrome" is going to be what they give us.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        When I used to write websites (pure html/css tyvm) it was part of the testing process to run them thru multiple browsers. If it didn't work right on lynx, it was unfit for purpose. IE gave me the most issues, refusing to render validated HTML correctly

        1. claimed Bronze badge

          React (thanks Facebook) and other component based frameworks should make this super easy, as you can then encapsulate your widget and check its cross browser and not worry about it later. This significantly reducing the burden of testing. I know JS slows sites down and all that, but honestly this plus typescript is an amazing step forward in my opinion. Sure, still need to test and try to keep the bloat down, but the trade off is very acceptable to me as both a user and a developer

          1. david 12 Silver badge

            The frameworks pretty much all have a policy decision that "unsuported" browsers will be disabled rather than partly-enabled. When you get that "upgrade your browser" message, it's determined by the framework in use, and happens when (for security reasons), the framework in use has been upgraded to the latest version.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Yes, it's the frameworks that are the problem. All they give to the developer is apparent plausible deniability. Given that they chose to adopt the framework it's not even that plausible.

            2. claimed Bronze badge

              I can’t speak for frameworks in general, or libraries in use, but react doesn’t, and neither does the “ootb” basic app either: https://create-react-app.dev/docs/supported-browsers-features/

              You just change the browser list to the list that you’re testing against….

              If you’re updating your app and not regression testing then that’s on you. If you’re not testing legacy browsers then getting annoyed you have to fill out a list then just use a “*” policy as you’re just chucking it over the fence anyway; if you’re not testing every single browser and are happy to please most people then than is exactly what the defaults are doing by only allowing recent versions of chrome…

              I don’t see the issue, which explains my downvotes!

        2. david 12 Silver badge

          refusing to render validated HTML correctly

          Which is hardly surprising, given that one of the main purposes in the design of the validation requirements was to create a workspace that did not match IE.

        3. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

          I remember doing that. Weirdly I'd try and be standards compliant as possible and find that IE, Chrome, Firefox and Safari all behaved as expected. Edge was usually the odd one out. Then they ditched their own, terrible, rendering engine, fortunately.

      2. frankrider

        "On the other side, web developers don't usually enjoy having to test their work in multiple rendering engines (boo hoo, right?)"

        Um, it's not exactly fun but it's part of the job. At my shop we had to test everything on Chrome, Firefox, and IE. Not sure what kids are doing these days though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: we had to test everything on Chrome, Firefox, and IE

          I guess that Safari is still too niche a product then despite being on all iPhones, iPads and Macs.

          Long may that remain... then the hackers will leave it alone for the time being.

      3. hoola Silver badge

        And whenever you click on something on help (or anything else) in Windows it opens the browser.

        Then there is the lunacy of stuff still trying to open Internet Explorer!!!!

      4. wolfetone Silver badge

        The good old days of having browser specific stylesheets for IE5.5, IE 6, IE 7, IE 8...

        One massive problem though is that while devs tend to go with Chrome is because they use so many of the Google tools which play nicely in Chrome. Emails? Gmail. Search? Google. Analytics? Google Analytics. What mobile you using? Probably Android.

        There is also a prevailing and wrong attitude about Chrome being "faster" than other browsers. That's not the case now I don't think, especially with RAM. But I would say too that Chrome is fairly frictionless to get going with while Firefox has a little bit of friction with it.

    3. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Caught out yesterday once again. Been visiting mega.co.uk for many years: now the poor pathetic dupes refused my regular usual browser for them, up-to-date Basilisk ( same with Pale Moon ), which always worked before, claiming it was out-dated, and presented the usual selection of approved browsers.

      I managed with the hideous drivelling Firefox despite its resolute fugliness; but there's no reason why I should have to, let alone the sad Chrome.

      .

      And yet it is not just the rarer browsers: coders now find it exceptionally difficult to build a new browser from scratch; but if they do, they will then find it impossible to market if the purity crowd make sure websites won't display with them, taking away their purpose.

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      The EU may end up creating the future they fear

      Much worse is the growing habit of web sites checking the browser and refusing to play if it isn't one of their favoured ones - which is increasingly likely to be Chromium based.

      If the EU forces Apple to allow "real" Chrome on iOS instead of Chrome using Apple's WebKit like currently a lot more websites will do that. Safari is the biggest obstacle to doing that today, because iOS users can't run "real" Chrome. If they can web designers can just assume that designing pages only for Chrome will force iOS users to download Chrome to use it, effectively killing Safari. Firefox would probably be dead already if it was easy to design for Chrome+Safari only, but it will be dead for sure in this Chrome only future.

      I worry that the EU is going to force Apple to do this, believing that it will increase competition, when it would actually do the exact opposite.

      Now theoretically Apple could allow real Chrome in EU countries only, but it probably isn't practical for them to do so.

    5. alain williams Silver badge

      Lack of browser choice

      the growing habit of web sites checking the browser and refusing to play if it isn't one of their favoured ones

      Simple: if they do that then I go elsewhere. If I spend money elsewhere, their loss.

      There are very few places that would cause me problems if they did that, eg my bank.

      Would not behaviour like this fall foul of disability legislation, eg refusing to work with a text-to-speech browser ? (Assuming that gov't can be arsed to enforce its own laws).

      One also needs to wonder about their technical competence if they are apparently unable to make their web site work cross browser, it is not very hard.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lack of browser choice

        Growing habit?

        This message looks best on Netscape Navigator 4.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lack of browser choice

        Well yes, but it's a problem if you need to use their website e.g. in a professional capacity, even more so if the website owner is large.

        In completely unrelated news, I find a vast number of Microsoft sites don't play nice with Firefox, but work very well with Edge Chromium.

    6. hoola Silver badge

      And when there are updates randomly resetting the default applications so things like PDF open in the browse with half the functionality missing.

  2. Kev99 Silver badge

    As Doctor Syntax wrote, "Much worse is the growing habit of web sites checking the browser and refusing to play if it isn't one of their favoured ones...". Even some operating systems, read mictosoft windows, are written to use one particular browser. With the umpteen thousand security patches mictosoft has had to push out I wouldn't trust anything out of Redmond for use on the internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As opposed to the none that have ever been released for other browsers or operating systems?

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Holmes

    Deja vu, all over again...

    I'm sure we had this argument around ten years ago, and after an initial thrashing around it all disappeared quietly into the morning mist...

    "Best viewed with"/"Only works with"... it's almost as if there were no such thing as web standards.

    (Though there is the point that a choice for an uniformed user is no more than a lottery: how does he rate one over another?)

    1. Ragarath

      Re: Deja vu, all over again...

      But that's part of the problem, they don't all support the standards in the same way or by the same amount.

      So you choose the one that supports the standards you need.

      1. Ayemooth

        Re: Deja vu, all over again...

        Or, you limit to the standards that all fairly-modern browsers support. There are always a few new CSS things that would make authoring web dev easier (and not to the detriment of users) but are not supported by enough browsers. So my staff are told not to use the them, simple as that. Sure, it makes life a little harder for us, but that's the world we live in.

        To put it another way, if it doesn't work for all your users, then we don't consider that to have been built properly.

        At the risk of sounding old, maybe it's because I've lived through the times when IE, Firefox and Chrome all had meaningful market share, so it's ingrained into my professional psyche.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Deja vu, all over again...

          Better yet, the intersection of the set of standards supported by fairly-modern browsers with the set of ones you have a real, demonstrable need for.

          The vast majority of websites don't even need scripting. They might use scripting to offer additional features or "improve user experience", but they ought to degrade gracefully in the absence of scripting. It's Not That Hard. (I wrote my first website in 1993, and I've taught web application design. I can quote C&V for HTTP, HTML, CSS, and ECMAScript standards from HTTP 0.9 through HTTP/2, and HTML up through HTML 5 circa 2017, when I stopped following web standards so closely. I am not in any way convinced by arguments about how "modern" websites have to use every damn tool in the box.)

          SPAs/RIAs are a different story, but there are very few websites that need to be or should be implemented as SPAs. And while there are certainly advantages to using the browser as a rendering engine, the craze for making every application an SPA (due in part to revenge effects from policies set by smartphone OS vendors) has gone much too far. Electron-hosted monstrosities like MS Teams are a case in point.

    2. navarac Bronze badge

      Re: Deja vu, all over again...

      Since then, new kids are in tech jobs and "what goes rounds, comes round again".

  4. xyz123 Silver badge

    Windows 11 latest insider build now pops up adds INSIDE web pages trying to trick you into making edge the default browser.

    Sometimes the options say stuff like "Make Edge the default browser yes/no" and sometimes the opposite "keep your current default browser? or change to Edge Yes/No"

    the "ads" look like they're embedded into websites, but are actually OS overlays.

    1. frankrider

      I've been using non-MS OS's for many years now so I was taken aback when I went to fix something on my mother's Windows 10 computer only an Edge window to open itself and tell me how great Edge is and ask me if I'd like to make it my default browser. I've never seen anything like this ever - not on my non-MS OS's and not on older versions of Windows. This type of user-unfriendly behavior wouldn't be possible if MS didn't have a vice grip on the OS market.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Perhaps...?

        if it time to nuke MS for good.

        To me, the purpose of an OS is to allow the applications to do their job and to NOT get in the way. If MS persist in this then they will drive more and more people away.

        Perhaps.... that is their aim? After all, it is the corporate customers that provide them with the big bucks.

  5. Phones Sheridan Silver badge

    Maybe now is the time to release my internet browser named "Internet Browser"!

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      The GNOME idiots have tried that, renaming their Epiphany browser "Web" and their Nautilus file manager "Files". Confusing, ambiguous and further examples of the arrogance which pervades the project.

      1. vekkq

        I can understand why though. All the nonsensical names for preinstalled programs, which didn't give a hint for what they are for, are an obstacle for beginners to adopt the platform.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Up to a point, but calling programs "Web" and "Files" when there are loads of web browsers and file managers around is just daft.

          1. Mage Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Up to a point, but calling programs

            Apple is stupid having Safari, Books and Pages.

            MS having Word, Excel, Explorer, Windows and Edge as names is crazy.

            How do you search internet?

            There is good reason to have made up names like Kleenex and Sellotape.

            The GIMP is a stupid name for the image editor.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge
  6. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I like browser choice. I run a mixture of Linux Mint and Xubuntu, and the first thing I do with a new install is add Chrome to avoid the bloat, ugly, resource-hungry nightmare of Firefox.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      I like browser choice. On all my Pis the first thing I do with a new install is remove Chrome to avoid the bloat, ugly, resource-hungry nightmare and install Firefox.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Chrome? Firefox? Are you both mad? [a fight breaks out]

        (I'm using Pale Moon where possible, Vivaldi where I have to have a Chromium browser, and Edge for a couple of extra-terrible work things that don't even work under Vivaldi.)

    2. Vincent van Gopher
      Happy

      Dear Mr Johnston

      You forgot the /sarc tag.

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        I did not. Firefox under Linux is a pain in the arse: slow to load and very resource hungry. Chrome is much faster and easier to run. I used to use Chromium until they removed the sync option.

        It hasn't always been like this. Firefox was much better than Chrome at one point, after they fixed its old memory leaks, but they blew it about three years ago and it went crap again.

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Flame

          Chrome on Linux?

          There are loads of better choices including slightly less spyweared Chromium for Linux.

          Sadly most now put tabs on top and ignore GUI theme like a bad version of Winamp (which at least made some sense for it to look like a gadget).

  7. jlturriff

    To reduce the chance that when the user just picks the first browser on the list, the list should be randomized, using part of the system clock and perhaps something like the MAC address. This would spread the selections better than a static list.

    1. v13

      Android 's browser selection list is in a randomised order.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Naah, I've got a better idea: install every browser under the sun then force open the same site in all of them and make the user choose one.

    Why do you think ordinary users care about which browser they are using? As long as the cat picture keeps displaying they don;t give a flying fuck.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      I apologise that I'm only allowed to give you one upvote.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I know some people who are not in the industry who care what browser they're running. Or is "ordinary user" helpfully defined as anyone who meets your criterion of not caring?

    3. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      This is exactly the problem. The "normal user" will choose whichever is easiest, which, with market manipulation and abuse, is likely to be the one that's scooping up the most of your data for $GLOBAL_MEGACORP to do whatever they like with.

  9. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Pint

    How about

    europe doing something better than 'default browsers' and backing a company making an operating system not full of bloat, corporate telemetry and government spyware and gets long term support too?

    Sorry my medication is playing up.... I dunno what I'm dreaming of

  10. stiine Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    There's no point.

    It won't matter because visiting any Microsoft website will automatically pop up an 'install Edge' window, and visiting any Google website will automatically pop up an 'install Chrome' window.

    1. BoldMan

      Re: There's no point.

      I never get these messages (checks browser add-ons... Ghostery, Privacy Badger, AdBlock Plus) nah, never see them...

      1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

        Re: There's no point.

        You shouldn't really have to install an add on to block them. And the less tech minded are the ones they're after anyway.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: There's no point.

      Yes that needs to be illegal. Along with dark grey text on black or light grey text on white. Or forcing a mobile version of the site on a big hi-res screen because OS is iOS or Android.

      Or designing desktop applications or websites as if everyone has a 6″ screen with only touch.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: There's no point.

        I'd love to see more regulation against dark patterns in general. And, no, I don't think they need strict legal definitions. We don't have strict definitions of things like false advertising, and we still manage to squelch some of it. Some is better than none.

        (At the moment I personally am annoyed by too-small "close" buttons on advertisements I get in certain phone apps, where not hitting the button precisely opens a web page that goes to the app store to try to make you download the advertised app. That sort of thing is extremely obnoxious.)

  11. teknopaul

    Browser choice, while important, is a symptom of monopoly abuse not the cause?

    We need anti-trust legislation with teeth. One that takes back money earned and spends it on alternatives that are viable.

    We need to jail a few cros as a starting point. China do it. And it works

    1. eldakka
      Trollface

      > We need anti-trust legislation with teeth.

      There are 32 teeth, so each month the regulator should be prompted with a list of 32 teeth and has to pick the one it wants to use that month.

    2. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

      "China do it and it works" also applies to genocide. Simplistic arguments, especially superficially appealing ones, are usually false...

      The underlying problem isn't necessarily the people in charge of businesses, who are pretty much legally bound to do whatever they can to make the most money for their shareholders, it is the lack of regulation that says, "within that context, you're not allowed to do X, Y, or Z".

  12. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Heavy lifting

    Microsoft is going to do some pretty large modifications to windows and office to comply with this

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Heavy lifting

      Nah, they'll just refuse to comply and then drag out the court case until the issue is no longer relevant.

      1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

        Re: Heavy lifting

        The fact that we're still talking about the need for browser choice screens in 2023 demonstrates that they have managed to drag it out this long, and that "dragging out" started in the '90s.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Probably an unpopular view here

    As an Apple user (albeit also running Windows and Linux VMs on my MacBook) the only time Safari doesn’t work for me is accessing Teams. I have Edge installed for that (switching between different client logins is far easier than with the Teams app). I get plenty of pop-ups suggesting I should open a site in Chrome but I’ve never had an issue just ignoring that. I used to have Firefox installed as well (for sites that didn’t play well with Safari) but, not having needed to use it for several years (and finding it clumsy when I used it just to keep my copy updated), I removed it.

    Unlike many here, I like Apple kit because it meets my needs without me having to delve too deeply; when I need to tinker, I have a choice of Linux VMs. I’ve used many combinations of hardware and software in my career (since 1974) and used to hate Macs when I had to use one, but OSX changed that. Several of my old Windows laptops have been successfully repurposed with Linux as loan kit (I now fill some of my retirement time supporting the older users in the community on ICT issues). What surprises me (though it shouldn’t) are the number of Mac users I meet who use Chrome; these are not particularly computer-literate users but had believed they needed Chrome to access the “internet” properly.

    1. JustAnotherDistro

      Re: Probably an unpopular view here

      Can you install uBlock Origin on Safari?

      1. Handy Plough

        Re: Probably an unpopular view here

        No. But there is 1Blocker and AdGuard, which aren't necessarily as good as uBlock Origin and don't do a bad job blocking ads.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Probably an unpopular view here

          AdGuard is a good choice in the Apple orchard - there are versions for iOS/iPadOS too. There are free and paid options, the latter adding in more flexibility - including an option to block ads in apps (which I've found very useful for infrequently used apps that charge to remove ads).

        2. Mage Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: don't do a bad job blocking ads.

          I don't care about ads (as long as static and small and not disguised as content). I do object to 3rd party scripts and 3rd party cookies. That's what I block. Some stupid companies have web sites that are entirely blocked claiming you are blocking their ads and depriving them of revenue when you do that. They are idiots. Even CNN and BBC has had adverts serving malware. Which 3rd party advert sellers / script providers are honest and trustworthy?

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