Last week, Opera filed a complaint with the European Commission. The story has been reported widely in the news and many people have voiced their opinion in the matter. I've received lots of messages in support of Opera's stand in my mailbox, especially on the issue of web standards. Many of the writers are frustrated web designers who spend too much time trying to work around the bugs and limitations of IE. Some people miss the Swedish Chef in our arguments. I wish humor would trump in all big battles.
Also, some people have asked questions. For example, they ask: Why did you only sue Microsoft, and not Apple? Surely, Apple bundles a browser, too? The first thing that must be clarified is that Opera didn't sue Microsoft. We are not asking the courts to get involved, and we are not asking for money. Rather, we have written a letter to the European Commission with a complaint about the lack of competition in the area of Internet Browsers. One of the jobs of the The European Commission is to oversee the markets in Europe and ensure that there is a healthy level of competition.
Microsoft has been deemed a dominant player in the market for operating systems. Dominant players must follow certain rules to ensure that they don't take unfair advantage of their dominant position. For example, bundling products together may be illegal for dominant players. Apple has not been declared to be a dominant player in the market for operating systems, and this complaint is therefore only about Microsoft.
I think most people would a agree that monopolists need to follow certain rules. Let me guess: there is only one power line into your house? And you probably don't want the power supplier to kick you off the grid? Or, start feeding you DC instead of AC? It's the government's job to make sure certain rules are in place and that they are respected.
Some people have asked: Which standards should IE have to support? Who should write the list? Fortunately, we don't need for someone to decide on a list. This is what Microsoft wrote in 1998:
"Microsoft has a deep commitment to working with the W3C on HTML and CSS...We are still committed to complete implementations of the Recommendations of the W3C in this area (CSS and HTML and the DOM)."
As you can see, Microsoft picked the standards themselves and there is no need for the European Commission or Opera to do so. When Microsoft promises to support a standard, we think they should use their best efforts to do so. When they don't, we think it's fair to say so.
Another point raised by some is: IE has had these problems for ages. Why do you complain now? We think this is the right time. The web has increased in importance over the last years. Browsers are now application platforms rather than just document viewers, and having web access is central to the human existence. It's important that users can access the the web from many types of devices, and have a real choice among browsers.
There is also a legal reason for the timing. A few months ago, the European Courts issued a ruling against Microsoft. We think that case sets a legal precedent which should make our case easier and faster to deal with.
Finally, Andy Clarke is concerned about the CSS Working Group itself following our announcement. Andy shares my frustration with IE (as most Web designers do), and he also thinks the progress of the Working Group is at risk. He writes:
What I am concerned about is how Opera's action will further destabilize the W3C's CSS Working Group of which both Opera and Microsoft post representatives.
Personally, I'm confident that the technical work in the CSS Working Group will continue undisturbed. Certainly, Opera's commitment to standard remains rock solid. Also, I've always had a good personal relationship with Microsoft's representatives in the CSS Working Group. They are smart, honest and hard-working people, and some of them even have a sense of humor. (Not enough to trump all our big battles, but it makes our meetings much more cheerful ;-)
Actually, I even believe Microsoft's programmers to have a sense of humor — perhaps they even can make IE smile?
For more questions and answers, see Haavard's blog.