As antitrust regulators around the world dial up scrutiny of platform power, Mozilla has published a piece of research digging into the at times subtle yet always insidious ways operating systems exert influence to keep consumers locked to using their own-brand browsers rather than seeking out and switching to independent options — while simultaneously warning that competition in the browser market is vital to ensure innovation and choice for consumers and, more broadly, protect the vitality of the open web against the commercial giants trying to wall it up.
Mozilla is not a bystander in the browser arena, as it of course developers the Firefox browser and the Gecko engine that underpins it. But it’s a non-profit, free software developer, rather than a commercial player. It also remains the underdog in market share terms — with the market being dominated by Google’s Chrome browser and Apple’s Safari (especially on mobile); and by the technical infrastructure the pair develop via their respective Blink and Webkit browser engines. Just those three browser engines (Blink, Webkit, and Mozilla’s Gecko) are the only ones left in play — powering all browsers available to consumers. (Microsoft’s Edge, for example, runs on Google’s Blink).
It’s hardly news that Google bundles Chrome with Android and Apple preloads Safari on iOS and that most mobile users won’t bother changing those defaults — especially as neither mobile platform makes it easy to switch default browser, even as their brand name familiarity exerts its own stickiness discouraging consumers from seeking out smaller, less well known alternatives.