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Saturday, December 05, 2009, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Microsoft alters settlement with EU over browser exclusivity

Microsoft has modified its antitrust settlement with the European Union in response to complaints from other browser makers.

Microsoft's offer to give consumers a choice of browsers to comply with antitrust claims by the European Union has undergone several changes in response to concerns raised by competing browser developers.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the modified agreement offers Windows users a "ballot screen" that will randomly list the five top web browsers. Users would be given the option to select a browser that will then be downloaded from the Internet.

Concerns were raised by Opera, Google, and Mozilla over the planned ballot concept when it was first announced due to plans to have the browsers listed in alphabetical order. This would have placed Apple's Safari browser first. "More competition in the browser space will mean greater innovation on the Web and a better user experience for people everywhere," Google spokesman Bill Echikson reportedly said.

The European Union's antitrust claim against Microsoft stemmed from its belief that the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows was an abuse of Microsoft's stance in the market. The EU claimed that the widespread use of Internet Explorer forced outside developers and programmers to work towards optimizing their products exclusively for the Microsoft browser, therefore limiting the features available to potential users.

According to November numbers by Net Applications, Internet explorer has fallen in total market share to capture 63.62 percent of the market, followed by Firefox with 24.72 and Safari with 4.36 percent.