Opera Software, the Oslo-based producer of the Opera browser, has filed a complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft, alleging that the software giant is unfairly abusing its dominant market position by tying Windows to Internet Explorer. The complaint also alleges that Microsoft is hindering Web interoperability by failing to adhere to widely accepted Web standards.
In a press statement released earlier Thursday, Opera CEO Jon von Tetzchner said that the company was acting on behalf of all consumers who are tired of having a monopolist make choices for them.
"In addition to promoting the free choice of individual consumers," Tetzchner added, "we are a champion of open Web standards and cross-platform innovation. We cannot rest until we've brought fair and equitable options to consumers worldwide."
The company is asking the European Commission to order Microsoft either to unbundle Internet Explorer or to require it to bundle additional competing browsers, such as Firefox or Opera. In addition, Opera is seeking an order requiring Microsoft to comply with "fundamental and open Web standards accepted by the Web-authoring community."
Old Tune, New Lyrics?
Earlier this year, the European Court of First Instance upheld a 2004 ruling by the European Commission that Microsoft abused its monopoly position by unfairly tying its Windows Media Player to its operating system. Opera's Chief Technology Officer, Hakon Wium Lie, said in a telephone interview that the Microsoft's behavior with its browser is parallel to its treatment of its music player.
"We think it's even more serious for browsers, though, because browsers are more important to people in their everyday lives," Lie said. "And with Web 2.0, the browser is increasingly turning into a platform for application development. If one company retains monopoly power, that's very harmful."
Putting IE to the Test
The crux of Opera's interoperability claim centers on Internet Explorer's failure to master the Acid2 test, a page-rendering challenge designed by the Web Standards Project to measure a browser's compliance with W3C HTML and CSS 2.0 standards. If a browser is fully compliant, a cheerful face appears on the screen under the words "Hello World," and the face's nose turns blue when the mouse hovers over it.
"It's a very visual example of how well different browsers comply with Web standards," Lie said.
Currently, just four browsers successfully render the image on the test page: Safari 2.0.3., Konqueror 3.5, Opera 9, and Mozilla Firefox 3.0b1. The page as rendered by Internet Explorer is a Mondrian-esque splash of reds, yellows, and blacks.
"This is a very difficult test," Lie said, "and it is difficult for all browsers, not just Microsoft. It took Opera almost a year to do it, but we've done it, Firefox has done it, Safari has done it, but Microsoft, they don't care, it seems."
Lie said he believes that by refusing to comply with commonly accepted Web standards, Microsoft is attempting to take its OS monopoly onto the Web. "It's very important to them," Lie said, "because the Web is the new platform. The browser is becoming the fundamental tool for computer users."