Kirk Evans Blog

.NET From a Markup Perspective

Opera Letter is Disingenuous

Going through a morning TwitterScan, I notice a lot of buzz around Opera’s letter to the web community.  I jumped over to that page to see what everyone was talking about, and then paused.

I was shocked at what I was looking at.  I think I was even more shocked at the credibility that people are giving this publicity stunt.

Opera has also requested that Microsoft frees Internet Explorer from the Windows platform. We feel that they have used their market dominating position to limit a genuine choice of browsers on the Web for their own commercial gain.

It’s not a novel concept that Microsoft used market position for commercial gain.  We’ve already been through this.  That’s not the part that made me laugh.  It’s this the part about Opera demanding that IE be “freed” from the Windows platform.  Umm… have a look at IE on OSX, it’s a part of Apple’s campaign to show consumers how easy it is to switch from Windows to Apple.

OK, IE runs on the Mac and is, therefore, “freed from the Windows platform”.  But honestly, who the hell is Opera to demand that Microsoft writes software in a manner that they see fit?  That’s like railing on Apple that the iPod is unfairly using its market dominant position and that iPod must run “freed of the Apple platform”. 

But let’s really analyze that statement for a second. 

  1. IE7 only runs on Windows. 
  2. Opera says that IE7 sucks at CSS support.
  3. IE7 should be propagated to more platforms than Windows.

See the flaw there?  Where do you make the monumental leap that sucking at CSS support is grounds to have IE run on multiple platforms?  And if Microsoft sucks so bad at it, why would you want it to run on more platforms, spreading the problem?  Ooooh… wait…. another spin on the same flawed argument…

  1. IE7 only runs on Windows. 
  2. Microsoft unfairly dominates the industry with IE7.
  3. IE7 should be propagated to more platforms than Windows.

I wonder if they really thought this one out.  If Microsoft unfairly dominates the industry, installing it on more platforms only increases its market dominance.  Wouldn’t it be funny if, when it’s all said and done, that the EC compels Microsoft to install on Linux?  How does that benefit Opera then?  More importantly, how does that really benefit consumers or promote choice?

What Opera should have stuck with is just to tell the truth by saying they want to be installed on every Windows distro in the world.  Of course they do, they are a software company trying to make a buck.  But they can’t say that, instead they have to veil what they really want while claiming they are acting in the best interest of the consumer.  Strike a deal with an OEM and get Opera as part of the install if that’s what you really want. 

 The part that people are missing is that users will replace their browser if there is a more compelling product to choose from.  iTunes is more compelling to a lot of people than Zune or Windows Media Player.  Firefox has a LOT of installs.  Innovation is wonderful, and Opera does provide a lot of innovation.  Now follow Apple’s lead to couple innovation with marketing, to get the word out that Opera still exists.

Oh, wait… that’s what this publicity stunt letter is all about. Since they have the innovation, they are now trying to get the word out.  Good job, then.