Categories: Competition

Platform Tilt: Documenting the Uneven Playing Field for an Independent Browser Like Firefox

Browsers are the principal gateway connecting people to the open Internet, acting as their agent and shaping their experience. The central role of browsers has long motivated us to build and improve Firefox in order to offer people an independent choice. However, this centrality also creates a strong incentive for dominant players to control the browser that people use. The right way to win users is to build a better product, but shortcuts can be irresistible — and there’s a long history of companies leveraging their control of devices and operating systems to tilt the playing field in favor of their own browser.

This tilt manifests in a variety of ways. For example: making it harder for a user to download and use a different browser, ignoring or resetting a user’s default browser preference, restricting capabilities to the first-party browser, or requiring the use of the first-party browser engine for third-party browsers.

For years, Mozilla has engaged in dialog with platform vendors in an effort to address these issues. With renewed public attention and an evolving regulatory environment, we think it’s time to publish these concerns using the same transparent process and tools we use to develop positions on emerging technical standards. So today we’re publishing a new issue tracker where we intend to document the ways in which platforms put Firefox at a disadvantage and engage with the vendors of those platforms to resolve them.

This tracker captures the issues we experience developing Firefox, but we believe in an even playing field for everyone, not just us. We encourage other browser vendors to publish their concerns in a similar fashion, and welcome the engagement and contributions of other non-browser groups interested in these issues. We’re particularly appreciative of the efforts of Open Web Advocacy in articulating the case for a level playing field and for documenting self-preferencing.

People deserve choice, and choice requires the existence of viable alternatives. Alternatives and competition are good for everyone, but they can only flourish if the playing field is fair. It’s not today, but it’s also not hard to fix if the platform vendors wish to do so.

We call on Apple, Google, and Microsoft to engage with us in this new forum to speedily resolve these concerns.