by Timothy Lee
Thu, Dec 13th 2007 3:55pm
Opera has filed a complaint in Europe accusing Microsoft of violating antitrust laws there. The arguments in this complaint appear to be very similar to the arguments in the original antitrust case against Microsoft a decade ago, which some states are still pushing here in the United States. I don't know much about European antitrust law, but it's a little hard to take Opera's policy argument seriously. Mozilla has reported that Firefox's market share is 28 percent in Europe, a number that has been growing steadily for most of this decade. And Apple recently joined the fray by launching a Windows version of its Safari browser. There is, in short, no shortage of competition in the browser market, and that's been reflected in the steady erosion of Microsoft's market share. Now, it is true that the situation is somewhat unfair to Opera. Microsoft's ability to bundle Internet explorer with Windows obviously gives it a big advantage (as does Apple's ability to bundle Safari with Macs and iPhones). But antitrust law was never designed to make the market "fair" in this sense, and as Firefox demonstrates, those disadvantages are far from insurmountable. Antitrust law is about protecting consumers, not competitors. As far as I can see, there's nothing stopping consumers who are dissatisfied with Internet Explorer from downloading Firefox, Safari, or Opera. Indeed, a quarter of European Internet users have done just that. Perhaps the money Opera is currently spending on lawyers would be better spent on figuring out why Mozilla has been so much more successful than Opera at attracting new users.
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