After getting cornered by the European Union, Microsoft offered a reasonable solution to the web browser monopoly dilemma: Let users choose whatever browser they want. Now, the developers of Firefox are whining about who's first in the web setup screen.
No, it's not Explorer. Microsoft wanted first to order browsers from left to right, in order of market share. That meant Explorer was going to go first, then Firefox, then Safari, Opera and Google's Chrome. The EU objected, so Microsoft complied and offered the only possible option: Alphabetical order.
That puts Apple Safari in the number one position, followed by Google Chrome, Microsoft Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. Looks good enough to me, but Jenny Boriss—a Firefox user experience designer—disagrees:
This ordering is about the worst option possible. Microsoft wrote in their proposal that 'nothing in the design and implementation of the Ballot Screen and the presentation of competing web browsers will express a bias for a Microsoft web browser or any other web browser', but this is exactly what the current design does. Windows users presented with the current design will tend to make only two choices: IE because they are familiar with it, or Safari because it is the first item.
"The disproportionate advantage to Safari is what really makes this design poor," she said, citing several studies that claim first position in a ballot gives an advantage, in part because Western voters scan from upper left to lower right when they read.
She goes on and on and on about this, but her basic message is: If Firefox is not first, this design is BAD. She timidly proposes a random order every time the selection screen opens, but she argues that this is bad because it "unfortunately does not provide users with any information about what browsers are preferred".
Then she shows her true colours, proposing the order according to market share—what Microsoft proposed—but excluding Explorer from that ordering and leaving it to the last position. Wouldn't that be unfairly helping Firefox and putting Safari, Chrome and Opera in a bad position? And why discriminate Microsoft Explorer too?
Finally, she also proposes probability ordering by market share excluding Internet Explorer, which again gives Firefox the advantage over the rest 50 per cent of the time.