Steve Fenton

CMA Browsers and Cloud Gaming Response

The Web is an amazing open platform, but a few times in the history of The Web we have faced challenges keeping it in great shape. When Microsoft had a browser monopoly with Internet Explorer, they were required not only to allow competing browsers but to actively prompt users to select from competitor browsers.

We then had the abandonment of the HTML standard in favour of XHTML 2, which was criticised for dropping rendering for pages with bad markup. The WHATWG stepped up to create a modern HTML standard, which we needed though it ended the traditional author-first driver for standards.

We now have a situation where mobile device operating systems are abusing their position of control to prevent choice for users. Specifically, Apple currently requires all apps and browsers on their mobile devices to use WebKit. They also prevent competing browsers from accessing the APIs that Safari has access to.

This doesn’t just mean alternative browsers have an unfair disadvantage compared to Safari, it also prevents web apps competing against native apps. Underinvestment in WebKit is also increasing the burden on companies in making websites compatible across all browsers as Safari has gradually become “the new IE6” (you develop a web page that works in all modern browsers, then fix all the issues caused by Safari).

Any company who controls a significant share of user access to The Web should take an ethically sound position in competition. In some cases, regulators need to intervene when a company is so big it can no longer see our understand how it’s behaviour damages fair competition.

The OWA needs your help from UK based individuals and organisations now.

We all need to speak up now, not to force Apple to change its behaviour, but to get protection for The Web from any large company that finds itself in a similar position.

How you can help

Read the CMA report on browsers and cloud gaming

Send your response to the CMA mailbox [email protected] before July 22nd.

You can also encourage friends, co-workers, and even your company to submit a response.

If you’re not sure where to start with your response to the CMA, here is my full submission. This might give you time ideas of where to start.

My response

Good afternoon,

My name is Steve Fenton and I have been an active member of the The Web Development community for two decades. I have been developing websites and web applications since HTML 4.0 and participated for a time in WHATWG and W3C working groups for HTML.

I am happy for my name to be published.

1) Do you consider that our analysis is correct with respect to the suspected features of concern in the supply of mobile browsers and cloud gaming in the UK?

Having read the MIR consultation, I believe the CMA has reached the correct conclusion. The restriction of browser engines directly prevents meaningful competition on Apple devices. Competition is needed to ensure The Web is able to progress with innovative features, which requires users to be able to access browsers kept in step with developments.

There are parallels with the situation we saw some years ago when Microsoft were required to encourage users to download competing browsers on Windows, even though it was already possible for users to choose to do so. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2010/mar/02/microsoft

In the article there are two parts I would highlight:

– “Microsoft’s browser has been the target of criticism for its failure to adopt emerging standards…” this is a similar criticism levelled at the Safari browser on Apple devices.

– “The main beneficiaries of the ballot are likely to be Google, Apple and the Mozilla Foundation, the makers respectively of Chrome, Safari and Firefox.” As a beneficiary of the policy to force Microsoft to recommend other browsers, Apple is now using even more stringent protections for their own browser on Apple devices.

2) Do you consider that our analysis is correct with respect to the reference test being met in relation to the supply of mobile browsers and cloud gaming in the UK?

Yes. An MIR is appropriate and intervention needs to occur quickly to ensure competition is not affected. If the result of this process arrives in 12 months, it is likely that companies will use the delay to launch their own services while there is still no competition. For example (though purely theoretical) if Apple were to launch a cloud gaming service before interventions are in place, they would gain a large user base while they remained the single option for users. Competitors would then be challenged to win users, who may well have “sunk-cost” in the cloud gaming service, such as achievements, credits, or purchases.

3) Do you agree with our proposal to exercise the CMA’s discretion to make a reference in relation to the supply of mobile browsers and cloud gaming in the UK?

Yes.

4) Do you consider that the proposed scope of the reference, as set out in the draft terms of the reference published alongside this document, would be sufficient to enable any adverse effect on competition (or any resulting or likely detrimental effects on customers) caused by the features referred to above to be effectively and comprehensively remedied?

With action taken as quickly as possible, yes.

5) Do you have any views on our current thinking on the types of remedies that a MIR could consider (see above and Chapter 8 of the market study final report)? Are there other measures we should consider?

I agree with all four of the interventions proposed.

6) Do you have any views on areas where we should undertake further analysis or gather further evidence as part of an MIR in relation to the supply of mobile browsers and cloud gaming

No.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Fenton

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