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Mozilla: Apple, Google, and Microsoft lock you into their browsers


Apple, Google, Microsoft and others have essentially locked users into their web browsers through default settings in their OS platforms, giving the platform makers an unfair advantage over competitors, according to a new report by Firefox maker Mozilla.

Mozilla researchers found each platform maker “wants to keep people within its walled garden” by steering mobile and desktop users to Apple Safari, Google Chrome, or Microsoft Edge. “All five major platforms today (Google, Apple, Meta, Amazon, Microsoft) bundle their respective browsers with their operating systems and set them as the operating system default in the prime home screen or dock position,” Mozilla wrote in a 66-page report.

Mozilla claims that while many people report knowing how to install a browser in theory, “lots of people never actually install an alternative browser in practice.”

Browser users also fear that changing will cause them to lose years of data such as passwords, bookmarks, and history, and because OS developers don’t help make porting that data easier, further switching is hindered. “This magnifies the power of the operating system, which can choose either to stifle competition (by doing nothing or even inhibiting switching) or to help consumers (by making porting data easier),” Mozilla argued.

Forcing users into a preselected browser also stifles innovation, Mozilla said. “The lack of browser diversity leaves people exposed when it comes to improved security and privacy. Browsers are powered by a ‘browser engine,’ which significantly impacts the capability of a browser,” Mozilla said.

Apple, Mozilla noted, requires all developers deploying iOS browsers to use Apple’s own Safari WebKit engine. When security issues arise on WebKit, all iOS browser users are equally vulnerable until Apple finds, fixes, and publishes patches. “This is just one reason why a range of browsers, using different browser engines, is desirable,” Mozilla said.

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