Friday, April 12, 2024

Effects of the DMA’s Browser Choice Requirement

Ashley Belanger:

Smaller web browsers are gaining traction in the European Union after the Digital Markets Act (DMA) started requiring designated gatekeepers like Google and Apple to make it easier to switch default web browsers on devices.


Reuters collected data from six companies, confirming that, when presented with a choice screen, many EU users will swap out default browsers like Chrome or Safari for more privacy-focused options. And because iPhones have a larger market share than Google-branded phones in the EU, Apple is emerging as the biggest loser, Reuters reported, noting that under the DMA, “the growth for smaller browsers is currently coming at the cost of Safari.”

Dan Moren:

In some ways, this isn’t surprising: I’m guessing a lot of consumers in the EU weren’t even aware that they could change the default browser on iOS. But it’s also early days and it’s possible that some of this is experimentation for people to see what else is on there—it’s not entirely clear to me from the story (or the Reuters story where the numbers originate) over what time period they’ve logged this. People may try out another browser and then change back—especially if we’re talking about browsers with, say, free trials to a paid subscription.

Nick Heer:

I have seen others suggest people may be picking third-party browsers because they are unclear about what a web browser is, or are unsure which one they want to use. I can see legitimacy in both arguments — but that is just how choice works. A lot of people buy the same brand of a product even when they have other options because it is the one they recognize; others choose based on criteria unrelated to the product itself. This is not a new phenomenon. What is fascinating to me is seeing how its application to web browsers on a smartphone is being treated as exotic.


It has so far been a little bit like entering a store where they give you a basket of house brand products and you have to decide which third-party options you want to add or exchange to the basket. Someone needs to really care in order to make the effort. Now, because of this ballot screen, the market is a little more levelled, and it seems some users are responding.

Tim Hardwick:

Despite users increasingly choosing alternative options, browser companies have criticized Apple and Google for the slow rollout of the change, and believe it is hampering the migration away from Safari and Chrome. Mozilla, which owns Firefox, estimates that only around a fifth of iPhone users in the EU have received the iOS update, and claims that the rollout is much slower than Apple’s previous software updates.

Some alternative browser makers are also concerned that the design of choice screens is sub-optimal at best. For example, Vivaldi CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner notes that Apple’s choice screen only appears when iPhone users open Safari, while the list of browsers provides no additional information.


Vivaldi is also unhappy with the design. “The list of browsers does not show additional information and that does not help users to make a meaningful choice,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch. “If the user has already selected a browser of their own choice, the choice screen can actively try to push them away from it, and may not even include it in the list that it presents to the user.”


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