Provide a detailed summary of the following web content, including what type of content it is (e.g. news article, essay, technical report, blog post, product documentation, content marketing, etc). If the content looks like an error message, respond 'content unavailable'. If there is anything controversial please highlight the controversy. If there is something surprising, unique, or clever, please highlight that as well: Title: Why Browsers Are Essential and How Operating Systems Are Holding Them Back [pdf] Site: FIVE WALLED GARDENS Why Browsers are Essential to the Internet and How Operating Systems are Holding Them Back SEPTEMBER 2022 A REPORT FROM (cid:31) The open-source Mozilla Project is a global community of technologists, thinkers and build- ers working to keep the internet alive and accessible, so people worldwide can be informed contributors and creators of the web. We are the only major technology provider established as a non-profit foundation with a mission to ensure the internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Millions of people worldwide choose our products — includ- ing the Firefox web browser — for an internet that puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experiences and are empowered, safe and independent. AC K N O W L E D G M E N T S This paper reflects years of thinking developed over time by Mozilla’s user researchers, data scientists, product managers, business development leads, engineers, marketers and more. We would like to thank all of the people who gave their time to review drafts of this report and offer valuable feedback, including Mozilla colleagues and the following individuals from other organizations: • Daniel Rubinfeld, Professor of Law at NYU School of Law • Tommaso Valletti, Professor of Economics at Imperial College Business School • David E Silva, Assistant Professor in the School of Communication Studies, Kent State University • Lauren E Willis, Professor of Law, Loyola Marymount University • Greg Day, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at the Terry College of Business • Kartikeya Kandula, Princeton University This report should not be read as representing the views of any of those who kindly contrib- uted their time to provide comments and feedback. TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S Introduction Browsers and browser engines are the heart of the web Operating systems misuse their privileged position Part 1: The Value of Browsers and the Harms from Operating System Self-Preferencing Why browsers are fundamental to consumers Browsers are used on desktop, mobile, voice and mixed reality devices Choice, innovation, security and privacy are at stake How operating systems control the use of browsers and browser engines Independent browsers improve search and advertising Part 2: The Consumer Design Tactics Used By Operating Systems to Undermine Consumer Choice How online choice architecture is used to remove consumer choice and control Examples of Choice Structure Examples of Choice Information Examples of Choice Pressure How online choice architecture is used to bolster operating system browsers at the expense of alternatives Consumer discovery of browsers Consumer evaluation of browsers Consumer adoption of browsers Conclusion Next Steps Annex 1: Survey Methods Sources 4 6 8 11 11 19 21 26 31 36 36 38 40 42 45 47 54 56 60 61 61 63 Introduction This report has two purposes: first, to present Mozilla’s research (both recent surveys and years of knowledge) into consumer interaction with browsers. Secondly, to highlight the foreclosure of browser engines and independent browsers by operating systems. Part 1 of the paper is about operating systems, browsers, browser engines and how consum- ers behave. Part 2 highlights the online choice architecture practices by operating system providers which we believe have shaped consumer browser usage away from independent browsers. The research we are releasing with this report paints a complex picture with many para- doxes: people say they know how to change their browser, yet many never do. Many peo- ple believe they can choose their browser, yet they have a bias towards software which is pre-installed, set to default and difficult to change. In fact, their browser choice on desktop computers has been thwarted for many years, and it has never truly existed on mobile de- vices. Our research corroborates what many regulators have already noticed: software can be designed to influence or even manipulate consumer outcomes. And operating systems are designed to maximize usage of their affiliated browsers. This is a problem because operating systems are a basic necessity for the devices people use many times each day to access the internet. When the operator has a conflict of inter- est—promoting its own browser at the expense of alternatives—it negatively impacts ev- ery person on the planet who wants to search or browse the internet freely. It also impacts society more broadly. Why? Because competition in browsers and browser engines is needed to advance inno- vation, performance, speed, privacy, and security. Effective competition requires multiple stakeholders to counter the power of a small number of giants and prevent them from dic- tating the future of the internet for all of us. One of the ways Mozilla seeks to do this is through developing and investing in our Gecko browser engine. This matters because there are only three main browser engine providers left: Google, Apple and Mozilla - but Apple’s engine only runs on Apple devices. So, without Mozilla, the only cross-platform browser engine would be provided by Google. Putting the development of cross-platform web browsers in the hands of a single company creates not only a concentration of power, but also a single point of failure. A healthy internet requires lawmakers, policymakers and regulators to work alongside stake- holders like Mozilla to champion competition, access, interoperability, privacy and security. 4 Where rules already exist or will soon come into force, we call for them to be enforced to en- sure a level playing field for independent browsers; where new rules are needed, we call for them to be passed without delay. This paper aims to shine a light on a part of the internet which is less talked about, despite the scrutiny that digital markets currently receive. We intend to follow it up with more work in the coming months on how some of these issues can be effectively addressed. In raising these issues, we hope that this paper will be the start of a conversation, rather than a lonely intervention. We hope that regulators, academics and other companies will take up this work and apply it to different contexts and products. Most of all, we hope that this report will spark the change that is needed, so that independent browsers can be un- shackled and free to offer consumers so much more than we are currently permitted to do. 5 B R O W S E R S A N D B R O W S E R E N G I N E S A R E T H E H E A R T O F T H E W E B The word “browser” is a misnomer. Browsers don’t just enable “browsing” the way televi- sions enable watching content. Browser engine technology is the most significant part of the web platform. It determines what is possible and is key for connectivity, productivity, creativity, commerce and entertainment over the internet. Millions of people spend signifi- cant portions of their working day and personal time using the internet, with the browser as the software agent helping them along the way. Browsers matter to consumers, developers and the platforms that sit between them. Ad- vances in browser engines (the technology under the hood powering browser products) mean better speed and performance for consumers, as well as innovation opportunities for developers. While the browser space is now dominated by the largest technology compa- nies that also offer operating systems, this was not always the case. There have been and still remain many browsers from smaller, independent companies that do not have their own operating system – some of them full-featured general purpose browsers, such as Mozilla’s Firefox. Others have a specific niche, focusing on a particular feature, such as anonymity, speed and low data usage; productivity features and customizability; or privacy and crypto integration. An open and interoperable internet can only exist in a world where all types of browsers are able to compete, giving users a real chance to make choices based on fea- tures, business models and values. Operating systems are the digital platforms upon which other applications are developed. They are not incentivized to want interoperability and openness. Each platform has its own rules and standards, and each platform wants to keep people within its walled garden. Controlling which browser or engine you use is one means to that end. As explained in this report, there are cascading effects of concentrated browser control that also impact search and advertising. This is concerning because browsers and browser engines are deeply con- nected to internet protocols, standards and governance over key issues around cybersecu- rity, advertising, tracking, profiling and targeting, privacy and more. The companies behind each browser represent different viewpoints of the internet as it should be. Netscape Navigator was the original consumer browser and one of the most popular start- ups of its time; it IPO’d in August 1995 with a market value of $2.9 billion and millions of consumers willing to pay to browse the web. Netscape even had a competitor (Opera), but unfortunately both companies faced what would become a notorious competition problem for software apps: the powerful operating system rival. 6 Like any product that runs on a computer or smartphone, a browser needs an operating system to function and to reach consumers.1 When the dominant operating systems (Micro- soft and Apple) decided to offer their own browsers bundled with every computer’s operat- ing system, the opportunities for independent browsers dwindled. The situation worsened with the development of mobile smartphones with proprietary and closed operating sys- tems (Google and Apple), and with connected devices (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook) – with each operating system bundling its own browser. All of these platforms play a “dual role,” being the largest operating systems alongside providing other technology.2 In the ter- minology of EU’s Digital Markets Act, they have a “gatekeeper” position, operating as an un- avoidable trading partner and necessary gateway to reach end-users. But they also provide their own competing product on the platform, in the form of a browser. Beyond browsers, operating system bundling and self-preferencing has also extended to email clients, messaging, maps, video conferencing, music, document storage, photos and other common software. Across all of these important applications, the cost to society is lost opportunities for variety, product innovation, privacy and security. And this translates directly to consumer harm. Consumers should have control over their online experiences and be able to choose which software they wish to use, including something different from what the operating system provider offers. People should not have to fight with operating systems that continuous- ly pester, confuse and revert preferences in favor of their own software. Yet that is what happens today. The power that operating system providers wield and the actions they take through the designs of their user interfaces (known as “online choice architecture” or “OCA”) can prevent consumers from making free decisions about which services they wish to use. 1   See, for example, Case AT.39530 Microsoft (Tying), Commission decision of 16 December 2009, paragraphs 41 to 48; see also Digital Markets Act - Impact Assessment support study annxes, page 153 2   Concerns raised by the “dual role” also form part of the analysis behind the Digital Markets Act: see the Impact Assess- ment support study, page 154 7 Examples of consumer harm from operating system self-preferencing3 • Limited or frustrated choice - an operating system provider making it difficult or impossible for a consumer to switch browsers ultimately removes thei