Third-Party Web Browsers Report Growing Mobile Market Share in E.U.

Supantha Mukherjee and Foo Yun Chee, Reuters:

Independent browser companies in the European Union are seeing a spike in users in the first month after EU legislation forced Alphabet’s Google, Microsoft, and Apple to make it easier for users to switch to rivals, according to data provided to Reuters by six companies.

The early results come after the EU’s sweeping Digital Markets Act, which aims to remove unfair competition, took effect on March 7, forcing big tech companies to offer mobile users the ability to select from a list of available web browsers from a “choice screen.”

I was skeptical about the efficacy of a browser ballot screen, but I guess I should not be surprised by this news. It turns out people may pick other options if you make the choice more prominent.

Via Ben Lovejoy, who covered the report for 9to5Mac but, as of publishing, has not linked to it, and writes:

Other browser companies claim that the process is convoluted, and provides no information on any of the browsers listed. They say this means iPhone users are more likely to simply pick the name they know, which is most likely to be Safari.

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.

An analogy some have turned to — including me — in describing the difference between first- and third-party apps on the iPhone is that it is something like the difference between store generic brands and national name brands. This has been misleading because users have not, in the case of competitors to first-party apps, been placed in a neutral starting position.

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.