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Mozilla to weigh in on EU's Microsoft case

European regulators grant Mozilla's request to weigh in on the Microsoft antitrust case, which centers on the legality of bundling Internet Explorer with the Windows operating system.

Mozilla has been granted a seat at the table in the European Commission's antitrust case against Microsoft, an EC source said Tuesday.

Mozilla requested and was granted "third-party status," which entitles the organization behind the popular Firefox browser to receive access to confidential documents in the case and the ability to voice objections, the source said.

The Commission, which is the European Union's executive arm, in mid-January formally put Microsoft on notice, objecting to the bundling of the Internet Explorer browser with the Windows operating system.

Mitchell Baker
Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker Seth Rosenblatt/CNET Networks

The Commission's decision, which initially stemmed from a complaint filed by rival browser maker Opera, gives Microsoft two months to respond to the allegations, as well as opening the case up to third-party involvement.

Mozilla was not immediately available to comment, but its chair commented on the case in her blog on Friday.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's chair, wrote that she agrees with the Commission's allegations that tying IE to the Windows OS harms competition for Web browsers and reduces consumer choice. She also noted:

There are separate questions of whether there is a good remedy, and what that remedy might be. But questions regarding an appropriate remedy do not change the essential fact. Microsoft's business practices have fundamentally diminished (in fact, came very close to eliminating) competition, choice and innovation in how people access the Internet.

One potential remedy that the European Commission is considering: a requirement that Microsoft include rival browsers with its operating system.

Baker further notes in her blog:

I'll be paying close attention to the EC's activities, both personally and on behalf of Mozilla. Mozilla has enormous expertise in this area. It's an extremely complex area, involving browsers, user experience, the OEM and other distribution channels, and the foundations for ongoing innovation. An effective remedy would be a watershed event; a poorly constructed remedy could cause unfortunate damage.

I'd like to offer Mozilla's expertise as a resource to the EC as it considers what an effective remedy would entail. I'll be reaching out to people I know with particular history, expertise and ideas regarding these topics. If you've got specific ideas or concerns please feel free to contact me. I'll post more as the discussion develops.

Baker's blog didn't specify her views on bundling Firefox with IE. However, Firefox architect Mike Connor told PCPro that he would consider bundling a mistake. "My personal view is that it's not the right outcome," he told PC Pro. "The choice (when installing Windows) would be weird. There's no good (user interface) for that."

Connor noted that this is his personal opinion and that Mozilla is still determining its position on the issue, according to PCPro.