Microsoft offers computer users choice of browsers
Computer users must now choose which browser they use to surf the internet, after a ruling against Microsoft by the European Commission came in to effect.
From today, people running Microsoft's Windows operating system will be presented with a screen asking them to choose which web browser they would like to use.
Computer users will be able to choose between 12 different browsers, ranging from well-known browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Opera, to some more obscure software, such as K-meleon and Sleipnir.
Microsoft was forced to introduce the browser "ballot box" following a ruling by the European Commission that Microsoft's practice of pre-installing Internet Explorer on every new computer was anti-competitive.
The Commission accepted Microsoft’s offer of rolling out the ballot box across its range of Windows machines, which it believes will make it easier for computer users to choose an alternative browser to Internet Explorer.
"Millions of European consumers will benefit from this decision by having a free choice about which web browser they use,” said Neelie Kroes, the EU's competition commissioner.
Ms Kroes said the ruling would also act as an incentive to rival browser makers to continue developing and improving their products. The ruling remains in effect for five years, and applies across the European Economic Area.
The ballot box will be pushed to Windows users running XP, Vista and Windows 7, via an automatic software update, and will only be shown to computer users who are not already running a different default browser.
The box, headed, "An important choice to make: your browser", will feature Opera, Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer and Firefox in a random order on the first section of the ballot screen.
The other browsers, including Flock, Avant and Maxthon, will be listed in a random order on the rest of the ballot screen.
There is information below each browser outlining its key features, and a button that allows computer users to easily download and install the browser of their choice.
Some computer experts have expressed concerns that computer users could be confused by the update, and worry that their computer has been compromised by hackers or infected with a virus.
According to web measurement firm Net Applications, Internet Explorer has a 62pc share of the browser market, with Mozilla's Firefox browser its closest rival with a 24pc market share.
Full list of available browsers
* Google Chrome
* Mozilla Firefox
* Internet Explorer
* Apple Safari