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Microsoft's browser ballot ends after five years

An agreement forcing Microsoft to give users a choice of browser has ended

Internet browser

A requirement compelling Microsoft to offer users a choice of browsers on its Windows machines has come to an end.

Redmond signed the 'browser ballot' in 2009 giving rival browsers equal footing to Internet Explorer (IE) on Windows PCs, at a time when 70 per cent of Windows users were on IE.

But now Microsoft's own browser is inly used by 20 to 25 per cent of Windows customers, with up to 84 per cent downloading an alternative browser, according to the European Commission.

Google Chrome is the most popular browser on Windows machines, with around 50 per cent marketshare, while Firefox's score matches IE's at around 20 per cent.

The browser ballot applied to all Windows PCs sold in Europe running XP, Vista and Windows 7, or old computers where one of those operating systems was installed as a fresh install.

As part of the deal, Microsoft had to ensure its operating system displayed a ballot screen, offering customers the choice to download an alternative browser.

However, the company was heavily fined when its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 release didn't include the screen and it went unnoticed for 14 months. It also had to tweak the algorithm to ensure it was displayed at regular intervals.

Now the five-year period has ended, Microsoft is advising system administrators to switch off the ballot screen and giving instructions on how this can be done.

Microsoft said on its blog: "Microsoft provided the Browser Choice update in accordance with a decision issued by the European Commission in December 2009. The obligations imposed by that decision have expired and as a result the Browser Choice Update will no longer be delivered to new users."

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