IE7 and Search Defaults: Not a Whineable Offense

I can’t believe the amount of chatter around the web today about Microsoft’s plans to include MSN search as the default search option in IE7. What exactly about this is surprising? And what exactly about it is wrong?

I am the last person on earth to give Redmond free passes for anything but this has been coming for years, and it’s perfectly ok in my book. Why is it ok?

  1. The more incentive Microsoft has to get IE7 proliferated into the population asap (preferably through auto-update), the better off the web development world, and by extension, the internet-using population will be.
  2. If Google was so concerned about this, why haven’t they used a few hundred million dollars of their war chest over the past year or two to help turbocharge the relatively blasé Firefox adoption rates we’ve seen lately? Google has always said they don’t need to make their own web browser, and they are right… but they *do* perhaps need to make someone else’s irrelevant.
  3. This is not much different than Microsoft’s decision to make everyone’s default start page “” when it released Internet Explorer. If I’m not mistaken, out of all the things Microsoft was judged to be guilty of by the DOJ, that wasn’t one of them. I could be wrong about this, but I just don’t remember that being part of the verdict.
  4. OEMs can change the search default to whatever provider they’d like, and after that, consumers can change it again themselves (although many, of course never do… see:’s 1 trillion daily users).

I suppose I understand why Google is throwing such a huge stink about this, because hey, why not? But in the end, I don’t think it’s anything that should be subject to government intervention. We all hate it when one company dominates any particular sector of business, and in the technology world, that company has usually been Microsoft. But it’s entirely possible that that company is now Google, and although we all love them, competition is almost always a good thing.

25 comments on “IE7 and Search Defaults: Not a Whineable Offense”. Leave your own?
  1. Jeff Croft says:

    I agree completely. It would be crazy for Microsoft to use anything but MSN as the default search tool in their browser.

  2. I don’t much care either — I really think there are bigger fish to fry and would rather see attention paid in other areas (like wmp/drm). MSN search is already present in IE6 in a number of ways. Even the Windows Live Shopping stink people are raising today isn’t one I’m up in arms about (though long term I think It has a lot more potential to become a lock in / antitrust issue then search does).

    The only cause for making a stink I can see would be if MS is directly breaking one of the requirements of an agreement that came about as a result of the anti-trust actions (and i don’t mean “reminiscent of the tactics that got Microsoft into antitrust trouble in the late 1990’s”).

  3. … competition is almost always a good thing.

    Indeed! I’m quite pleased to see the search wars heat up, particularly if web browsers become the new front lines. This can only mean more resources for the development and marketing of both IE7 and its alternatives. The result: better standards support all around.

    I’m fairly sure that Firefox’s promotion on Google’s homepage is one of the first salvos in the renewed hostilities. Bring it on, I say.

  4. sean coon says:

    i don’t know anything about microsoft’s software design methodology, but i can totally see this being an on-the-fly decision that didn’t come from up on high.

  5. Yes sir. I don’t see anyone complaining about Google being the default search engine in Firefox (not to mention the default Firefox start page).

  6. alek says:

    Ditto what Richard said above … and lets not forget that Google has a referral program for Firefox/Google Toolbar. So sure, they would LOVE to see Firefox (with Google) replace IE as the dominant browser. And while I personally prefer Firefox, Google seems to be calling the kettle black here – the irony is incredible.

  7. Nathan Smith says:

    I had wondered why other people were upset about this too. It is not novel, as Microsoft has typically followed this pattern throughout their years of IE. Bottom line is, it’s their browser, so it is a waste of time to fight their choice to push their own products. I would say that is typical of any company.

  8. Don says:

    Yes you are right as usual. It is their product and if you don’t like it, don’t use it. I agree also that the sooner ie6 dies, the better off we all are.

  9. Gerrit says:

    When I watch my girlfriend surfing the web, I notice that she’s never using that little search field in Firefox’s browser bar. She is always manually typing “” into the address bar…

    Maybe a lot of less skilled web surfers just won’t use the new MSN search field. Plus they hate changes in their everyday surfing environment. They won’t accept MSN search results, because they want to see that Google logo, which they trust.

  10. I was also wondering what all the fuss was about, especially since after I installed IE7 beta 2 and surfed over to, I was presented with the option to easily add Google search to my IE Search Box and make it the default search option (which I did).

  11. Matt Hoult says:

    I agree. Far before the news (which is old and thus the fuss is really all the more confusing) I had always assumed it would be the default. If anything I am surprised that it’s so simple to change. It seems to me that the concentration of discussion about browsers today is completely missing the mark.

    Surely talking about the browsers “features” is not going to make much headway (or be particularly interesting) where talking about how browsers can better the web-page itself in the future is far more interesting.

  12. Gary Ross says:

    Presumably, manufacturers can change this default. So we’ll see Dell making money out of Google to install with Google as the default. As a Mac guy, when I first used XP, I was confused to see that IE was on the desktop but [i]not as a shortcut icon[/i]. This seems much more nefarious to me. Most users know that you can safely delete a shortcut icon, but without that little arrow you were deleting the real thing. Not so here it seems. No Windows user has ever satisfactorily explained to me why IE appears as a regular icon. Anyone? :-)

  13. Brian Lesser says:

    A little more context on all this from another article in the NY Times:


  14. I don’t see how Google could be surprised by this at all. Heck, I wouldn’t even classify it as a “move” on Microsoft’s part. If I built a search engine and a browser I’d pair the two by default every day of the week, no moral or monopolistic qualms about it. It’s like they’re saying “Shame on you, you’re trying to make money”.

  15. Jemaleddin says:

    Microsoft is probably in the wrong on this one. The simple reason is that once you’ve been proven to have a monopoly, you have to play by different rules and don’t get to play the cut-throat games you did when you were an up-and-comer. So comparing Google/Firefox defaults to MS/IE/MSN defaults doesn’t make any sense: they’re playing under different rules.

    It took IBM years of anti-trust actions to understand this, and MS just refuses to learn. But the fact is that we’ve decided as a country that just because you’re the biggest kid on the playground, you don’t get to push everyone else around.

  16. Hasn’t Microsoft been doing this for years already (circa IE 4)? This is nothing new in the browser market as Netscape did it back in the day too. From what I’ve seen of IE 7, it’ll allow search customization in much the same way as Firefox currenty does. If users are sick of seeing the MSN Search page, they can just switch it over to Google, or any other search engine for that matter.

    Sure, the average user won’t know how to change their search engine of choice — but at least the option is available.

  17. Dave Metcalf says:

    I hope Google will channel this anger into developing their own browser, or buying/upgrading one (like Camino).
    It just seems like making a browser is a logical project for Google.

  18. Phil says:

    I think this was purely a PR effort of Google’s part to draft off of the news of the IE Beta release, and it worked perfectly. It also serves to pre-emptively remind people that they can change the default behavior of IE’s search box, which is not something Microsoft was going to publicize.

  19. Mike Stickel says:

    Nobody complained when Google was the default search in Safari. This is a complete non-issue and probably just a marketing stink on the part of Google.

    Think about it, whenever someone mentions MSN search in IE someone else will no doubt mention Google’s argument. In the end both companies are mentioned and Google gets PR off of MS.

  20. You’re wrong on this one Mike – it’s not about what is ‘ok’ or ‘logical’, but about what’s legal.

    If I built a search engine and a browser I’d pair the two by default every day of the week, no moral or monopolistic qualms about it.

    If I built an operating system and it had 90%+ market share and I bundled a media player and had it become the default, there are monopolistic qualms about it. Same thing could well apply to default searchbox engines, but that’s up to Judges in the EU and the US.

  21. David says:

    On point 2 (that Google says they don’t need their own web browser): it might be interesting for someone to look at how many major contributors to Firefox are Google employees whose full-time job is Firefox development. And then theorize what would happen to Firefox if Google were to pull all those developers onto other projects.

  22. Microsofts browser monolopoly is an ill gotten gain. They antitrust trials came down hard on them, and found that their tactics to get Internet Explorer the #1 slot where highly illeagal. If you agree with that , then it stands to reason that they should not be able to use the proceeds from that crime to make a run at the #1 search engine slot.

    I ranted on about this quite a bit here. Leveraging one monopoly to try and gain another is the kind of act that anit trust law specifically prohibits.

  23. Enzo says:

    Large Successful Company in Promotion of Own Products Shocker!

    Doesn’t quite ring true does it?

    Free market economy – if you don’t like it, use a different product or service…

  24. Brian says:

    Users could also learn how to change the settings on their freakin computers if they are (and should be) dissatisfied with MSN search and the like.

  25. Please Stop Whining About IE7’s Search Bar

    Looks like I’m starting a Please Stop Whining series here. Good. I like the idea, and I don’t like whiners.
    Today’s episode is on people arguing about the fact that Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 7 will use MSN Search as…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe by Email

... or use RSS