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Complaint Was Worth it: Opera Gets 3x Increase in European Downloads

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When Europeans download the latest Windows update, they will see a browser ballot site the next time they open Internet Explorer.  This is the result of an EU antitrust investigation aimed at Microsoft after Opera filed a formal complaint almost two years ago.  The Norwegian browser maker said that by bundling Windows and IE together, Microsoft was limiting browser competition.  Microsoft decided to compromise since it had recently been slapped with large fines by the EU.  Yesterday, Microsoft's ballot screen debuted with stunning results for Opera.  Today, Opera reported that its browser downloads have tripled since the ballot screens have appeared.

Specifically, Opera saw three times as many downloads in France, Spain, Belgium, Poland, and the UK.  The company launched a blazing fast new version of its browser earlier this week, but the company says that's probably not the only reason for the jump in downloads.  They compared this week's download results with previous releases and none of the prior launches produced a 300% increase in downloads.  Opera says a lot of its traffic is coming from the ballot screen.

Credit: Brenton Currie

Obviously, Opera was pleased with the effects of the new browser ballot in Europe.  The Norwegians cunningly planned their 10.5 release for the week of the ballot screen's debut, and it seems like the well-timed release along with their complaint two years ago has really payed off.  The company believes that more people will now become aware of the choices they have for browsing the internet.

The ballot screen surely isn't the only reason behind the spike in downloads.  The newest version's JavaScript engine can go toe-to-toe with browsers such as Chrome and Firefox.  In certain benchmarks, the performance of Opera's new Carakan JS engine beat Chrome's lightweight V8.  In other areas such as caching it easily surpasses its competitors.

One IBM architect criticized the randomization feature in the ballot screen, saying his tests showed that Chrome was getting the preferred spots more often than other browsers.  In previous versions of the ballot screen, the browsers were listed alphabetically, but then Microsoft added a randomizing feature to shuffle the order of the top five browsers every time the screen is accessed. 

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) believes that the ballot page is a step in the right direction, but the group has recently encouraged other antitrust organizations to ask Microsoft for a ballot screen as well.  The group, which includes Opera, IBM, and Oracle, wants the ballot screen to be implemented globally, not just in Europe.  90% of the world's computers run Windows, so there are many more internet users globally that don't know about the other browser options (alternatives to IE) that exist.

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