A Bad Precedent?

While Microsoft has certainly used unlawful practices in the past to build the Windows empire, I fail to see how Opera’s EU antitrust case was anything more than a thinly veiled (and successful) attempt by Opera—and later additional competitors—to strong-arm Microsoft into directly promoting their products.

Users of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Windows operating system in Europe who have chosen its Internet Explorer as their default browser will receive in a software update an option to switch to a rival. [NYT]

I understand the chicken-or-the-egg problem in providing users with an unbiased choice of browser on a new system, I guess I’m just uneasy with the idea of governments getting in the business of mandating that a marketplace of software be presented to users of every device that comes with software.

If Windows must give new users a choice of browsers, who decides the options, and why shouldn’t every OS have this requirement? There are many commercial text editors, instant message apps, etc. Why shouldn’t those be presented as options? Apple routinely adds new applications to its standard distribution that greatly reduce the value of existing commercial apps. Should we not let them? Is it in the best interest of average users to have to choose from a continuously growing list of low-market share and potentially poorly-compatible, insecure, or abandon-ware browsers?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this would turn out to be great for the software industry and users (but mostly lawyers), but I think at some point we should sunset the argument that people don’t understand what web browsers are.

Reverse Glasses and Map Flopping

Update June 2013: These exist!

Years ago I had an idea for “reverse” glasses. All they would do is invert horizontally–or flop–the image your retinas receive as if you were viewing through a mirror. I suspect after a brief period of adjustment you’d be able to function fairly normally wearing them, but your common surroundings would appear oddly different, like the first day waking up in a house with a reversed floor plan.

Asymmetrical skateboarding spots limit your trick options because, as a skater–even if you’re great at skating switchstance–you’re either regular or goofy foot. If there’s only one obvious direction to hit something from, you kind of lose half the available tricks to try on it. Flopped glasses couldn’t switch your natural skating stance, but they would let you see every spot as having a flopped equivalent, which is where the game developers come in.

Every 2 or 3-dimensional game should have a “flop map” option, which would flop the player’s map (but not the controls). This would be fairly trivial for the developer, but would give players double the (perceived) number of unique maps to play on. Obviously this is only interesting on asymmetrical maps like a city or a famous golf course–flopping most sport courts/fields wouldn’t have any real effect.

Another feature of the glasses: They would “correct” what you see in mirrors to be exactly what the world sees–parted hair/crooked teeth/wristwatch on the opposite side. Weird and awesome.