Choice Screen Gets Randomization Tweak
Article by George Norman
On 10 Mar 2010
The browser ballot screen, or the choice screen as Microsoft calls it, has been getting a lot of press lately – and for good reason. Some 200 million Windows users in Europe that have Internet Explorer (IE) set as default will have the opportunity to learn about other browsers and could switch to something other than IE. As a little side note, since the choice screen was rolled out, Opera reported that Opera 10.5 downloads have tripled – which is proof that the choice screen works.

Mozilla was the first one to express its discontent with the choice screen. There are a total of 12 browsers presented in the choice screen. Initially the choice screen listed the browsers in alphabetical order – which was not advantageous to Mozilla and its Firefox browser. Microsoft changed the choice screen so that it would randomly display the browsers.


But not totally random – you see, it turns out that Microsoft used sloppy code that would not adequately randomize the order of the browsers in the choice screen. The code would most often favor rival browsers (Google Chrome in particular) and put them at the top of the list; while IE would most often be put at the bottom (to the far right, since the list is ordered from left to right).

Speaking of things to the far right, Flock’s CEO explained earlier this week that most users do not realize there are more than 5 browsers in the choice screen. That is why Flock and 5 other companies decided to submit a petition to the European Commission. So far, things are not going well.

Getting back to the issue at hand, Microsoft has now announced that it tweaked the choice screen code so that browsers are truly organized in random order.

"We made a change to the random icon order algorithm in the browser choice screen for Europe," said Microsoft Director of Public Affairs Kevin Kutz. "We are confident the algorithm change will be an improvement. As always, we are grateful for the feedback we get from developers, and we thank those who commented on the topic and suggested changes."

Tags: Microsoft, Choice Screen, Browser, Europe
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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