Home Technology DMA is showing early results: Smaller web browsers gain market share

DMA is showing early results: Smaller web browsers gain market share

by Andrew

The Digital Markets Act, the European Union’s regulation aimed at making the digital economy fairer and more competitive thanks to a series of obligations and prohibitions for companies designated as “gatekeepers” that must facilitate the transition of users to other rival services and platforms, would be starting to show the first results.

One of the DMA’s areas of focus is web browsers, which are apps that allow users to connect to the internet that are traditionally offered for free by big tech companies “in exchange” for tracking the websites consumers visit and selling ads. On Android-based smartphones, the Chrome browser is usually the default, on iPhones it’s Safari. These browsers, of course, are the ones that dominate the market.

Since March 7, the day the Digital Markets Act officially came into force in the EU, big tech companies have been forced to offer users the option to choose a default browser, search engine, and virtual assistant during the initial setup phase or when one of these apps is used for the first time after the update.

Apple now shows 11 browsers as an alternative to Safari on the choice screen that is customized for each of the 27 EU countries. This screen will be updated once a year for each country. Google is currently showing browser choices on its Pixels and has said that new Android devices made by other manufacturers will also show the choice screen in the coming months.

Currently, given that iPhones have a larger market share than Google’s smartphones, the growth of smaller browsers is mainly at the expense of Safari. Aloha Browser, a company founded in 2016 and headquartered in Cyprus, said users in the EU increased by 250% in March. Aloha, which markets itself as a privacy-focused alternative, has 10 million average monthly users and makes money by selling paid subscriptions, rather than selling ads by tracking users.

Norway’s Vivaldi, Germany’s Ecosia and the U.S.-based Brave have also seen their user numbers increase following the new regulation, as have U.S.-based DuckDuckGo, which has around 100 million users, and Norway’s Opera, which has over 324 million global users and is “seeing a record number of users in the EU right now.” DuckDuckGo and Opera are listed by Apple in all 27 EU countries, Aloha is in 26 countries, Ecosia is in 13, and Vivaldi is in 8.

Despite this positive trend, however, browser companies have still criticized the way Apple and Google are launching this “choice screen,” which they describe as slow and clunky and would slow down the migration of mobile users to new browser choices.

According to Mozilla, which owns the Firefox browser, only 19 percent of iPhone users appear to have received the update in a rollout that appeared “much slower than previous software updates.” On iPhones, according to the CEO of Norway’s Vivaldi, “users can only see the choice screen when they click on Safari”, then a list of browsers is shown without additional information:

“The process is so convoluted that it’s easier for (users) to select Safari or potentially some other well-known name”

However, the way in which the browser choice screen is shown has led the European Commission to launch a non-compliance investigation to verify whether, indeed, Apple could prevent users from easily exercising the choice of services. The Commission intends to conclude the procedure within 12 months. If justified as a result of the investigation, the Commission will inform the gatekeepers concerned of its preliminary findings and explain the measures it intends to take or that the gatekeepers should take to effectively address the Commission’s concerns.

Among its provisions, the DMA also includes the obligation for Apple to allow developers to be able to adopt alternative rendering engines to WebKit, the one used by Safari and which currently everyone is forced to use. This arrangement is definitely important because it could further increase competition as well as lead to innovations in the way browsers are developed for iOS

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