When Choice Is Not A Choice

A few days ago an article was written by Ryan Gavin on Microsoft’s official Windows Blog. As I was reading, I started feel somewhat uneasy, as if something was wrong with what I was reading. Someone from Microsoft was writing that choice is a good thing, and that we should choose to check out Internet Explorer 9 (IE9)? Really? Seriously, yes, go take a look for yourself. This is unusual in a number of ways, especially the “choice” of words. I really found myself more interested in what was missing from this article more than what was included.

Now, the meaning of the word choice is an important thing to consider. If we’re going to use this word, we must understand it in context. Here’s what the dictionary says about that word.

Another important fact I want to illustrate is browser share. Let me take a browser share statistic from Wikipedia’s site to illustrate this.

The key thing I want to note (more than the fact that IE’s share is dwindling) is that combined, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox have a market share of 59.80% in January. These are all browsers that have to be specifically downloaded and installed on a Windows computer (well, Apple kind of forces you, but that’s another blog post). It is true though, you have to go and get it before you can use any one of those browsers on your computer.

With all of these choices made – one choice that was NOT made was what browser you used to get to the download of Chrome. You probably started by loading Internet Explorer, going to the Chrome website and then downloading the browser. If you are a Windows user, you are actually not given a choice to have Internet Explorer on your computer. Internet Explorer is generally installed, by default, with every version of Windows.

When I look at the above statistics, I have to wonder if – given the actual choice – users would agree to have Internet Explorer installed. How would IE’s market share look in the scenario where people really had a choice and needed to download IE just as they do other browsers? In versions of Windows based in Europe there is a question in the beginning of installation that actually gives users a choice of a number of options. Microsoft, I dare you to make the choice and make that default to every version of Windows.