Internet Explorer and Microsoft Antitrust – OpEd – Eurasia Review
United States v. Microsoft Corp., 253F.3d 34 (DC Cir. 2001) was the first major antitrust case of the digital age. In his conclusion, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said Microsoft violated the Sherman Act by monopolizing the US market for “Intel-compatible” computer operating systems (see, for example, here).
One of the main allegations against Microsoft was that it restricted the trade in web browser software by bundling Internet Explorer (IE) with its Windows 95 operating system, the first truly successful version of its PC operating system. . IE took pride of place on desktop screens and, horror of horrors, was included in Windows software at no extra cost. Microsoft’s business practices particularly hurt James Barksdale, CEO of Netscape Corp., whose Navigator was IE’s main Web browsing rival at the time. Barksdale was actually a key player in convincing the Justice Department to sue Microsoft after the Federal Trade Commission twice failed to bring charges against Bill Gates and his company.
Fast forward to 2022. A June 15 headline announced that “Microsoft is shutting down Internet Explorer after 27 years.” The company will no longer support clunky IE, relegating the browser and its users to the dustbin of history. The once-dominant IE has been replaced by Google Chrome, Firefox’s Mozilla and a handful of other web browsing options.
This is how competitive markets work, even in so-called network industries, where today’s dominant firm cannot hope to maintain its position indefinitely. Success invites Schumpeterian creative destruction. Markets do not stand still and no one, including “expert” antitrust authorities, can predict the directions in which they will move.
The Justice Department and Judge Jackson must apologize to taxpayers and computer users for wasting their time and money bowing to a windmill.
This article was published by The Beacon