In my last post I was exercising my search engine choice for kicks. Choosing a search engine is easy, you type in the URL and get directed to the home page of your favourite search engine's site. If you prefer one and want it to be your default search engine, Firefox has a handy pull down menu where you can manage your search engines and set your engine of choice.
This is just one of the many ways that Firefox, and Mozilla, promote choice. Another way we do it is by providing the world's best browser in over 70 languages, and on multiple platforms. We give users the choice of a browser that is built with them in mind. For security, accessibility, and extensibility users can count on Mozilla's Firefox to be doing its best to improve the areas that make the open web work.
The Microsoft Browser Ballot screen has started to roll out this week and there are people who are most likely not expecting, nor informed about what it means to make a choice as it relates to the web browser. It's important that we not forget that many people don't know what a web browser is.
I recently posted about how I suspect the design of the ballot screen will scare away people before they even get a chance to make a choice. For those that make it to the second screen (where you are presented with the 5 top browsers by market share) there is another obstacle: lack of information. The screen doesn't tell you why choosing your browser is important. It doesn't tell you which browsers are more secure, which ones work with screen readers, which ones can be extended to add custom functionality. These are important factors in making a choice. Otherwise "choice" is really "pick the pretty logo and see what happens". Or perhaps "choice" is "stay with what you know, cause change is scary".
Which web browser you use may seem trivial thing at first but when you look under the hood - it matters that your know the browser you choose will work with your assistive technology. It matters that your identity is safe, that a site's legitimacy is explorable before you make an online purchase, and that you can customize your web browser to maximize your efficiency. I've had several academics tell me they rely on Firefox add-ons to help them cite, bookmark, and make notes in the browser as they prepare class materials. Your browser can make viewing the web a comfortable, seamless, and efficient experience. Don't you want to have the information to help you make the choice that's best for you?
I hope that John Lily's letter, and other blog posts in the coming weeks will reach a wide audience and help supplement the lack of information that the ballot screen contains. Just as it would be odd to let a stranger pick your car out for you - with no information about your driving habits, family size, gas budget, style preferences - you should try as much as possible to make an informed choice about the tools you use on your computer to do your work and live your digital life.
It really does matter. Have fun exploring your options.