As it stands, consumers can freely choose between four or five browsers to surf the Web. Yet, some suggest that the rise of mobile devices threatens such freedom. “On personal computers running Windows, Macs, and Linux, you can pick from a variety of browsers, finding the best combination of user interface, performance, expansion, customization, and other attributes,” CNet explains. “But on a host of devices ranging from today's iPhones to tomorrow's Windows RT tablets, though, things are very different.”
The notion that the browser is a feature of the operating system -- “an idea Microsoft floated to defend against an antitrust attack in the 1990s regarding the link between Internet Explorer and Windows,” CNet recalls -- is again gaining steam. While many of the newer devices will technically accommodate other browsers besides those that come with the operating system, those third-party browsers won't always get the full privileges and thus power of the built-in browser.
What’s at stake? The very fabric of the Web, Johnathan Nightingale, senior director of Firefox engineering, tells CNet. "Today's Web is the product of strong browser competition on performance, stability, and feature set," he says.