European Parliament report: Google using browser engine to squash competition

A paper published by the European Parliament in July 2022, titled ‘Splinternets’: Addressing the renewed debate on internet fragmentation has indicated that Google has been utilising its Blink browser engine to harm competing web browsers.

You can find the full report as a PDF here.

In what is described as an “increasing divergence towards agreements in Standards Organisations (such as the W3C),” the report explains that the Blink engine’s pattern of updates caused sites such as YouTube to be substantially slower if not running on a Blink-based browser, such as Firefox. The report notes that: “This case underlines the threat posed by incompatibilities at the application-layer, as they can become conducive for more internet fragmentation.”

Blink, which is part of Google’s Chromium project which underpins Chrome, Opera, Brave, Yandex and Edge, was created when Google split away from WebKit development in 2013. Google’s market dominance in browsers and browser engines, derived from Google forking Blink from the Webkit development process has harmed competition, according to Mark Nottingham, co-chair of the Internet Engineering Task Force’s HTTP and QUIC Working Groups:

“If Google had never forked WebKit to create Blink and then Chrome, it is likely that the remaining browsers at the time – Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer (now Edge) – would still have significant market share, to varying degrees.”

The European Parliament report continues to note, crucially, that, “The little-known case of Blink clearly exemplifies the negative effect of incompatibilities at the application-layer for the internet’s unity and openness.

“It shows how technical components can be used as strategic tools by technological companies to control digital markets, and participate to the shaping of a less interoperable and more fragmented internet.”

Simply put, this is another example of Big Tech’s use of their outsized market power to self-preference, even in opposition to agreements made in standards bodies such as W3C.

Header image courtesy of Denny Muller via Unsplash (Licensed for free use under the Unsplash License)