In a stunning development, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) said late Friday that Microsoft's decision to use an integrated search box in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 7 that defaults to MSN Search does not pose a competitive threat. Internet search giant Google had previously complained to both the DOJ and antitrust officials at the European Union (EU) that Microsoft's decision to add the feature was an antitrust violation.

In a court filing, the DOJ noted that Microsoft had first briefed it about IE 7's search box months ago. The feature is easily modified to use any Internet search engine, including that of Google, the DOJ said, "using a relatively straightforward method for the user to select a different search engine from the initial default."

Furthermore, the DOJ wrote, Microsoft's actions with IE 7 are a far cry from the anticompetitive behavior that got the software giant into legal hot water almost a decade ago. The reason? IE 7 respects changes that the user made prior to installing this version of the browser. If the browser was previously using a search service from Google or Yahoo by default, IE 7 will not change that choice to MSN Search when the product is installed. IE 7 "only uses MSN Search if no default has been set." The DOJ has "concluded \[its\] work on this matter," the filing reads.