Sunday, April 10, 2005

Microsoft is a Major Problem

Microsoft is one of the worst organizations in the history of the planet. I don't think people get it. They look back at dens of snakes like Standard Oil or The Steel Trust and they think... now those were companies that did some damage. Microsoft? No, they're just annoying. They're not grinding up worm ridden meat and rats into the dinner sausage, now are they? And in some ways, these people are correct. Microsoft isn't exactly a weapons company. But the damage that they are inflicting may turn out to be far more costly, on some measures.

They are trying to own the experience of computing. Everything. If Microsoft could embed itself into every last nook and cranny of information technology and bill us for it for the rest of time, they would. Their threat is not just one of monopoly, but of the keys to the machines that are becoming ever central in almost every aspect of our culture.

Bill Gates is a megalomanic. He postures himself as this revolutionary figure, the innovative pioneer, President and Chief Software Architect of the Microsoft Corporation. Puke. Anyone who knows anything about software knows that Bill Gates is no towering genius. It somehow seems that Gates has become the new Horatio Alger symbol of the digital era, but only for the uninformed. The rest of us know he's a power grubber, and a few of us know that he comes from one of the wealthiest families in the Pacific Northwest.

He has all sorts of plans up his architect sleeves to screw society out of freedom for the sake of his profits, and there's a silent movement that's attempting resistance. It's one of the most unnoticed wars I think humanity has ever fought. Thousands of programmers across the world have been battling, pouring out their sweat and tears, in a race against the spread of Microsoft's power. If you've heard of GNU/Linux, that's them–some of them. There's also Apache and Firefox, two free software projects that have been struggling for some time against Microsoft's push to own the Internet.

Typical tactics Microsoft employs? They find a developing set of agreements between members of technological communities, and they use their overwhelming market volume to absorb that standard, pumping out a product that comes bundled with their other products so that their sea of clueless customers can join the community too. But they don't just copy the system. They break it. They add extra features and twists and quirks, negligible things, so that software that abides by the agreements of the community no longer functions correctly. As soon as the standard no longer matters, Microsoft has control. They then add proprietary features and integrations with other products, entrenching their hold on the market and locking out competitors: for-profit and non-profit alike.

Microsoft publicly states that it aims to "embrace and extend" popular preexisting standards. Many have a term for this strategy: "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish."

The most glaring example is their hijacking of the World Wide Web, which was originally an academic project by a community of laboratory scientists. It has been mired in so much Microsoft filth and propreitism that the average website developer spends countless hours learning to make their work display properly across Microsoft's broken system and the standard honored by the rest of the community. But it's happened throughout the computing landscape. They go after programming languages, networking protocols... they even employed this strategy with the PC itself, wresting control away from IBM by supporting clones of their hardware with a slightly altered copy of the operating system they licensed to IBM.

And in case you think that it doesn't effect you, consider their plans for "Trusted Computing", with which they plan to embed a mechanism to make a PC obey the orders of Microsoft over the orders of its owner, in the name of security. This from a company that produces an operating system so full of design flaws that it has to release fixes for it on a weekly basis. Their products are notorious for their poor workmanship, brittle with the contortion and conglomeration of a thousand strategic maneuvers disguised as functional code. What happens when this system runs your bank? Because in Microsoft's vision of the world, it will.

The hope the Internet gives us at breaking out of this corporate mass-media-swamped Fox News mess relies on it being free. They're trying to take that away. And they've only met their first real obstacle with the Internet. See many more revolutionary technologies out there? Nope... It's all robotic soldiers from here. So while it may be true that the revolution will not be televised, lets just try and make sure that it isn't embraced and extended.

"Non co-operation with evil is as much a duty as co-operation with good." -- Mahatma Ghandi


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