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Rant Mode Equals One: M$ Losing Ugly on Kerberos

Embrace and Extend--Right!

  • May 19, 2000
  • By Paul Ferris

The recent rumblings between Slashdot and Microsoft may be Microsoft's idea of defending their turf, but ultimately they will serve to undo any vestiges of positive public opinion left for the software giant.

First, you have to understand, the Kerberos scandal is an ugly one--Microsoft has yet again been caught trying to "embrace and extend" a well known and heavily standardized protocol. Though it is possibly insecure, as it was revealed yesterday that the protocol, in many of its implementations, is fraught with buffer-overrun problems.

Ignoring all of that, Microsoft has once again decided that the moral line in the sand was nothing but an annoyance--they decided that Slashdot members were posting "trade secrets" and threatened legal action.

And now, Slashdot's lawyers have pretty much stepped up to the plate, and told the software giant where to go today. I can see where this is headed, as Microsoft's chairman Bill Gates hates to lose--at any and all costs. Likely the cost in this case is going to be a loss far bigger than a legal battle and some hokey protocol extensions being removed from a web site.

Few people in the audience are going to side with Microsoft, once they catch wind of the details of the case before them. Possibly Slashdot is on some kind of precarious legal footing here, what with the DMCA and all--but their moral footing is, unfortunately for Microsoft, solid as titanium on concrete.

After the lawyers, judges and politicians are done, in other words, the public will be looking at Microsoft and wondering why several billion dollars and a 90% lock on desktop systems is not enough to satisfy them. Why are they picking this fight, one that they might win legally, but one they will surely lose in the court of public opinion--and why now?

I can only speculate.

I think that the powers-that-be at Microsoft are still looking in at their incredibly huge war chest of money, and thinking that they can weather any storm--regardless of moral footing or public opinion. They likely think that enough money spent on PR, some luck with the trial, possibly some more dirty tricks, and they can be back where they were before.

It's clear to almost everyone else that those days are over. The court of public opinion has already convicted them. Judge Jackson has already convicted them. They've lost quite a few battles of late and the number of people actually paying lip service to the company has been dwindling at a rapid rate. Although, like the Tories who supported the King of England and were loyal during the American revolution--there are hold-outs still.

People who refuse to look at the immorality of the company. People who will not examine the trial testimony. These people are typically only staring at the incredible bottom line of the company, or rather the one it had before its stock price plummeted recently. Possibly even still, as the money involved is still sizable.

These people don't care about moral issues, they don't care about other people's choice to use quality, non-privacy compromising, secure software. They don't care about choices, period. They don't care about true software innovation, or protecting the companies in this country that actually produce innovation. They only worship money and count that as the only sign of success.

I know I would be glad to view Microsoft as a success story if the company produced quality products that were the result of their own innovation, without breaking the laws and moral boundaries that we accept as normal in this country. That is simply not the case, however, as many people who have read my columns in the past know.

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