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Rant Mode Equals One: I'm a Consumer and I've Been Harmed - page 2

Don't Think M$ Impacts Your Daily Work? Think Again.

  • June 23, 2000
  • By Paul Ferris

I'm surfing the Web and come across documents with ?'s where the quotes should be. Microsoft has extended the HTML standard to include characters that don't display properly unless you use only their web browser. Netscape had been doing similar things before as well, but in the hands of a monopolistic company such as Microsoft:

  • a company that was singing the praises of open standards for Web browsers when it had Netscape Navigator as a competitor.
  • a company that has effectively killed off all competition by tying the Web browser to its monopolized, insecure operating system products.
  • a company that in its latest release of its browser products--now that it has an 80 percent market share--has decided that open standards are no longer needed.

Now I must see about one in four Web pages with nonstandard HTML. Now I must look through a picket fence of ?'s where simple punctuation should be.

It is an annoyance, I can still read the pages. Ma?be you?d li?e to re?d pa?es like this for the re?t of you? lif?. Tell me if that were the case would you feel like you hadn?t been harmed ??.

I'll tell you again--I've been harmed.

These are all small examples. They are examples that even Microsoft proponents will likely be familiar with. They are real examples. They did not happen to the guy next door--they happened to me. Similar ones happen daily around the globe thanks to the disease proprietary.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a party and talked at length with an ultra-conservative who was spouting about how the government should leave Microsoft alone. The man was using analogies that involve car companies--Chevys versus Fords, that kind of thing.

It took about 20 minutes before his contrarian nature (he took me, mistakenly, for a bleeding liberal) was overridden by logic. What he took as me objecting to his opinion, turned out to be my objecting to his model--I was able to make him see it by asking him if he'd like to go with me down to the local Office Max and find a computer running Linux on the main show floor.

Finally, without a doubt he saw it--he actually understood rather clearly that his idea of a "free market" in the computer world was actually quite flawed, and that yes, indeed, he likely had been harmed as well. Even conservatives, strong ones who believe in a free market, have been harmed--choice and democracy go hand in hand, after all.

You see, I'm not for removing Microsoft as a choice. I'm not for total world domination. It would be horrible for there to be only one choice, even if that one choice was Linux. I simply want the freedom to choose the products that I feel best do the job, and Linux is my choice. The fact that I cannot make that choice in many common circumstances and that the choice was removed through unfair roadblocks is to me a travesty of justice.

Microsoft has a ton of money and they are without a doubt a strong marketing company. Lately they have been working overtime on their tarnished image. Lately, they have been petitioning Joe Public. They know that no court that examines the evidence will ever let them off the hook. What they also know is that the political machine of this country might just look the other way if there's ground to be gained on the issue in the light of public opinion.

Microsoft is working overtime to convince the public, to twist perception, to stay the hand of justice that swings at them. The scary part for me is that this is possible. Politicians make all kinds of dirty and/or stupid deals in secret, and if the right powers gain control this trial could be quietly derailed.

If that happens, then freedom--digital freedom--is seriously at stake. I urge you, if you are in the Linux community and an American, to at this time write your congressman if you feel you have been harmed. Tell him, in our own words why you have or have not been harmed.

I know what I will be saying. I have been harmed by Microsoft's actions. I will be talking to my congressman. I will be expressing my displeasure at the thought of Justice being compromised. Intellectual terrorism by the folks in the Redmond infirmary may go on--but I will not be silent about it. I urge you to be the same way.

It is my opinion that we have been harmed, each and every time a decent choice has been removed. Each and every time a competitive market or new product has been destroyed. Each and every time we've been forced to work with incompatibilities or compromised "extended" protocols, standards, and APIs.

We need to be loud, and we need to speak eloquently, politely, in our own words and to the people that count. Otherwise they will read things put out by Microsoft's ever pervasive PR damage control machine and come to the conclusions that what they are doing is just "business as usual" and that no one has been harmed at all.

I speak as a consumer, I speak as myself. I speak as one who has been harmed and I know I'm not alone.

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