Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 12 Jun 2001 11:36:58 -0700

Don Marti <dmarti@zgp.org> writes:

> I'm not a big Microsoft fan, but when small or startup companies
> do stupid and greedy things (like Unix wars, buggy proprietary
> web browsers, or not putting links in natural, useful places) and
> Microsoft calls bullshit on that, they're a stabilizing influence.

Sure, but based on what I've read about it, that is not what Microsoft
is doing.  What they are doing is providing a facility to add links to
the web page on the fly.  Since good language recognition does not yet
exist, those links will be added based on simple string matching.  The
effect is not adding links in natural, useful places; it's scattering
links around in a simplistic fashion regardless of the author's
intent.

> > Most of the people complaining about Smart Tags are focusing on how it
> > subverts the relationship between a Web surfer and a Web author when
> > they are working for separate organizations.
> 
> Everything interesting that ever happens on the web happens because
> someone subverts the relationship between a web surfer and a web
> author.  Without subversion, the Web would be like fax-on-demand,
> only faster.

Well, yes.  Why is that bad?  My personal web pages says what I
personally want them to say.  They are intended to convey a particular
set of information when viewed by a web browser.  It's OK with me if
somebody uses a third party annotation service when it is clear that
that is what they are doing.  It is not OK with me if the web browser
itself changes the presentation.  It breaks the implied contract I was
expecting when I created the web pages.  It makes me say something
other than what I intended.

> > So how do corporate customers (ostensibly) benefit from Smart Tags?
> 
> The "stickier" a site tries to be, the less useful it is.
> Corporate web users, like all web users, are sick of rat holes.
> Smart Tags are an attempt to put the links where they belong.
> Hooray for Smart Tags, and too bad Free Software didn't get
> them first. It's catchup time.

I've wanted a good annotation service for a long time.  Based on what
I have read, Microsoft is providing a bad one.  That is not a step
forward.

Ian