Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 12 Jun 2001 22:00:37 -0700

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <> writes:

> >>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:
>     >> 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.
> Well, IMHO if you were expecting that contract, too bad.  The whole
> point of modern browsers is to take hierarchically organized
> information and present it in a way that is convenient and
> configurable for the user.  If you want control, distribute PDFs, not
> *ML.

I never said that I wanted control over the presentation.  I
understand the difference between content and presentation.  Many of
your comments appear to be directed against a position which I do not

I think that links are unambiguously part of the content.  The
presence of a link is content.  Whether a link is underlined and blue
is presentation.

>     Ian> and the best interests of the consumer.
> The consumers (or their employers) will speak up.  Who are you to
> judge?  (It so happens that I agree with you, of course.  But that
> doesn't qualify me as judge, either.)

I don't think that argument is very strong when Microsoft is in a
monopoly position.  Most people in the near future are going to use
Internet Explorer whether they like it or not, because it comes free
and pre-installed on a monopoly operating system, and because many web
sites are designed to be displayed with it.  Consumers may of course
speak against smart tags, and get it removed, as they spoke against
the dancing paper clip.  But history shows that it may take several
troubling years.

If you like, consider that I am starting to speak now, as a consumer
as well as an author.

>     Ian> I suppose that I am essentially saying that since Microsoft
>     Ian> has a monopoly position with respect to web browsers, they
>     Ian> have a responsibility to ensure that their web browser
>     Ian> behaves appropriately.  Unfortunately, it is clear from the
>     Ian> antitrust case that Microsoft does not behave responsibly in
>     Ian> this regard.
> Microsoft has no responsibility to do more than make the switch that
> turns off Smart Tags easily accessible.  As long as there is a
> convenient UI to switch the ABI to "standard", I don't see where we
> get off insisting that consumers not be allowed to shoot themselves in
> the kneecap with the "New Microsoft-Enhanced" option.

I agree that they have no legal responsibility.  But I do feel that
they have a moral responsibility to take extra care given their
position of power.  I don't think corporations live in a moral vacuum.
I don't expect Microsoft, or many readers of this list, to agree with
this position, but I don't think it is irrational or wrong.