Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 13 Jun 2001 22:12:42 -0700

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp> writes:

> What you are saying is that you believe consumers by and large are
> children and shouldn't be allowed to use dangerous electrical
> appliances like computers without adult supervision.

I honestly don't think that is what I am saying.  I also honestly
don't understand why you think I am saying that.

Suppose Internet Explorer simply refused to display the word Linux
when displaying a web page, or replaced it with the word Sux.  Suppose
it did that by default, but there was an option to turn it off.  Would
you consider that to be reasonable behaviour?  Even simpler, suppose
Internet Explorer simply chose not to display any web pages which
appeared to display Linux in a positive light.  Would that be
reasonable?

Of course, if Internet Explorer were a separate product which had to
be purchased, that sort of behaviour would be a joke.  Few people
would buy it.  But Internet Explorer is an integral part of a monopoly
operating system.  That turns it from a joke into something I find
substantially more troubling.

I use many complex appliances in my daily life.  I have not read the
manual for any of them, nor have I explored the full range of options
for any of them.  If my cell phone had an option to reject calls from
certain area codes, and if that option were turned on by default, I
would not know.  I would simply never receive those calls.  If my car
radio replaced every tenth song with a set of ads, I would never know.
About the only way I could imagine discovering that would be if
somebody told me in person, or if it made the front page of the New
York Times on a day when I was not on vacation.

I'm not sure, but maybe you think that I should not be allowed to use
a cell phone or a car without adult supervision.  You might even be
right.  But I think the cell phone provider or car manufacturer who
set up that option and made it the default acted wrongly.  And I think
that adding weird default options like that to Internet Explorer is
even worse, because, unlike my cell phone and car company, it is a
monopoly.

> I'm similarly elitist, but there's the quis custode problem; I've got
> better things to do with my time.  Don't you?  Which means in the end
> all one can really do is bleat (choose your own word for what _you_ do,
> speaking for myself _I_ used to bleat) about monopolies and their "moral
> responsibility".  Because the monopoly _will_ capture the regulator, and
> very quickly, for this kind of thing.

Again, I don't really understand what you are saying.  You seem to
think that what Microsoft is doing is fine.  If most people agree with
you rather than me, then my position is clearly hopeless.

If you do think that what Microsoft is doing is wrong, then I think it
is clearly important to bleat about it.  That's the only way it will
make the front page of the New York Times, so that people like myself
will find out about it and learn about the existence of the option and
how to turn it off.

Ian