Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 14 Jun 2001 07:45:38 -0700

"Stephen J. Turnbull" <> writes:

> >>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:
>     Ian> Suppose Internet Explorer simply refused to display the word
>     Ian> Linux when displaying a web page, or replaced it with the
>     Ian> word Sux.
> No.  And I don't understand why you are misrepresenting my position
> that way.  That is _not_ what I have been talking about.  It's not
> what Smart Tags does as far as anything I've read so far indicates,
> and I don't have access to Windows XP to find out.  My understanding
> is that Smart Tags _adds_ links but does not otherwise disturb the
> author's content.  Is that false?
> I really rather doubt that the kind of behavior you are now talking
> about would go unnoticed.  Once noticed, time to removal would be
> measured in weeks, I bet.

I apologize for appearing to misrepresent your position.  I was not
saying that you believed that behaviour was OK.  I was trying to find
the line between what you consider to be OK and what you consider to
be not OK.  I'm still uncertain.

My understanding of Smart Tags agrees with your understanding.  Do you
think that is always OK to add gloss to content?  Even when that gloss
can be easily confused with information added by the author?  Where is
the line?

>     Ian> Again, I don't really understand what you are saying.  You
>     Ian> seem to think that what Microsoft is doing is fine.  If most
>     Ian> people agree with you rather than me, then my position is
>     Ian> clearly hopeless.
> I don't think it is "fine."  I simply see no way to define it clearly
> enough to regulate it effectively, given the Bovinity Principle.  A
> smart programmer will find ways to achieve similar effects that meet
> the letter of the regulation.  The Microsoft legal beagles will be the
> only ones who are technically expert enough to argue the implications.
> The regulator will eventually tire of beating his head against a
> concrete wall, and not try to stretch/amend the regulations to cover
> the latest abuse.
> The end result is the same, just lots of wasted regulatory, legal, and
> programming talent.  And Microsoft could very easily use complaints of
> nonconformance to harass competitors.  Leaving it unregulated and
> telling people about it when observed is the lesser evil IMO.

Well, yes.  I never said that anybody should write a law forbidding
what Microsoft is doing.  I agree that such a law would be extremely
difficult to write.

Don Marti said that what Microsoft was doing was fine.  My first
comment in this thread was to say that I disagree with Don Marti; what
Microsoft is doing is not fine.  In fact, I think it is wrong.  I've
expanded my comments to say why I think it is particularly wrong for
Microsoft to do this, where it would be less wrong for a browser
vendor which was not a monopoly.

I never suggested legal regulation.

>     Ian> If you do think that what Microsoft is doing is wrong, then I
>     Ian> think it is clearly important to bleat about it.  That's the
> I disagree.  It's important to fully document it, whether it is wrong
> or not.
>     Ian> only way it will make the front page of the New York Times,
>     Ian> so that people like myself will find out about it and learn
>     Ian> about the existence of the option and how to turn it off.
> That's not "bleating"---that's "education."  No need to mention "moral
> responsibility" for that purpose.

Well, I'm just totally confused about what you've been saying
throughout this entire thread.  I don't know what you believe, and I
don't know what you think is wrong about what I believe.