Subject: Re: the .NET battle ends
From: Tom Lord <>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 02:28:43 -0700 (PDT)

Three ideas are floating around on this list that are almost certainly

	Wrong idea #1:

	MS modified Passport because they were forced to capitulate.

	Wrong idea #2:

	MS is losing in some markets and just generally falling to
	pieces.  They came out with an "open" .NET in an attempt to
	avoid further antitrust prosecution, and to make nice with the
	rest of the tech industry.  We should like .NET cause it gives
	us a bunch of labor-saving specs to implement.

	Wrong idea #3:

	SSSCA and similar legislative efforts are simply attacks on
	Free and Open Source software.

Let's examine these:

#1 Passport

I doubt MS ever intended Passport to happen as first specified.  I
think they drew a lot of our friends around here into the wrong fight,
purposely "lost" that fight, and embarrassed a lot of industry leaders
away from a more considered opposition.  Auth technology was a hot
button issue for some folks.  MS pushed that button on purpose.

What hasn't changed about Passport is that it provides a new
implementation technique for proprietary software licensing -- that,
and its peculiar entanglement with the rest of .NET (and thus, with
all future MS software releases), is its true raison d'etre.  

A "one click" patent ain't got nothin' on the MS PR machine.  MS wants
its software fingers in every aspect of on-line commerce.  If you
can't shop or run a commercial site without software from MS, MS is
quite happy: who cares how auth works?

#2 .NET in General

My suspicion about Passport is further supported by other aspects of
.NET.  For example, MS has taken a legal and standards posture wrt. to
some of the specs (e.g. the VM) that "solves" some legal problems with
competing specs from Sun.  Thereby, they drew a lot of open source
industry leaders into an effort to embrace and implement those specs,
thus setting up the open source world to fall hopelessly behind
proprietary .NET just as it previously fell hopelessly behind
proprietary Java.  This is just politics 101.

MS can take commerce implementors the message that they should adopt
.NET technology because everyone likes it, and everyone is working on
being interoperable with it.  At the same time, they can push on their
own implementations to make competing nearly impossible, and
interoperability shaky.

We'd be much better off taking our customers the message that .NET
technologies are simply far more complex and interdependent than is
either sane or necessary.  It's bad technology, and not just because
of a choice of auth mechanism.  .NET technologies should be shunned,
not tweaked, and certainly not adopted as "oh boy, free specs!"

The contemporary Free Software movement started with an emphasis on a
classical Unix software architecture -- a cleaned up software tools
approach: why don't we find leadership with a strong corresponding
technical orientation among the larger FSBs?  For example, why don't
we see a strong push and advocacy for technologies that are *not*
inter-dependent -- instead of what we usually see: projects and
advocacy to make barely related components *more* inter-dependent?  We
can build better products with less effort by returning to the spirit
of our tech roots -- no grand schemes required.  I can't resist
cruelly revising a recent slogan: Let's make "unix", not "suck".

#3 SSSCA is an Anti-Open Source Conspiracy

No such conspiracy theory is necessary to explain legislative attempts
such as SSSCA.  Fighting law like SSSCA because it is a threat to open
source software is too narrow an agenda -- just like fighting Passport
because of the specific auth. technology chosen.

Recent legislation regarding protection mechanisms exists because,
without it, copyright doctrine established prior to the digital age
has to eventually be re-examined by the surpreme court, where, if the
court is as literate, constitutionally faithful, and ethically
concerned as they often appear to be, it stands a good chance of
undergoing considerable constriction in ways that, for example, large
music distributors are going to have to work hard to adjust to.  We
can't count on the court going in that direction but they can't count
on the court not going in that direction.

What appears to be happening is that large digital content
distributors went first to their technical advisors and asked "What
technology is necessary to most closely protect our established
business models, in spite of the Internet and personal computers?" --
they got some answers, including some advice about problems that
technology can't help with.

Then they went to legal advisors and asked "How can the exclusive
rights granted to us by congress prior to the digital age be extended
to protect this technological approach -- to pick up where the
technology itself leaves off?"  They got answers that are downright
tyranical, anti-American, anti-Capitalist -- just plain nasty.  Some
of those answers turned into law; others might or might not be close
behind.  (For all we know, these companies are satisfied with the
DMCA and SSSCA is yet another diversion tactic.)

Simply fighting this legislation because it is icky is a good idea,
but not enough.  Congress has a mandate to provide law that promotes
progress in science and the useful arts.  If you like freedom in
general, start implementing businesses that support that progress
without requiring people to not trade MP3 files.