Microsoft versus the Crazy Yenta Gossip Line

If you're here looking for the "Government Open Systems Interconnection Profile", note that "GOSIP" only has one "S".

Microsoft versus the Crazy Yenta Gossip Line

In Harlan Ellison versus the Crazy Yenta Gossip Line I discuss the lack of accurate and responsive feedback from web sites, the sort of feedback you so readily get from Usenet. A classic example of this lack of feedback is the response by Microsoft to the Halloween Memos published by Eric Raymond at OpenSource.ORG [2]. Microsoft creates the illusion of a responsive give-and-take discussion in their public response [1], but they leave the critical parts of the response unfinished. And because there's no place for honest feedback on their site, they get to present this sort of deception unchallenged:
The first document talked about extending standard protocols as a way to deny OSS projects entry into the market." What does this mean?
To better serve customers, Microsoft needs to innovate above standard protocols. By innovating above the base protocol, we are able to deliver advanced functionality to users. An example of this is adding transactional support for DTC over HTTP. This would be a value-add and would in no way break the standard or undermine the concept of standards, of which Microsoft is a significant supporter. Yet it would allow us to solve a class of problems in value chain integration for our Web-based customers that are not solved by any public standard today. Microsoft recognizes that customers are not served by implementations that are different without adding value; we therefore support standards as the foundation on which further innovation can be based.
This charming doubletalk implies that Microsoft can't innovate without implementing incompatible extensions. This is, of course, nonsense. People create extensions to standards all the time without breaking compatibility. Most standard formats have hooks that can be used to implement extensions without breaking older versions of programs that don't know about them. No, if Microsoft can't manage it that implies a level of incompetance that their most scathing opponents would hesitate to ascribe to them. Their internal and external incompatibilities must be deliberate.

Microsoft's extensions to DNS and Kerberos in NT 5.0 (Windows 2000, if their lawyers manage to get that name under their control again) are perfect examples of this. The people involved in the DNS standards process have been trying to get Microsoft to document their extensions ever since they were announced. Microsoft has not only failed to do so, they haven't even provided enough information that would allow the Open Source nameservers to transparently forward Microsoft's records as anonymous blobs of data. This isn't just using standards as "the foundation on which further innovation can be based", it's opposing the whole process by which standards are created and maintained.

For another example, let's look at their Browser technology. I know the whole Browser issue has been driven into the ground, but their ongoing attempts to introduce incompatible technology that has no clear technical advantage is a perfect example of how Microsoft operates. Which is why it gets brought up over and over again, and now it's proof anyone can see that the doubletalk quoted above is purely spin control, and that the tactics described in the Halloween Memo are more reflective of Microsoft's standard operating procedure after all.

Microsoft understands how to use the Crazy Yenta Gossip Line for spin control. They don't try and counter Open Source in the open, on newsgroups and web boards. If Eric Raymond had a "feedback on the Halloween Memo" discussion group, they wouldn't poke their nose in.

That's why it's important to use Usenet for what it's best at, to carry on the public discussions that demonstrate clearly who's telling the truth, who's lying, and where the spin is. And if someone, or some organization, refuses to take part in the public discussion then that by itself should tell you something about where their heads are.

Peter da Silva, November 1998.

[1] Microsoft's document has moved... I've updated this page to follow it, but the spin cycle continues... this new link is now orphaned again, where's Waldo now?

Ah, there's a copy:, and another one at: That's all Google knows about.

[2] And the Halloween memos have moved as well...