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Does Microsoft own the Web now?

Monday, June 25, 2001 by Dave Winer.

Good morning! Permalink to Good morning!

And happy Monday.

A couple of pointers and a question.

This morning Microsoft released the preview version of MSIE 6 with Smart Tags.


The info about Smart Tags is here.


Now the question.

Does Microsoft own the Web now? Permalink to Does Microsoft own the Web now?

All the arguments have been deployed and now so has the software.

Later maybe we'll look back on this as the moment when the Web crossed into Microsoft ownership. Sometimes it's not entirely evident at the time when a line was crossed, but imho, this is it.

Microsoft promises an opt-out to websites, which must sound good to some. Now give it a few weeks to sink in -- there are going to be lots of demos of this stuff in boardrooms, I hope, if the Web wants to retain any kind of independence from Microsoft. Of course they may have another set of controversies for reporters to cover by then. They're good at poking hornet's nests. (It's so easy, what leverage they have with the press.)

But the issue won't go away quickly. It's just dawning on people who manage websites how much it's going to cost to opt-out. Every page on every site has to be modified. It's a firedrill like the one we did for Y2K, only this time there's not so much time to prepare. And how many more firedrills will there be this year and next? How many more "smart" features are coming and is there any guarantee that we'll even be able to opt-out?

It would have been much more fair and reasonable to require an opt-in on the part of websites. It would be a minor change to their code. That way we could try the feature before commiting all our web content to Microsoft's new idea of linking on the Web. Instead we have to scurry and waste a ton of time and money to keep integrity in our work.

Now the discussion will percolate to other places, boardrooms and then perhaps courtrooms. The Web is really big now, even though there's been a bust in Dot-Com-Land, a huge amount of money and the content of many media empires, universities, businesses and governments, large and small, flow through Microsoft's browser. I don't believe they're all just going to shrug it off. We'll see.

Dave Winer

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