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<nettime> FYI: Microsoft Machinations
Jim Fleming on Sun, 10 Jun 2001 20:23:01 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FYI: Microsoft Machinations

operating system, due to be released Oct. 25, is designed to be easier
and more reliable than previous home versions of Windows. But Microsoft
has another agenda for Windows XP: The program is also designed to be a
platform from which the company can seamlessly offer users an array of
new subscription services via the Internet. One key test of Windows XP
will be whether its features do more to benefit consumers or Microsoft's
business plan. Another will be whether the operating system favors
Microsoft services over those of other companies. The company has said
its software won't discriminate against others selling Web-based
services. But even though Windows XP is still in development, I've
already encountered one proposed feature, in a "beta," or test, version,
that shows Microsoft may well flunk both these tests. The feature, which
hasn't yet been made public, allows Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web
browser -- included in Windows XP -- to turn any word on any Web site
into a link to Microsoft's own Web sites and services, or to any other
sites Microsoft favors. In effect, Microsoft will be able, through the
browser, to re-edit anybody's site, without the owner's knowledge or
permission, in a way that tempts users to leave and go to a
Microsoft-chosen site -- whether or not that site offers better
information. The feature, called Internet Explorer Smart Tags, wasn't in
the widely distributed second public beta of Windows XP issued in March.
And it isn't easy to find, even in later "builds" that have had much
more limited distribution . . . Here's how the Internet Explorer Smart
Tags work: On a PC with Windows XP, when you open any Web page, squiggly
purple lines instantly appear under certain types of words. In the
version I tested, these browser-generated underlines appear beneath the
names of companies, sports teams and colleges. But other types of terms
could be highlighted in future versions.
If you place your cursor on the underlined word, an icon appears, and if
you click on the icon, a small window opens to display links to sites
offering more information. For instance, in the new browser, a
Washington Post Web article on Japanese baseball players was littered
with eight Microsoft-generated links that the Post editors never placed
on their site. In the beta version I tested, most of these links weren't
functional yet, but Microsoft officials confirm that they will send
users to Microsoft Web properties or to other properties blessed by
Microsoft. One of the links did work: It launched Microsoft's mediocre
search engine, which is packed with plugs for other Microsoft services.

nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net Jim {AT} autonomedia.org

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