FOSS Community to Microsoft: Earn Our Trust

Posted by Scott_Ruecker on Apr 22, 2006 7:41 AM EDT
LXer; By DC Parris
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  LXer Feature: 21-Jan-06

Last week, LXer Editor-in-Chief, Don Parris had strong words for Microsoft's Port 25 project. He suggested that Microsoft's appalling behavior has left a credibility gap that would hurt their Port 25 effort. The question remains whether Microsoft can or will change their behavior. Can Microsoft earn the trust of the FOSS Community? Will they even try?

Strong Words for Microsoft

I recently wrote some rather strong words about Microsoft's Port 25 effort. In that article, I argued that, until Microsoft admitted to its bad behavior and changed its ways, the FOSS community should refrain from engaging Microsoft at Port 25. The reason being, I argued, was that unless Microsoft changed their behavior, little or nothing would be accomplished. If Microsoft wants to impress the FOSS community, it needs to change its behavior from the top. Otherwise, we're all just spinning our wheels. There is another side to the reconciliation principle that I did not discuss at all.



Many thought my accusation of economic terrorism was overly harsh, or simply that I was over-using the word "terrorism". When an entity, already convicted on two continents, of monopolistic practices attempts to take captive the technology sector of Korea's economy, as a way to avoid the penalties of the laws of the land, the goal is to literally scare the courts or government (or both) into letting their infraction slide. It was an effort to intimidate the government of Korea. We cannot say it did not work, as the process is not yet complete. Such conduct deserves strong words.



Perhaps Microsoft's behavior in Korea is not compelling enough to convince you that Microsoft's conduct is deplorable. When taken into account in reference to their history, one might be amazed. From losing patent infringement suits to anti-competitive business practices - not once or twice, but consistently throughout their history - to mistreating their own employees, Microsoft has a criminal record that would make a Mafia Don blush. Honestly, when a company has to pay to have dead people write letters on their behalf, there is a serious credibility problem. That's old hat, but little has changed. In order to really appreciate Microsoft's criminal conduct, one should visit GrokLaw's Microsoft Litigation page and Aaxnet's The House That Monopoly Built.

American citizens should be appalled by such conduct from any company - especially one that, because of its size and influence, represents Americans in significant ways. Never mind whether one supports FOSS or not. Democrats and Republicans alike should be appalled. Even those who don't own a computer should be appalled. Investors should be embarrassed to be associated with the company. Consumers should be running helter skelter from a business that behaves this way. Microsoft employees should be appalled by the conduct of their overlords, as their behavior does, in fact, reflect on the rest of the company. In short, Microsoft has some demons to exorcise before any meaningful dialog with the FOSS community can occur.



Potential For Change

What if this change does occur? Then what? What if Microsoft ceased to bully other businesses? What if they publicly apologized to the Korean government for their attempt to intimidate them. What if they began shipping Windows with Firefox and Opera, alongside Internet Explorer? What if they made some changes to their draconian licensing terms? What if they gave users a license to modify the Windows kernel, if it would help them run their computer better? What if Steve Ballmer quit lying about the FOSS community and treating us like the next threat after the Chinese Communists? I know these things amount to a mighty big if, maybe even a never. Still, if these kinds of things began happening, how would that impact the FOSS community?



Well, if Microsoft begins to demonstrate that it is, in fact, changing, that would have to bring about a change in the attitudes of the FOSS community. While I understand full well that many of my readers might think I have a vitriolic hatred of Microsoft, I simply do not. I do believe that Microsoft is run by greedy cowards. They are greedy because they feel the need to infringe on others' freedom in order to make a buck. They are cowards because they are afraid of competing in a free-market software economy. Their behavior is indicative of their hearts. They have taught me not to trust them. Still, I disagree with those who wish for nothing more than their destruction. I would rather see them change.



If Microsoft gave me a reason to trust them - that is, if they showed signs of change - I could consider listening to what they have to say over at Port 25. And I would. I need to be clear that I do not hate Microsoft, nor do I condone hatred of Microsoft. I definitely despise Microsoft's behavior, but am open to the possibility that they may change. In fact, I would be a complete hypocrite if I did not believe that change is possible. We all need to be open to that possibility, and willing to embrace even Microsoft when we see it happening. The next question is what will it take to convince the FOSS community that Microsoft has turned a new leaf?



Port 110 - Microsoft Has Mail

The FOSS community can be open to the idea that Microsoft is capable of changing. Sure, there will always be those who exist merely to hate someone or something. I've met plenty of bigots in my time. Even so, the FOSS community is generally an open-minded, if opinionated, lot. It remains to be seen whether the community will stand as a whole to signal Microsoft that they must change from the top. It also remains to be seen whether and how Microsoft will respond to such a message. The issue is critical, as Port 25 is essentially useless without that change. So how can Microsoft earn the trust of the FOSS community?

Frankly, I cannot speak for the FOSS community as a whole. Hopefully, many will respond with constructive and realistic indicators of change. I have given a few potential examples above. Perhaps that will give us a starting point. Ideally, Bill and Steve would cease lying about the FOSS community in the press, infringing on others' patents, and attempting to bully individuals, partners, and governments into submission. That would convince me that they are at least on the right track. So what will it take to convince you to trust Microsoft? Consider this my invitation to let Microsoft know what it would take to convince you.



Port 110 is the counterpart to port 25. Users connect to port 110 to retrieve mail from others. Microsoft wants to send mail out, and that's fine. But they need to know that their domain has been blacklisted until we see some changes. If Microsoft wants to find out what it takes to get off the blacklist, they should connect to lxer.com:110 (the comments below this article) to check their inbox. Before you throw up your arms in futility, consider that Microsoft won't be able to hear our silence. Rather than speculate whether they will respond to our concerns, let's speak loudly enough that they will have little recourse other than to respond. Post a comment below to let them know what it will take to earn your trust. When Microsoft checks Port 110, they should have an inbox full of mail.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Untitled dlc 37 2,283 Apr 25, 2006 12:14 AM
To trust Microsoft enough to enable an open 2-way discussion BrianS 1 1,519 Apr 23, 2006 6:49 AM
FOSS Community to Microsoft: Earn Our Trust Swusr 0 1,430 Apr 22, 2006 5:26 AM
Port 110 Elwood 5 1,910 Apr 21, 2006 2:44 PM
Shred Contracts kozmcrae 5 1,493 Apr 21, 2006 1:48 PM
The real question... dinotrac 5 1,543 Apr 21, 2006 12:49 PM

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