Apparently, Microsoft has paid Opera $12 million to avert a potential lawsuit over a claim that Microsoft deliberately made pages on MSN incompatible with Opera’s browser. Story on http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-5218163.html and elsewhere.
Which raises two questions …
1) So what? If I want to make my own web site incompatible with any browser, OS, IP range, or whatever, isn’t that my prerogative? Access to MSN pages is not a right that must be consistently granted to all. The lawsuit, had it actually have been brought, should have been immediately thrown out.
2) On the other hand, if this was indeed a terrible sin, and part of some devious scheme to prevent Opera from becoming a threat to IW, is $12 million even significant?
Silly, just plain silly.

9 thoughts

  1. if it could be proven that MS intentionally modifed its largely used, for profit, free for users, service intentionally so that a competitor’s browser company would lose customers …. as a user i would ask why was i misled intentionally… i would like an investigation…
    thats principle tho, theres a lot of places the govt would do more good… so am glad the govt didnt waste money investigating….
    nik

  2. Ben: My guess is that Opera’s courtroom logic would have looked something like this:
    (1) Microsoft used IE as the cornerstone of anti-competitive actions during the "browser wars", and was found guilty of antitrust violations.
    (2) By serving a broken, Opera-specific stylesheet to Opera users, Microsoft intended to create the illusion that Opera’s browser was somehow broken or incompatible, resulting in decreased demand for the third-party tool.
    (3) Putting (1) and (2) together, Microsoft can thus be accused of continuing the sort of illegal, anti-competitive promotion of IE that it has been ordered to stop.
    Of course, to buy (2), you have to believe that MS intentionally fudged up the Opera stylesheet. I didn’t believe it at the time, and I still don’t… Opera is no marketshare threat to much of anyone. In fact, Opera should have been thrilled that they were trying to optimize for a niche browser in the first place.
    But hey, $12 million is $12 million to a small company.

  3. Serve Microsoft right!
    MSN is a premium service that we pay for and only certain level of browser capabilities are required. Now, for MSN to secretly go and tweak their codes, not to work better for everyone, but to make Opera look stupid is one hell of a foolish thing to do and I think it’s also illegal.
    So, I think Opera deserves the money. Or how can you quantify the business that Opera must have lost due to the bad press of buggy browser?

  4. Personally I don’t think MS should pay and here’s why.
    When I code, I code for the most widly used browser, IE6, and that’s it. I’m not going to waste my time with any other browser. So I really don’t care about Opera, Mozilla or anything else.
    Now if Opera wants to make sure that their browser renders all webpages, then get on par with IE6 with CSS2 support and if there is a bug in their engine, then they should fix it.
    If all browsers conformed to CSS2 and a forgiving HTML parser like IE6 then I don’t think that there would be a problem.

  5. "When I code, I code for the most widly used browser, IE6, and that’s it. I’m not going to waste my time with any other browser. So I really don’t care about Opera, Mozilla or anything else."
    Oh my. Why worry about standards in that case? Can you imagine if Microsoft ran gas stations? Suddenly you couldn’t refill your car because they decide to change the fill nozzle size. Why do I need a 1 gig box just to surf the web? Is it because the bloatware of Windows and the web browser integration? You keep "programming" your web pages to be IE specific, and the rest of us on Mozilla and the alternative browsers that are standards compliant will keep laughing.

  6. the main point is ‘intentionally’ modifying the code , so that it does not work in opera without indication of such intent.

  7. Hi Ben, logic may be on your side there, but courtroom angles seem to be a different thing. I’m not a lawyer, but I can think of two reasons why MS lawyers might have chosen this route:
    1) it gets the court case off the table… could even be less than trial costs. (I saw this hypothesis in one of the mainstream media (MSM) articles.)
    2) Microsoft is a deep-pocket target, and we’ve already seen cases where juries apparently try to "teach a lesson" rather than judge the merits of the case. Risk is higher than it would be for less-emotionally-charged companies.

  8. You write:
    So what? If I want to make my own web site incompatible with any browser, OS, IP range, or whatever, isn’t that my prerogative?
    Actually, in today’s internet world/culture, it depends. Whether they (MS) are you like it or not, MS really does have a responsibility to the IW that most others don’t have. With all due respect, your web site or mine is not significant. Most people on the planet never heard of either one of us, nor ever will. MS, on the other hand, one way or another, has basically captured most of the US OS/IW market, and as such they should have enough social consciousness to "care" about how their actions, or lack thereof, will effect the millions of people who might want to access information via a channel built and/or controlled by MS.
    Also, I suspect the claim against MS has some valildity. I have tested Opera before, and am testing 7.5 now, and it’s funny how it does awesome with all mainline sites except msnbc.com, at least on this machine.

  9. The difference between what you do with your site and MSN is that MSN is part of the MS monopoly and by making it inaccessible to other browsers they’re illegally using their other holdings to preserve and extend their monopoly.

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