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Microsoft Threatens Startups Over Account Info 156

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the strong-arm-of-the-law dept.
HangingChad writes "According to Fortune, there are reports that Microsoft is trying to strong arm startups to give preferential treatment to MSN Messenger and are using account information as leverage. 'If the company wants to offer other IM services (from Yahoo, Google or AOL, say), Messenger must get top billing. And if the startup wants to offer any other IM service, it must pay Microsoft 25 cents a user per year for a site license.' Of course, if the company is willing to use Messenger exclusively 'fee will be discounted 100 percent.' Getting detailed information is difficult as many of the companies being approached are afraid of reprisals."
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Microsoft Threatens Startups Over Account Info

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  • by Enlightenment (1073994) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @09:50AM (#22107994)
    I think this quote says quite a lot: "We want to make sure our data is kept between our users and our servers." "Our data"? Is that even a legal position to take? It's sure as hell not intuitively obvious that they should be able to consider data theirs just because they're the ones who keep track of it.
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @09:53AM (#22108014) Homepage
    The idea of IM providers like Google and MS and AOL and Yahoo seems broken to me. Why isn't IM a distributed system, like email, with a standardized protocol?

    In fact, if you think about it a bit, it isn't hard to come up with a design that would work a lot like email. You have a local IM server (or your ISP provides one). You have a record like mail's MX record in your DNS data that points to your IM server. When you want to IM me, your IM server looks up my IM server in my DNS record, and connects to my IM server, and our clients then talk to each other, relaying through our IM servers.

  • by Divebus (860563) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @09:59AM (#22108050)
    Same old head crushers. Are you watching this DOJ? Oh, it's not a threat... it's a choice. An anti-competitive, locked in, service bundling, vendor threatening choice - in the name of beter "security". Puleeeez. We've seen this behavior before and I hope this blows up in their face worse than last time.
  • Re:Heavy Foot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:01AM (#22108072)
    Like it or not, they are a major IM provider.

    I'm not an MS fan, but this sort of thing does irritate me. They are *not* strongarming startups. What they are doing is trying to find ways of monetizing their services. These services are free to end users, but why should they be free for other businesses to use? I can't see why. How is it reasonable to use another companies product to make money without paying for that usage? Only if the company wants it to be used for free, and Microsoft doesn't. That's their right.

    Can these startups just avoid using the MS IM protocol? Sure, if they want to drastically reduce their customer bases. That would be unbeleivably stupid in the US.

    And besides, 25 cents per user per year? If the startup is worthy of existence, they should be able to make more than that per user per year, its a piddly amount.
  • Re:Mess them up! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BenoitRen (998927) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:07AM (#22108110)
    Or you could, you know, use an alternative client to access the MSN network.
  • Re:Heavy Foot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar (622222) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:12AM (#22108146)

    What they are doing is trying to find ways of monetizing their services.
    All well and good if they weren't shipping the product free with their monopoly OS. They have to play by different rules than everyone else, because no one else has a monopoly to leverage.
  • by mangu (126918) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:23AM (#22108216)

    "Our data"? Is that even a legal position to take? It's sure as hell not intuitively obvious that they should be able to consider data theirs just because they're the ones who keep track of it.

    An interesting position, if we the people would be allowed to claim it. Since I'm the keeper of the information in my computer, does it mean I own the intellectual property?!...

    Yes, I know, there's a difference between "data" an "information". But my list of contacts isn't something that arose spontaneously, we aren't talking about phone books here. I worked for years to meet all the people in my list. That's information that has been carefully collected and organized, it's not like taking a list of everybody who lives in a city and ordering by last name.

    That list of contacts is *MY* data, *MY* property and *I* should have the final word about it!

  • Parity Error (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NullProg (70833) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:41AM (#22108352) Homepage Journal
    We put the question to Brian Hall, general manager for Windows Live. "We want the user to be in control of their stuff," he told me. "We believe strongly that it's the user's data, it's the user's choice."

    Oh really? What about Secure Audio Path and the other draconian DRM measures in Windows.

    Microsoft must be running for public office. Say one thing, do another.

  • by mgkimsal2 (200677) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @10:45AM (#22108382) Homepage
    They mentioned they wanted to keep data secure, but there was no mention from anyone interviewed (anonymously), that MS was demanding a security audit of the companies' systems. That would be an interesting approach to take. You can access our data for $x/user/year, but we'll waive the fee if you submit to an audit to prove that you'll be handling the data in a secure manner. I still wouldn't agree with the practice, but it would have been a more PR-savvy move to take. "We're protecting this customer data, but still allowing the user to take their data with them, etc". During their audit, they might just happen to find that Oracle, DB2, PostgreSQL and MySQL aren't as 'secure' as MSSQL, and 'suggest' that companies use MSSQL in the mix as well for user data, but that's just a conspiracy theorist mindset at that point. :)
  • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zeinfeld (263942) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @11:09AM (#22108566) Homepage
    It wasn't "social networking sites", but "webmail sites". And of the three big ones (Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google), only Microsoft try to use control of the mail contacts as a "leverage" for their other products.

    Acording to TFA it was the social networking sites that were trying to hook in.

    OK so you don't like Microsoft's tactics, don't get a Hotmail account. What I find rather more objectionable is the amount of social networking spam I have been getting from new social networking sites trying to gain critical mass.

    In one week I received email from three new networks trying to start up, each one was playing the 'download all the contacts and spam them' game.

    Flaming Microsoft is fun but after the first decade or so it got old. I gave that up in '98 or so. Rather more interesting is working out what we can do to change the game.

    In the dotCrime Manifesto I proposed a mashup of OpenID/SAML/WS-* on the authentication side, FOAF as contact interchange medium, DNS SRV records as the discovery mechanism. The objective being to create an identity system in which end users own and control their own data.

    Finding folk who are upset enough to flame Microsoft is rather easier than finding folk interested in writing or deploying code that might change the situation.

  • Easy solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arcturax (454188) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @11:33AM (#22108738)
    Make Microsoft look like assholes and make sure users know it's MS's fault.

    On your social networking/Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, whatever site allow users to import from AIM, YIM and Google. However for MSN, grey out the option and next to it in red put "Due to legal pressure by Microsoft, if you use MSN, you must manually import your contacts" and give a link to a tedious page that restates this reason and make them upload them one at a time.

    Naturally users are going to be rather upset at MS and wonder if maybe they should switch to AIM instead.
  • Re:Easy solution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lukas84 (912874) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @01:18PM (#22109798) Homepage
    LOL no.

    Do you really believe that?

    While a technical person might react like this, they're not the target group. If a teenager has his clique on MSN, nothing will change that.
  • Re:Easy solution (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @01:49PM (#22110138) Homepage
    You mean, to tell users the truth instead of bending over backwards to support MS?
  • Some thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @02:03PM (#22110250)
    I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that any contract terms that offer a discount for 100% of someone's business is restraint of trade and runs afoul of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Volume discounts are OK, based upon some threshold quantities. But 100% is simply a test for the exclusion of other suppliers.

    I'm not an economist, but placing barriers on the export of contact information from Hotmail reduces the value of the Hotmail service. If the cost to move a particular piece of data from within one system to any other is higher than moving it in the other direction, its value inside that high cost system is lower by that amount.

  • by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @04:20PM (#22111478)

    That list of contacts is *MY* data, *MY* property and *I* should have the final word about it!
    You would think so, wouldn't you? On the other hand, I wonder what the EULA / TOS that WIM users clicked right through without reading has to say about it.

    Perhaps all your lists are belonging to them.

  • by KillerCow (213458) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @05:26PM (#22112034)

    That list of contacts is *MY* data, *MY* property and *I* should have the final word about it!

    Not when you store it on *MY* server. If you want to retain control of your data, then don't give it to me.
  • Okay that's fine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sheph (955019) on Saturday January 19, 2008 @05:41PM (#22112152)
    This actually could be turned against them. If I was a start up I'd widely publicise the fact that MS is doing this and pass the cost on to the user. If you want to use MSN with my system then you have to pay the 0.25 fee. No other messaging system is charging, so I would think that over time in the interest of consolidating services, and people generally not wanting to pay for what they can get for free MS would be squeezed out.
  • Re:Not really... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by someguy456 (607900) <> on Saturday January 19, 2008 @08:00PM (#22113296) Homepage Journal

    Well duh, that's easy. Try getting your mail out of Hotmail without using Windows+Outlook

    Last I checked, Hotmail was accessible from many browsers, including Firefox and Safari, neither of which requires Windows nor Outlook. Has that suddenly changed? Or are you so out of date that you missed the entire *web*mail fad?

    Can you please think before making an ass out of yourself. Being critical of a company for no fucking reason is just as bad as being a retarded fanboy.

  • It's their data, we're their customers.

    We're their product.

    Marketing companies are their customers.

  • by Excelcia (906188) <> on Saturday January 19, 2008 @09:50PM (#22113902) Homepage Journal
    Welcome to what happens when you offload your software into web apps. This is why I use Thunderbird for email, not Hotmail or GMail. Sure, people can get angry if Microsoft holds onto their contact data, but for heaven's sake, what did they expect? If you want control of your contact list, keep your contact list on your own hot little PC.
  • standard practice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday January 20, 2008 @03:19AM (#22115458) Homepage Journal
    Par for the course for MS.

    Serious question: Has anyone ever worked with MS and hasn't been fucked with?

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman