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Windows XP inserts its own links into any page on the Web.
June 7, 2001 6:31 AM   Subscribe

Windows XP inserts its own links into any page on the Web. I especially like the part about their fear that some pages are "underlinked". The implications behind this are huge.
posted by goto11 (59 comments total)

 
Same information, different article.
posted by goto11 at 6:33 AM on June 7, 2001


How useful will a they be considering that they aren't dynamic? I imagine that Georgi Guniski is salivating at the prospects of finding a security issue within smart tags.
posted by machaus at 6:40 AM on June 7, 2001


Just like the office paperclip, this "feature" will be turned off by most users within a matter of weeks.
posted by internal at 6:43 AM on June 7, 2001


And isn't there something strange about the Wall Street Journal, of all papers, chastising Microsoft for an embrace-and-extend effort?

I can only imagine the foaming on Slashdot right now...
posted by solistrato at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2001


Now if they could make it underlink overlinked pages, like some of the recent articles at memepool, it would be a god-send.
posted by skallas at 7:09 AM on June 7, 2001


Whoops. Working link.
posted by skallas at 7:10 AM on June 7, 2001


I love the idea of opposition groups getting ahold of this. Could you imagine going to a vegetarian's site and seeing every instance of the word "vegetable" with a link to the "Beef, it's what's for dinner" site? Oops, hope I didn't give anybody ideas.
posted by the_0ne at 7:16 AM on June 7, 2001


Microsoft isn't the first to do this. My local television station was a regional test market for MSNBC's "quick click" which is the same concept, so I don't see this strictly as a MS intrusion. Instead, I see it as a mass media intrusion. Really, think about it. What's the difference between this diversion and the soundtracks to A Knight's Tale and Moulin Rouge being little more than the parent company's effort to market their music backlist to you? Every big business wants you to be a captive consumer and they're looking for bigger and better ways of ensuring that process.
posted by debrahyde at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2001


When I worked for Excite, the product managers were considering integrating similar technology into excite.com pages. Excite would sell keywords to advertisers, and whenever one of these words appeared in a page, it would be a link to the advertiser's site. As long as it's Excite's own pages, I have no objection. However, I worked on the 'community' products, and our product managers were considering implementing this feature as well on pages with user-generated content (message board messages, chat and IM text, etc.).

We engineers objected strongly to that implementation on the grounds that it would modify someone else's content. But, our PMs thought that as long as that content was generated using our services, then 'all your content are belong to us,' so to speak. Questionable ethics, in my opinion.

And of course, M$ is going one step further: modifying everyone else's content. And I thought the Excite PMs had questionable ethics.
posted by tippiedog at 7:35 AM on June 7, 2001


There's also the annoying assumption that the web is all about (and only about) news and information. Imagine reading someone's personal diary, or a {fray} story, and having it littered with links. Links the author never intended. Ugh.

Links are content. And context. Hell, everyone here know's that. Adding links can change the meaning of what's being said.

This kind of news, coupled with Netscape giving up on the browser market, makes me afraid indeed.
posted by fraying at 7:39 AM on June 7, 2001


This sort of technology is old news. NBCi made a big deal about their version, called "Quick Click" this year - and it's been done by others before that as well.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:40 AM on June 7, 2001


What (might/would) be interesting is if there was then a sort of "Quick Click" library that could work with the browser, of which MSWeb would only be one. (grammar alert) So that, say, I could install (or whatever) IMC or Alternet Quick Clicks, or CNN, or Joe-Bob's Pornarama Clicks. Or whatever.
posted by claxton6 at 7:54 AM on June 7, 2001


internal: Just like the office paperclip, this "feature" will be turned off by most users within a matter of weeks.

Allegedly the feature will be off by default, but you know MS will try to ram it down our collective throats eventually.

What happens when users are either tempted or forced to turn on this feature, and they begin to see this great Microsoft innovation as the web? Lots and lots of newbies out there could, in theory, think that the web is supposed to be littered with wavy underline links, and that Microsoft is the one-stop shop for most web services. Given that IE is bundled with every new PC out there, they might not know any different. With MS controlling the browser, the OS, and to a degree the distribution, how do we educate?
posted by hijinx at 7:55 AM on June 7, 2001


I just downloaded and ran "ad-aware" that disables spyware on your machine.

What I'd like to see is a one-menu program that lets you disable all of the most annoying msoft crap in one place. Sort of like "tweakgui" for Office. Except it would take care of realplayer bloat and other "barnacleware."
posted by mecran01 at 8:00 AM on June 7, 2001


This article makes me laugh.

But if the feature is so benign, why is Microsoft hiding it and offering sites a way to block it?

Microsoft creates a potentially useful feature that they realize some people won't want. So they turn it off by default and give site creators a simply way to turn it off from their end, too. This is evidence it's an evil thing. Right.

On the positive side for MS, I'm sure all the people who defended Third Voice will be consistent in supporting this feature, too.
posted by mw at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2001


Mom, Dad . . . don't touch it, it's EVIL!!!

Gotta love those Microsoft folks. I betcha it's only a matter of time before they decide to ship XP with this feature turned on by default.

While many people will understand it's inherent suckiness and turn it off, there are millions who won't understand how to go about doing it. Have you any idea how many people suffer through that damn paper clip guy?

Indeed, this is a very bad thing.
posted by aladfar at 8:07 AM on June 7, 2001


From the article: "It's up to a site's creators to decide how many, and which, terms to turn into links, where those links appear, and where they send users."

Yeah, just how it's up to a site's creators to define exactly how a it looks, to the pixel. Not!
posted by kindall at 8:11 AM on June 7, 2001


Endquote wrote a php script that will take one's blog, and provide a similar, self-linking feature. I've also used it on my webdiary. It's only a small step to add a google-search into the mix, so that words that have no reference locally, could be queried from an "indepenant" source. As user-agents become more prevelant, I imagine M$'s feature will become less of an issue, as ones local box parses the data based upon your own rules....
posted by nomisxid at 8:12 AM on June 7, 2001


Yes, but this link alteration is all done on the CLIENT SIDE. That is, IN THE BROWSER ITSELF. It parses the HTML file and adds the links in before the rendering step, not on the server.

Therefore, the site's creators have no control over Smart Tags. They're embedded into IE.

C'mon, Mozilla...go go go go go...
posted by Succa at 8:18 AM on June 7, 2001


At least if there is a way for me to turn off this feature in a client's browser from my end, all is not lost. Aside from spell-checking being a useful feature, I always thought those wavy underlines really uglied-up an office document. I don't need them ugnlying-up my sites.

"But, our PMs thought that as long as that content was generated using our services, then 'all your content are belong to us,' so to speak."

I guess since MeFi is served up from a Windows powered server, Microsoft owns MeFi? Or perhaps I temporarily own it since this instance was generated on my computer screen with my browser?

Hogwash I tell you!
posted by tomorama at 8:25 AM on June 7, 2001


Yes, but this link alteration is all done on the CLIENT SIDE. That is, IN THE BROWSER ITSELF. It parses the HTML file and adds the links in before the rendering step, not on the server.

Therefore, the site's creators have no control over Smart Tags. They're embedded into IE.


So does Quick Click. The site visitor controls whether or not the links will be there. I assume the MS version will be the same.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:37 AM on June 7, 2001


Time to start embracing Opera.

Microsoft is able to pull crap like this because people seem to just shrug and move along. There are alternatives. Don't just whine - act.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:39 AM on June 7, 2001


On the positive side for MS, I'm sure all the people who defended Third Voice will be consistent in supporting this feature, too.

I defended Third Voice because I thought the idea of publicly annotation was intriguing and I wanted to see what people would do with it. Users had to install a plug-in to use it, and that limited the feature to a self-selected community.

This, though, is a built-in browser feature. If Microsoft makes it a default -- which has to be the long-term plan -- I think it's a disaster for the Web.
posted by rcade at 8:40 AM on June 7, 2001


<rant length="long">

I would have to respectfully disagree with Kindall's assessment of the situation. The argument that a page author should not concern him/herself with controlling every pixel when the page is rendered is correct, but you are equivocating on content vs. formatting.
I would argue that the web is about content first and foremost. I really don't care a great deal how my pages come out on the client's end as long as it is readable, but I do give a damn about my content. That is my contribution - no matter how sucky, don't f**k with it!
Even a cursory read of the literature about hypertext linking in an Open Hypertext System will affirm the position that linking is a form of content. Given that content falls under the domain of the author, control over linking does not belong in the hands of client-side software. Period. For this reason, no matter how plausible the argument is from the business side, it is a violation of my copyright interests and, if not illegal, definitely immoral.


</rant>
posted by BoyWithFez at 8:44 AM on June 7, 2001


It's just a browser plug-in that comes preinstalled. The technical name is a "browser helper object", documented here. Many third parties have already written browser helper objects, Comet Cursors being the most prevalent in the wild.
posted by raymondc at 9:00 AM on June 7, 2001


Given, MS doesn't have the greatest track record in this sort of arena, and I've long been a defender of IE-specific benefits (features/bugs/hacks), I can see where people would be uneasy with this. I don't like it much either. I wrote a bit of a program to do this back when I worked at MSNBC (highlight a random word, right-click it, get a custom pop-up page based on that word). But I never pushed it, since it didn't really seem all that useful.

However, I honestly doubt that the long-term plan is to have it on by default. That said, I bet they'll push for individual groups/companies, etc. to turn it on in their internal distribution, maybe with a mix of MS and non-MS content, like links to an intranet and MS shopping, etc.

If they ship it on by default, you can bet that there would be an uproar, but unfortunately, they're not obligated to do much about it. At least there will be a couple ways to switch it off (both client and server methods).
posted by kokogiak at 9:13 AM on June 7, 2001


"off by default"

Yes, but for how long?

In addition, Microsoft says, it will provide a free bit of programming code, called a "meta tag," that site owners could use to bar any Smart Tags from appearing on their sites.

First of all, say that in a Dr. Evil voice. 'called a "meta tag"'. Secondly, all it takes is for MSFT to change the format of the metatags backwards-incompatibly and suddenly the entire world is shown their "Smart Tags". I can see it happening now.

"Smart Tags represent another step in personalizing the Web and helping bring it to life for individuals by allowing them to get the information they want in the way they want it,"

Rewrite: "Smart Tags represent another step in Monopolizing the Web and helping bring it to Microsoft for individuals by allowing them to get the information we want in the way they want it (ok, actually in the way we want it.)"

Microsoft also says that other companies, besides itself, will be able to create and distribute add-ons for the browser that will launch their own Smart Tags all over the Web, directing users to their sites.

Let's see, how would this work? Obviously not everyone's "Smart Tags" would show up on every page, because suddenly the world would look like memepool. I assume that they would allow the customer to 'adopt' "Smart Tags" from different sites. Let's say I'm a Metafilter reader. Matt can make his dictionary and then I can enable my browser to use it. Then when I go to Plastic, I see Metafilter links. When I go to Slashdot, I see Metafilter links. When I go to goatse.cx, I see Metafilter links.

Surely there would be conflicts between two sites dictionaries. Both would contain links for certain popular words. I suppose that MSFT would make it so that the user can order them in the preferences to resolve conflicts.

So at that point, would the one <finger quotes>meta tag</finger quotes> ban all Smart tags, or just those from a certain site? So, like, even if they're off for microsoft.com, msn.com, msnbc.com, slate.com, sidewalk.com, and every other property out there can write over my site's content? Sounds like a battle of the big media giants to me...

Of course, that said, I too would have a field day trying to find a security hole in the "feature".
posted by fooljay at 9:19 AM on June 7, 2001


I will point this out one last time in a possibly foolish attempt to quiet all this stupid Microsoft paranoia - you can download plug-ins now that already do this. See here:

Quick Click

The fact that Microsoft will install a plug-in is not a big deal - Netscape and IE already come with plug-ins installed - if you don't like them, uninstall them.
posted by ljromanoff at 9:28 AM on June 7, 2001


I thought it was a problem when NBC did it, too.

I understand that Microsoft does not have a new idea here. Very little of what they release is internally conceived. But you can't deny the pattern of their taking of others' ideas, putting the MS brand on them, and integrating them into Windows so as to choke out any competition in that field. This is just another example.

The whole "Stop being so concerned" argument displays a profound naivety. If it were a company that had not been ruled a monopoly and not had a track record of disregarding business ethics in order to further their own dominance, I would be a little more tolerant. But with Microsoft? No way.
posted by goto11 at 10:01 AM on June 7, 2001


I do design and content very deliberately, to put forth my OWN presentation/feel. While the meta-tag option is appreciated, I have hundreds and hundreds of pages I'll have to redo in order to prevent a smart-tag-ization of all my pages. I certainly don't want anyone thinking that when I write a paragraph about the digital photographs I took of my flower garden, that *I* am somehow encouraging them to go shop at an msn affiliate for a new camera instead of reading the rest of my page. (Yeah, I suppose you can say that people will get used to it and learn to ignore it, but right now I only go to i.e., memepool, when I'm ready for it because the links are just all over the place with different places to go - LOL) Also, I much prefer creating an html page to do what *I* *DO WANT* it to do instead of having to *STOP IT* from doing things. To take this to an end to make a point, how many 'preventative measures' am I going to have to keep adding? Or are we supposed to say that's just a part of the web page game?
posted by thunder at 10:04 AM on June 7, 2001


I would argue that the web is about content first and foremost. I really don't care a great deal how my pages come out on the client's end as long as it is readable, but I do give a damn about my content. ... Given that content falls under the domain of the author, control over linking does not belong in the hands of client-side software. Period.

So, then you'd be against client-side ad-blocking software as well? After all, the author put those ads in the page, no?
posted by kindall at 10:17 AM on June 7, 2001


Authors of sites at the low-cost or free space providers will argue with that one, kindall.
posted by hijinx at 10:33 AM on June 7, 2001


Oh great... guess it's just a matter of time until Jerry Falwell gets his paws on this, and my favorite Buddhist pages will be vandalized with squiggles to click telling me that I'm going to hell.

I think Third Voice is vandalism, too.

I wouldn't mind the technology as an optional plug-in that created links with the site authors' knowledge and *permission* - changing a site's content, which this does, is copyright infringement. The court case might be tough since courts tend to be bamboozeled by technology issues, but I do think it would eventually be confirmed as an intellectual property and copyright issue.
posted by ilanah at 11:24 AM on June 7, 2001


So, then you'd be against client-side ad-blocking software as well? After all, the author put those ads in the page, no?

Oddly enough, I am against it and do not employ them for whatever it is worth. . .
posted by BoyWithFez at 11:39 AM on June 7, 2001


Sorry, to continue . . .

I think this is another equivocation anyway. I would argue there is a difference between employing a device to screen advertisements and employing a device that adds, without consultation, content to my content. Screening advertisements is relatively benign when it comes to affecting the content of my pages (unless the page was comprised entirely of banner ads I suppose), whereas adding links to my content can have a dramatic effect on the underlying meaning.

For instance, say I go off on a lengthy rant on Apple's product line and argue that no one should patronize their site. The intent of this rant is dramatically affected if every product mentioned in this rant now contains a link to a page on Apple's site that also permits you to purchase these same products. The intent of the message is diluted by someone hijacking my content and using it as a platform to launch an advertising campaign.

Compare and contrast this scenario with one where I place an Apple banner ad on my site that is incidental to the content on the page. You screen the banner ad, that's your perogative - however, you have not affected the content of my page in the same way you did in the previous scenario.
posted by BoyWithFez at 11:55 AM on June 7, 2001


I can't wait to see what the Smart Tag for Linux is.
posted by davewiner at 11:59 AM on June 7, 2001


Would it be possible to write a script, to include on your page, that would disable this feature? It would probably only start an escalation between users and MS, but it's a start.
posted by jpoulos at 12:08 PM on June 7, 2001


I find it fascinating that people think they can say "don't install the plugin" and wash their hands of the issue.

It doesn't matter that others have made the plugin, and it doesn't matter that it's possible to turn off. The fact is, Microsoft has a lot of responsibility now that they're (basically) the only browser the market cares about. The decisions MS makes fundamentally change the world wide web.

I could make a plugin that would not allow your browser to visit any sites with the word 'linux' in the title, and I might get a couple downloads. The effect to the world is just about zero.

If Microsoft did the same thing and made it a default option, it would have a huge impact. It's niave to say 'if you don't like it, turn it off', because we're dealing with the makeup of a whole industry being turned upside down for the benefit of one company.

They're pissing in our drinking water and some people say "I'll just walk upstream from now on. Give them a break". What apathy.
posted by jragon at 12:18 PM on June 7, 2001


ljromanoff, I appreciate your efforts to get everyone to pull down their pants, lube up, and bend over for the gracious screwing that Microsoft is offering up. After all, it's helpful for them to turn everything into a monetizing opportunity for them, including visiting my personal site. I should be grateful, because after all, the internet was invented by Bill Gates, right?
posted by dhartung at 1:01 PM on June 7, 2001


Wait, let me get this straight: Context- and content-sensitive hyperlinking, along with increased data manipulation based on meta-info, is a bad thing?

I disagree.

How do all of you feel about Bookmarklets? Same issues? What about when I highlight a word, right-click on it and Google search for it?
posted by anildash at 1:09 PM on June 7, 2001


ljromanoff, I appreciate your efforts to get everyone to pull down their pants, lube up, and bend over for the gracious screwing that Microsoft is offering up. After all, it's helpful for them to turn everything into a monetizing opportunity for them, including visiting my personal site. I should be grateful, because after all, the internet was invented by Bill Gates, right?

Well, it's sure feels good to be appreciated. I hate to break it to all of you "sky is falling, lets blame Bill Gates" folks, but this technology is not new and not only used by Microsoft. Those of you complaining about what MS will be doing to your web sites should already be outraged that NBC and others have been doing it for a while now.
posted by ljromanoff at 1:10 PM on June 7, 2001


ljromanoff, you're missing the point.

You can read my post just above this one, or I can summarize here.

It simply doesn't matter that MS is just using technology that others have used. Microsoft is a whole new animal; one with responsibilities.

Everyone lies, but when Reagan, Bush, or Clinton were caught lying, it meant more. You can argue that those in power should be held to identical standards, but that's not how it works. Microsoft and our government officials both have enormous power, and with power comes more responsibility.

Fundamentally changing the way the www works should be done with caution. When NBC did it, it didn't change a thing. When MS does, it'll change everything.
posted by jragon at 1:28 PM on June 7, 2001


It simply doesn't matter that MS is just using technology that others have used. Microsoft is a whole new animal; one with responsibilities.

Sorry, you don't get to invent new "responsibilities" for an entity just because you don't like what it's doing.
posted by kindall at 1:33 PM on June 7, 2001


Errr, people, there is a difference between Gurunet (Atomica)/Flyswat/Bookmarklets/QuickClik and their ilk and "Smart Tags".

The first set of programs don't change the appearance of the content at all and, since they all are launched by a right-click, bookmark, or other widget outside of the browser window, won't be confused with my content. (OH, they're squiggly purple links? Well that's a whole DIFFERENT ball of wax, there pardner... No one should be confused by a different kind of link. feh. Well, okay, maybe some people...)

(As an aside, I see Matt has disabled inline styles in HTML, which sucked in this instance because I was going to do this on the above link: style="font-color: purple; text-decoration: overline; font-weight: 700;")

"Smart tags" will, for all intents and purposes, CHANGE the code of the content that I create and inserting links throughout the document pointing away from my content and to other people's content, surely either Microsoft's or someone who pays Microsoft.

Using someone else's content for your enrichment is not okay and seems damn close to a loose definition of copyright infringement.

Changing someone's content without your permission. Sounds like what happened recently to Metafilter

Microsoft's "Smart Tags", to a newbie, would look as though I am endorsing all of their crap. Imagine someone new coming to the internet and saying "Wow, Microsoft really is the center of the web".

I find all of that utterly disgusting for two main reasons.

First because this is nothing more than the "battle for control of the web" spilling over to my site (and others' sites). It's an attempt to herd back in the few people who may have straggled away from the corral. I already find movement toward a handful of companies completely destroying what the Internet was originally about (I know they won't fully destroy it BTW) to be increasingly annoying and frightful, but if you're going to have a pissing match, stay the hell out of my living room.

The second reason for my disgust is plainly that I resent Microsoft leveraging its monopoly position to, all too often, negatively affect my life and livelihood. It's happened all too often in the past, and it just keeps getting worse.
posted by fooljay at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2001


Errr, people, there is a difference between Gurunet (Atomica)/Flyswat/Bookmarklets/QuickClik and their ilk and "Smart Tags".

The first set of programs don't change the appearance of the content at all


Wrong.

and, since they all are launched by a right-click, bookmark, or other widget outside of the browser window, won't be confused with my content.

Also wrong.

(OH, they're squiggly purple links? Well that's a whole DIFFERENT ball of wax, there pardner... No one should be confused by a different kind of link. feh. Well, okay, maybe some people...)

"Smart tags" will, for all intents and purposes, CHANGE the code of the content that I create and inserting links throughout the document pointing away from my content and to other people's content


You obviously haven't used Quick Click. That's exactly what it does as well.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:50 PM on June 7, 2001


"With great power comes great responsibility" -- Uncle Ben, The Amazing Spider-Man

NBC doesn't distribute the most widely-used browser.

Their <airquote>meta tag</airquote> method of disabling the feature is exactly backwards, like a credit card company that signs you up for a new service unless you explicitly decline it. In other words, silence = signup.

They should only add the functionality to pages that have included an enabling meta tag, not to pages that have failed to add the disabling meta tag.

Does anyone want to go back through their thousands of web pages and add the damn meta tag to each one?

Do you want to do it again and again every time they add yet another 'feature'?
posted by s.e.b. at 2:54 PM on June 7, 2001


After (just now) reading Anil's diatribe, I am looking into the docs he mentions (Office XP smart tags and the IE6 browser in WinXP Build 2462).

If things are as you say they might be, Anil, then it might not be as bad as it seemed. Or perhaps that's what Ballmer and Gates want you to think...

ljromanoff wrote: You obviously haven't used Quick Click. That's exactly what it does as well.

You're right, I haven't. I misread the web page. After looking at the flash demo, I think it's evil...
posted by fooljay at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2001


fooljay, i'm actually trying to suss out what's changed here. Things may be worse than my diatribe made them seem. If (big If) there are changes in Smart Tags between Office XP's implementation (and its coincident enhancements to IE 5.x) and IE6's implementation of IE Smart Tags, there could be trouble.

More to come once I get some docs.
posted by anildash at 3:01 PM on June 7, 2001


Sorry, you don't get to invent new "responsibilities" for an entity just because you don't like what it's doing.

Sure, but there's no need for that. Responsibility is the flip side of power. Monopoly power yields a pretty big responsibility.

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:41 PM on June 7, 2001


anil, please keep us updated. I'll be looking for them as well...
posted by fooljay at 4:16 PM on June 7, 2001


christ. i live in michigan, and there i was, standing on the MS campus in redmond just 2 evenings ago. probably a good thing i didn't know of this at the time, i can picture several scenarios which may have resulted in my arrest for vandalism and/or indecent exposure... no sense attempting to convert the MS apologists here, but you CAN refuse to share your KY jelly with them when MS begins to wield the mighty Microsoft Schlong.
posted by quonsar at 4:30 PM on June 7, 2001


Context- and content-sensitive hyper-linking, along with increased data manipulation based on meta-info, is a bad thing?

Strap yourselves in kids, this gets kind of long . . .

Contextual/content-sensitive linking is not a bad thing in and of itself. If done properly, and with some degree of author-control, it can be an effective means of enhancing a message.

However, if the linking has the effect of changing the context a particular chunk of content is placed in, then it is a bad thing. The meaning/intent of any given chunk of content can be subverted, skewed, distorted, etc by placing it into an entirely different setting or context. For instance, my contribution to a "Chicken Soup for the Web Developer" collection based on my acquisition of a Boxster may be taken as a serious "touchy-feelie" essay on the joy of living. On the other hand, if one were to take this exact same chunk of content and drop it into a forum such as MeFi, then it becomes a searing parody full of mirthful irony. The content hasn't necessarily changed, but the context around the content has and thus the meaning behind the content has been altered.

Now, if I have a site devoted to my dead goldfish Bob and I post all sorts of personal feelings and daily devotions to Bob, the context of any particular chunk of content of this site would be something along the lines of harmless crackpot who is really into his dead goldfish. I might even put up a few links to on-line pet cemetaries, goldfish angels, or advice on how to properly mourn the passing of a dear pet. The point is, this site has a definite texture and the content is read in that texture, all of which allows you, the reader, to experience my content in a way that I had intended on conveying all of these deep held feelings about Bob.

Coming from the other angle then, suppose someone using this nifty feature we've been discussion happens upon my Bob devotional? Because I am strictly an amateur HTML nut who probably used FriggedPage to put together my site, I did not use the "opt-out" meta tag to block this feature. Anyway when you come across my shrine with your revved up browser, you end up getting links to PetSMart, some Microsoft development project named Bob, an on-line casket dealer, etc. The context of the content has been altered in a fundamental way. This personal devotion to Bob has become a corporate advertising/agenda platform and the strong feelings I have about Bob are in danger of being lost in a sea of hyper-links. After all, this site is about Bob and I, not what MSN et al. think my site is about.

Lest anyone become confused, I am not singling out Microsoft in this post (well, I am, but only indirectly). Any third party alteration of content, without notice of who is doing the alteration and what exactly is being altered, being made explicitly clear to the user, is wrong. I happened to come down on this particular feature because this is the first time this kind of horror has reared its ugly head in my naïve little world. Further, this should not be read as a dismissal of semantic web development or similar non-intrusive, non-context altering devices that invest contextual meaning into the structure of web. After some consideration, I'd even go so far as to say this kind of widget might be acceptable if it put this linking information in a separate window or field within a browser. I think the fundamental flaw of the widget as described in the topic's lead article is that it grafts this functionality into the source of an HTML document before it renders the page. Doing so is akin to coopting my content to serve your needs, and in the case of Microsoft I think it is safe to point to the track record and state that this corporation will definitely use this device to serve their interest in total system integration no matter the collateral expense.
posted by BoyWithFez at 7:42 PM on June 7, 2001


I just love how people are saying things like "lube up for the Microsoft schlong" based on a pre-release version of a feature that isn't even fully functional yet. The feature may not even make the final cut for XP, and if it does, it may not do so in its current form. As described, it is essentially a slightly more elegant and specific implementation of Netscape's "What's Related" feature. If it was good when Netscape did it, I don't see how it can be bad for Microsoft to do it better.
posted by kindall at 9:43 PM on June 7, 2001


If it was good when Netscape did it, I don't see how it can be bad for Microsoft to do it better.

Because it's MICROSOFT, you fool!!! Don't you understand they are evil incarnate?? Nothing Microsoft does could possibly be good.
posted by ljromanoff at 6:33 AM on June 8, 2001


So, kindall and ljromanoff, how about addressing the actual points people are making instead of making easy fun of people for having a negative view of Microsoft?

Here, I'll get you started:

"It's right for this to be an opt-out system instead of an opt-in system because..."

"Web designers shouldn't be so worried about the context of their pages being changed without their consent because..."

And who EVER said Netscape's "what's related" was good, anyway?
posted by s.e.b. at 7:01 AM on June 8, 2001


how about addressing the actual points people are making

The points address themselves by their very silliness. If I said "Look! I can fly!" people would not waste their breath explaining to me why I cannot fly. Such statements do not need refutation because they refute themselves through their own ridiculosity.

But since you insist..

"It's right for this to be an opt-out system instead of an opt-in system because..."

Because it is an opt-in system. As I understand it, users must turn the feature on before they can even see the little squiggly lines that bother people so much.

Oh, you meant for site authors to opt in? Sorry, you don't have control over what a user agent does with your content after it has been retrieved from your site, and you never have. This is not a fundamental paradigm shift in anything; it is the same way it has always been.

Here's something even worse: people can copy your valuable content from a Web page and paste it somewhere else! Even directly into their Web page! Without your permission! It's evil, I tell you! How dare Microsoft include a Copy feature in their browser and erode the absolute right of site creators to control their content!

And who EVER said Netscape's "what's related" was good, anyway?

Nobody ever tossed this much vitriol at it, that's for damn sure.
posted by kindall at 9:17 AM on June 8, 2001


Sorry, you don't have control over what a user agent does with your content after it has been retrieved from your site, and you never have.

There's this cool little thing called HTML which does exactly that. :-) Seriously, user agents have marked things up in their own way but you could almost always wrangle the browsers into looking similar. They NEVER have changed your content. In this case, Microsoft is co-authoring your document, acting as supreme editor.

I don't see this (if it's true again) as any different than Microsoft changing words on your document. You type Linux, it renders it as "Spawn of Satan". You type Joel Klein it renders it as "Satan", you type "Exchange sucks", it includes an entire Marketing study on the popularity of Microsoft exchange.

My links are my content. No user agent should have the right to change them or add them.

Here's something even worse: people can copy your valuable content from a Web page and paste it somewhere else! Even directly into their Web page! Without your permission!

Err, little bit different for three reasons.

1) It doesn't change the content and hence the user's experience
2) Copying is an action initiated by the user with total knowledge of what they are doing. It's limited to that user as opposed to the entire Internet Explorer user base.
3) It's usually called copyright infringement and authors are protected by law. Whether or not they choose to do something about it or even know about it is another thing...
posted by fooljay at 1:43 PM on June 10, 2001


My links are my content. No user agent should have the right to change them or add them.

This doesn't change your links. It adds links to non-linked content. Same exact think NBC's QuickClick does and presumably other agents do as well.
posted by ljromanoff at 2:21 PM on June 10, 2001


Sorry, I should have said, change my content. And I don't like other agents doing it either...
posted by fooljay at 12:20 AM on June 12, 2001


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