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Microsoft

"Smart Tags," Round Two 606

Posted by michael
from the echo-echo-chamber-chamber dept.
A few more stories about "Smart Tags" (see round 1 if you missed it) -- Liza writes: "According to Newsbytes, a new feature in IE 6.0, "Smart Tags," which inserts hyperlinks into pages so that users can get more information about a concept or company, could violate both copyright law and federal rules prohibiting deceptive and unfair business practices. Microsoft says site operators could insert a metatag disabling Smart Tags, so concerned publishers could avoid them. Interesting questions!" Meanwhile, ZDNet has a nice piece examining smart tags in action.
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"Smart Tags", Round Two

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  • by davie (191) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:10AM (#158383) Journal

    Yes, it absolutely does create a derivative work.

    It has always been understood that a link appearing in an HTML document implies that the author wishes to offer the user the opportunity to "follow" the link in order to find more information related to that word. This invitation is based upon the meaning attached to the word by the author. The author establishes this relationship knowing that it will serve his particular interests, whatever they may be. Software that adds link relationships that the original author has not explicitly defined changes or alters the meaning of the content and could very easily establish relationships that would be harmful to the author's interests (others have already made this case with the "Acme Widget Co. site having links to ABC Widgets, Inc.'s site inserted" example).

    The descriptions of the implementation that I've read make this feature sound a lot sexier than your run-of-the-mill hyperlink. I imagine that your average luser would be inclined to use the Smart Tag links rather than the less attractive standard links. This will lead to confusion on the part of users, which will result in lost traffic (and in the case of corporate sites, lost business) for web publishers. It's easy to imagine that a user who didn't understand the difference between the two types of links would find most web sites virtually worthless since instead of allowing him to follow a series of links to gather increasingly detailed information on a particular subject, he would be lead through a series of sites with little relationship to each other or to the information has was seeking in the first place.

    The basic idea, looking at the content and providing the user with links to sites with more information, is a good one, but the implementation is awful. Microsoft would scream bloody murder if a competitor's browser did the same thing with their content. Communicator and Mozilla offer a similar feature called "What's Related," but it lists related sites in a separate list. Something like this, which separates the third-party's links from the original content, would be much better since it wouldn't effectively add unintended relationships to the original author's content.

  • Though what NBCi is doing is supported by Microsoft and probably uses some kind of Smart Tags "technology preview," you actually have to go install a little add-in to allow this to work. But you can choose not to install it. If it's embedded in the browser (IE 6.0?), then you have no choice. (Aside from using a different browser, but how long is that going to be a viable option?)

    Also, there's a difference in who controls what words get Smart-Tagged, and where those links go. What do you bet that Microsoft's default Smart Tag library will link the word "Linux" to Microsoft's "Linux Myths" page, or to a copy of Ballmer's "Linux is a cancer" speech? (Sure, other people can write Smart Tag libraries, but how many people will ever bother to install them? And what do you bet that Microsoft has some way of making their Smart Tags "higher priority" than other people's Smart Tags?)

    I think it's time for the Justice Department to begin writing Volume II of its briefs against Microsoft. Oh wait, Microsoft paid for George Bush to be elected. Guess they're just going to sit on their hands for this one. Microsoft, Microsoft, über alles, über alles in der Welt...

    Eric
    --

  • by Erbo (384) <obreerboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @06:17AM (#158385) Homepage Journal
    Yes, I'd like to know this, too...not only do I want to add it to my Web pages, I want to modify Venice [sourceforge.net] so that it automatically inserts this meta tag into every page it generates. (Oh, I realize that somebody might want to allow Smart Tags on a Venice site, so I may put in a config option to control that...it'll probably be called "EnableMSCopyrightViolations" or some such. But Electric Minds [minds.com] will never use this option; after all, the site pledges that we won't modify what people post, so why should I turn around and let Microsoft do so?)

    Eric
    --

  • Yes. Exactly. Microsoft's monopoly position and ability to entirely control this feature IS the problem.

    That said, what do you propose to do about it?

    I wonder if the antitrust appeals court is being kept up to date on all this? It certainly is awfully contemptuous behavior. Absolutely justifies anything and everything Judge Jackson said about them. The question is, will Microsoft in doing this piss off even the appeals court?

    In doing so they are for one, playing brinksmanship and taking NO effort at all to prepare for a loss, which means the breakup would be more catastrophic rather than less- and in addition, they are stepping over the line with regular people who use their products, killing off functionality and blatantly setting up tollbooths and preparing to milk people for all they're worth. This is not appealing to the consumer. In fact, Microsoft 'taking over' the web by putting their own tags in, is not appealing to the consumer per se, only confusing and perhaps intimidating. You no longer know who you're dealing with. This is damaging popular support for Microsoft. Who ever heard of a ZDnet 'report' on a MS technology zinging 'em that savagely? If they are losing even their lapdogs they must have lost consumers _long_ ago.

    I know my take on copyright law (I record music) is that I distinguish between noncommercial and commercial uses. I reserve all commercial rights, but I openly encourage noncommercial copying. If someone wants to noncommercially play my music through a goofy EQ filter, of course they may. If, on the other hand, someone defaces it in that way and tries to SELL the result.. they are up a creek, because I have protections against that sort of abuse, being copyright holder.

    By the same token, if someone doesn't like one of my links and, say, paints White-Out on the screen to conceal it, more power to 'em. But if Microsoft decides IT wishes to link my words to ITS interpretation of what it wants those words to relate to, it is making commercial use of my stuff on a large scale, period. I'll repeat that- it is making commercial use of my stuff. It's USING the material I put on the web, to try to place ITS paid links everywhere you look. It is advertising heavily and intrusively on my page without paying me a damned cent! There is absolutely no justification for this.

    When they turn around and begin placing links to MY site, my music or whatever, all over THEIR pages without charging me a penny, then I will consider the idea that this is a service. You'll note they are not offering THAT. I can only wonder just how much it's gonna cost to get access to this technology. In theory, I could end up having to pay large sums of money to Microsoft in order to get 'rights' to certain words that they are going to grab out of my pages, without asking, and link to. It's an extortion racket- another sort of 'namespace', but this time it is literally the English language being seized and monetized. If this goes through, I will not have the capacity to clearly and unambiguously express my views on the Web even though I PAY for web hosting that will in theory allow me to put up what I want. The 'receiving end' is being compromised for commercial gain, and I don't even get a kickback.

  • The trouble is, if people WANT to link to Microsoft sites in their HTML, they can just do so- nothing is stopping them. The idea that you should even set a meta tag and turn on 'smart tags' is stupid- what kind of sense does it make to have a monopolistic commercial entity PLACING COMMERCIAL CONTENT LINKS all over your page and not paying you? This is advertising, pure and simple. It is ludicrous to not see it in an advertising content. Given that, what is the justification for Microsoft not paying for the advertising? Much less, being allowed to advertise on EVERYONE'S page by default!

    If they're allowed to do this, I should be allowed to go add links to my stuff on THEIR homepage, and links to rebuttals on all their FUD pages without asking them. Hell, I should be allowed to go paint my company logo on their buildings in Redmond while I'm at it.

    If they're allowed to use opt-in meta tags, I should be allowed to ask my friend Craig if HE minds if I add links to rebuttals on all Microsoft's pages and paint my logo on their buildings.

    "Hey, Craig, do you mind if I stick my logos all over Microsoft's property?"

    "Nah, go for it."

    *dum de dum de dum* Gotta love the new rules! Where's my paint? My friend Craig opted in to letting me put logos on Microsoft's property, so off I go. I think I'll ask him if I can paint the White House pink, next.

  • If you want tags to Microsoft sites in your content, why don't you just _write_ them in? You have that capability. The technology is available ;)

    It doesn't even make sense as opt-in. Let's say your house has a big front wall. I'd like to make it a billboard, because my neighbors drive past your place.

    Opt-out means I paint stuff on your house, and then neighbors can choose not to look.

    Opt-in means I can ask the neigbors, "Hey, do you mind if I paint a billboard on Maloi's house?"

    How is their opinion relevant?

  • Let's extend that a bit...

    Not footnotes in the usual sense. Unpaid advertising from an entirely different publisher.

    What justification is there for allowing this? There's not even the pretense of paying for this commercial use of your content! Not even opt-in makes sense. Opt-in and paying content providers a royalty for use of their words as tags would make sense. I daresay it would not pay as much as selling banner ad space, but you _can_ buy text-only web advertising. How is this different from text-only web advertising, and what possible justification could there be for not paying page-authors a royalty for use of their words as commercial advertising?

    Perhaps it should be _more_ of a royalty because this is even more intrusive than those new huge web ads. It's no longer even a case of routing content _around_ an enormous animated GIF. In this case the advertisement IS the word being read, and you can't read the content without reading the word. Thus, the royalty paid should be proportionally higher, because it is the last word in intrusiveness.

  • Hey man- I don't care who you are, or what words you want to add commercial links to.

    If you want to add commercial links to words on the web content that I PAY TO HOST, I think you should pay me.

    Period.

    Write your own damn content if you want advertising links ;)

  • Of course. This is just advertising! All the same rules apply as if it was banner ads. The only difference is, Microsoft intends to not pay anybody no matter how much advertising they place on your page. There's no other difference- text-only web advertising even already exists. Actually, this _ought_ to pay higher royalties than that as it is more intrusive.
  • No, actually EFF are not wrong on this.

    Of all the things you mention, the only one particularly analogous is Third Voice, and even that is not completely analogous. Third Voice is a parallel note-sticking technology. Smart Links is ubitiquous unpaid commercial advertising in a VERY intrusive way.

    Web advertising costs money. None of the things you mention are anything like web advertising. If Microsoft wishes to place web advertising on every page in the world, they should be ready to pay a royalty to all those people for the commercial use of their content as advertising. It's no different if it's opt-in: they're still using other people's content as outright web advertising without payment. They need to come up with some form of royalty to compensate the content holders- particularly because, UNLIKE Third Voice, the advertising is directed by a central controlling authority, not just random commentary by web users.

    Of course it is unlawful! Nobody gave Microsoft any sort of right to place unpaid advertising on every freaking page on the Web- even as a 'switchable' option. They have web pages of their own: they can place links there. They have the damn _browser_, they can place little buttons all along the window frame if that pleases them. They don't have rights to make COMMERCIAL ADVERTISING USE of the content on the web, unless they enter an agreement with content providers. Nothing you mention is commercial advertising. Do you propose that Microsoft be given television and radio advertising for free, too?

  • But if some Linux geek went, "I've just invented this thing! It lets me make unpaid commercial advertising links out of the very text of any web site- even Microsoft's! Why, they pay all the costs for providing the content that my invention turns into ad links to me, and I don't have to pay them anything!", every content creator on the web and his dog would sue the guy into next week and we'd _never_ hear from him again.

    We would not either think this was a great idea if some Linux geek was doing it. We might think it was less potentially harmful because nobody would use it, but it'd be the same thing: unpaid commercial advertising actually made out of the content itself (can't get much more intrusive than that!). As such, it's a neat-ish idea- IF they pay me for use of my words. They are obliged to do so if they want to advertise on my content. If they just want links all over, they can put 'em on the window frame of the browser, which they own. They can't use _my_ words for it. Advertising should be paid for.

  • _Stripping_ ads is very different from _adding_ ads. The whole context is totally different. Some guy could download one of my pages (or anybody's) and fool around with it as much as he wanted, make all the links point to goatse.cx, whatever, and it wouldn't matter. Having a huge commercial entity develop the capacity to place commercial advertising on EVERY page without paying for it DOES matter. It's completely different from the case of an individual web browser choosing to strip ads, or make everything sound like the Swedish Chef. Advertising is a commercial medium with monetary value.

    It's sort of like compulsory licensing in music. I can see arguing that global compulsory advertising should not be done in this way. But if compulsory advertising IS done, it's insane to not pay content owners a royalty for use of their words. If Microsoft wishes me to link to their site, they could get me to use banner ads and BUY a banner ad: they could get me to run text-format web advertising and buy a text link at a cheaper price because it is less intrusive. If they want a link right in the MIDDLE of my content, they should pay MORE because it is more intrusive and hence more valuable.

  • "The site I work for is a Medical School. It is dangerous and wrong for non-medical profesionals to augment medical information and insert their own agenda (ie links to comercial sites or confilicting information) into our content. They can get their own damn host and acreditation if they want to make a medical statement. And the same could be said for other professions."

    Woo! somebody who is less of a damn blabbermouth than I am please mod this poster UP! Talk about insightful (or interesting- no, I think 'they can get their own damn accreditation' is just flat insightful)!

  • Hmmm, you have a point. I'd like to suggest that perhaps it's not about the 'huge commercial entity' part either- whether it's a monopoly doing it or not is irrelevant. It is the _context_ of the modification. This draws a distinction between your ad-stripping example and Smart Tags, in that the ad stripping is on the reader end and is a refusal to 'read the page' the way the content provider is supplying it. With Smart Tags, the context is that of a _third_ _party_ interfering with the attempt to provide content to the reader (who can strip or not or even SwedishChefify for all it matters). The situation of a third party getting in between and changing things is significantly different from simply having a reader going 'I want to strip ads! I choose to strip ads, therefore although I _expect_ this content provider to want to put ads in, I'm not going to honor that'. The third party means the reader can be fooled into believing the intent of the content provider is different than it is- but more than that, it's granting the third party a 'right' to alter and change things that really only the reader is entitled to.
  • Not quite... You can't control the appearance of the content on the user's machine. You can control the content itself. This is the difference between an editor publishing a book in Braille (same content, different presentation) and the editor rewriting the last chapter himself (different content, not what the author intended).

  • A VBS virus that changes every entry in msnodc.xml to goatse.cx

  • by Enry (630) <(enry) (at) (wayga.net)> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:10AM (#158399) Journal
    You're confusing content with presentation. The web was always about separating the two out....well..for a while anyway. Today, you can still change the colors of links and font sizes and whatnot. But the content is still the same.

    Until now. MS is intending on changing the content of a web page. This is no longer about changing how it looks, they're changing how it acts. Links that you as an author did not want are now popping up in your site, changing the flow of the content. This is very different from changing a font size.
  • Assuming they aren't lying about allowing a special HTML tag to disable this feature, The first thing I'm going to do is see if there's any such thing as boilerplate headers for Apache, and make that tag be a part of what goes in the boilerplate for all pages served on any site I'm running.
  • The problem isn't that this technology exists, but that it is going to be turned on be default on all the pages that have already been written. It should have been opt-out rather than opt-in. If I wanted to write a word [microsoft.com] or two about some 19th century explorer [microsoft.com], or what his remote field office [microsoft.com] looked like, I am not necessarily talking about the same thing Microsoft [microsoft.com] thinks I'm talking about. If I mention the word Bill Gates [microsoft.com] I don't want this to turn into some pro-Bill link.

    This is worse than ordinary plagerism. Instead of taking credit for what others have said, you are alterting what they said without mentioning to the reader what those alterations were.

  • If I were to use a browser with this feature (which I doubt that I will), i'd simply disable it. The last thing I want is my browser using cpu cycles and network bandwidth to look up every word on the page so that it can link to advertising and corporate sanctioned sites. What a stupid bloated feature!
  • Whatever benefit it may be to the user, it's not a benefit to the content provider. The message that the provider intended is at the least muddied up, or at the worst completely flipped on it's ear. It's like CBS digitally masking their competitors advetising. Yes, it's subtle, but it provides viewers with a skewed view of reality, however subtle the changes are. In CBS's case, it leads people to think that CBS has more advertising than it normally does. In Microsoft's case, people might consider Microsoft to be a viable (or truthful) source of information. Never trust a company to do things that are good for the public good.
  • Besides the issues of changing the meaning of a page by inserting their own hotlinks, another possible effect is that MS can effectively track people on the web without the users even visiting the MS family of sites. For example, MS XP might have the word "Slashdot" become a hyperlink that links to "www.slashdot.org"; however, it's just as easy for them to make the link as "www.microsoft.com/routing.pl?url=www.slashdot.org ", and since you'd be using IE which sends valid Referrer tags, MS can effectively track your progress through the web without you knowning about it.

  • and the maddening thing is;
    they planned, speced, and developed this feature, all without one single person standing up and mentioning this one fact; it's opt-out rather than opt-in. You change your site for us, not we change our browser for you.

    the audacity.
  • "As for the spam argument, that's ridiculous. All a user sees is a dotted underline on a piece of text which allows the user to get more information."

    Yes, but consider the source of that information - it can be slanted any way Microsoft wishes. No other power on earth has ever had that kind of editorial control. Anybody with half a brain ought to be terrified at the prospect.
  • As long as the option to TURN THEM ON is left to the author of the page.

    The way MS has it now, "I" have to explicitly turn them OFF. It should be OFF by default.
  • "I can't see MS leaving something like this user-editable - it's just not like them. They play the control game "

    Now that's curious because it's not at all like Microsoft.

    Why do you say such things when they are obviously not true?
  • If I have a site describing how dreadful pornography [whitehouse.com] is, I don't want some other twat [playboy.com] coming along and linking words to sex sites [whitehouse.com].

    It utterly changes the meaning of the text. I have nothing in particular against pornography or in fact people who hate pornography, i'm just using it as an example.

    Oh and don't tell me that trojan/virus writers won't find this xml file to be a fantastic target for exploitation.

    How stupid Microsoft [ihatebillgates.com] are.

  • by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:04AM (#158416)
    That ZDNet article is one of the funniest things I have ever read in a Ziff publiction (intentionally funny, anyway).

    sPh
  • I would need to research it a little more, but my solution to this will be to try to detect if the browser is using smart tags and to deny access for said browser. It shouldn't be too hard to do, and a nice denial page which kindly informs the user about the reason should make the point clear. Mind you, this might mean that I lose some readership on my site, but that is preferable to allowing Microsoft to dictate content matters. The ability to turn off the feature with a meta tag isn't enough to satisfy me. I would prefer to "educate" the web user as to why I don't permit M$ tags.
  • I agree that a keyword-context system such as this shouldn't be done as hyperlinks.

    My suggestion: Select text with mouse. Right-click. Choose what you want to do with the selected text.

    For example, have a "Search for ths text on Google" item, a "Lookup definition in Websters Dictionary" item, and a "Lookup definition in Oxford English Dictionary" item on that right-click menu.

    Getting to a definition (from a dictionary of your choice, not MS's) or a search (again, search engine of your choice) could be VERY easy this way - but it gives up too much control, so MS won't do it.

    MS wants to edit the content of the web to suit it's own purposes - it doesn't want to make anything "easier" except to give up control to them.
  • by Genom (3868) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:47AM (#158420)
    The redirects are defined in a client-side file called msdnodc.xml with a clearly defined and well-documented DTD and plenty of documentation on the MSDN website.


    Ahh...but you see...we're still in the XP *beta*. Before that sucker goes live, MS will *probably* encode it into an encrypted (aka: DMCA-protected) DLL file that you can't remove, because they threw a couple of "vital" IE functions in there as well.

    I can't see MS leaving something like this user-editable - it's just not like them. They play the control game -- maybe the first version will actually be accessible - but at some point, they're going to close it off - under the guise of "innovation", or "ease of use".

    Certainly, there will be a default set of redirects installed with XP, and I have no doubt that these will be chosen to M$'s advantage.

    BWAHAHAHAHA - sorry. EVERYTHING MS does, is done because it gives them an advantage. Whether it's a financial one, or a marketshare one - it's all a game for control. MS wants to control your computer, the apps on it, your 'net access, what you see, what you read - everything. That's what they want. That's their "vision" of the future. It's scary as hell.

    But I was under the impression (what!) that some /. readers considered themselves to be fairly competent with computers, and perfectly capable of editing a text file without Federal Court supervision.

    Look at how many people out there don't bother changing the default start page in their web browser. Do you really think Grandma is going to learn XML so she can deduce exactly what MS is feeding her? Doubtful she'll even realize they're feeding her anything - what little she knows of the web tells her that links on webpages are a part of the page - so if that link goes to an order form for Office XP, or to a favorable MS story, or to anothe MS-owned site - well, that must be what was meant by the author of the page!

    Now, you or I could be perfectly happy editing a text file - whether it be HTML, XML, BASH, PERL, or whatever. Grandma wouldn't be. Grandma thinks editing a text file is "too hard". Grandma isn't going to do it. Then again, she probably wouldn't even know that she could, unless it was all gussied up with a GUI editor with a little pulldown field for which MS-owned site you want the word "is" to link to...

  • Good point. It would certainly not be suprising if you were listed in the smarttags database, inserting this command in your page would cause you to be immediately removed.

    The idea of automatic tags is not terrible at all. But only if there is a way for users to change their "smart tags server" so that they can pick the company they want (or perhaps merge several lists). (I think something that points at a user-generated data like everything2 would be pretty neat). The fact that MicroSoft has not indicated any ability to change the server is a good sign of their actual intentions!

    PS: a "pick the server you want" with an open-source database format would be an acceptable way to implement censorware.

  • Cool! Does anyone know what number RFC is for the smart tag server protocol? I think I can compete with Microsoft on the metadata morality front(although it will be hard.) People can just click their "change smart tag server" button on the main front panel of IE and get their meta data from me. I'll just hack up my copy of the public domain example code to run on my Linux box and I'll be in business. The DOJ is so unfair to these guys, they make it easy for me compete.

    Those Microsoft guys are so good to be contributing this back like that. Giving up control over the protocol can't be easy. If they were evil they could, link your pages to whatever they want, make gobs of money, kill the (dumber half of) Internet with one move. Glad their on our side :)

  • Do you realize it's not Microsoft who picks where you go, it's configurable? Do you realize that your stating that it's Microsoft who picks where you go shows that you don't know what you're talking about?
  • True, most user customizations are just appearance. But there are also things that change content - censorware and ad-blockers are the obvious examples, though they just remove information rather than alter it. What about the translation services provided by Babelfish and others?

    Anyway, I don't agree that this is changing the content of the page. All that happens is that some words get purple underlining which the user _may_ choose to click on to visit some other page. There isn't any suggestion that the original author endorses these links, at least not to a user who understands what is going on. It's not much different from highlighting email addresses in plain text. The twist is that you can configure how words are mapped to URLs by downloading different sets of tags to your machine.

    The only way in Microsoft is being less than honest is in having a default set of tags which favour their own sites and products.
  • A while ago there was an app called Third Voice [wired.com] which allowed users to attach notes to websites. The notes would be shared with other users of the service. Obviously a really good moderation system would be needed if it got popular, but it sounded like a cool idea especially for websites that don't themselves have a comment facility.

    Some site owners were outraged that people would be able to exchange information about their sites in this way. They threatened legal action claiming that it was a copyright violation to 'annotate' sites in this way. (Despite the fact that the annotations were shown in a separate window and clearly distinguishable from the main site.)

    I had no sympathy for those over-sensitive webmasters then and I have, well, not very much sympathy for anyone who complains about his site being 'altered' by Smart Tags now. When publishing on the web, you do not and cannot expect to have control over how the user views your site. This applies to content just as much as presentation. If until now it has been mostly presentation that was customized, that's just for technical reasons, because it's easier to write programs to do that. But I fully expect that over the next few years, content personlization tools will proliferate. Like things that let users share annotations or add hyperlinks, or precis tools that filter out marketingspeak and attempt to distil a web page to a short passage of text.

    I don't have a problem with these because users choose whether or not to use them. I would object if Microsoft shipped Smart Tags enabled by default with a set of links biased towards their own site. (Although isn't this what Netscape and others have been doing for years with home pages, 'Shop' icons, Internet Keywords and so on?) But as long as users are able to make an informed choice about whether to use this feature, and which set of smart tags to preload, I can't see any objection to it.

    In short: bash Microsoft for crass commercialism if you want, but get used to the idea that users won't always read the content of your site in exactly the same form as you upload it.

  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:00AM (#158430) Homepage
    I can't really see the problem with smart tags. One of the tenets of the web one which I expect most Slashdot readers strongly agree with - is that you cannot control how your site will appear on the user's machine.

    If they choose to view it in an unusual font, that's their choice. If they disable JavaScript, that's their choice. If they run a program to filter out banner ads, it's none of your business. The same applies if they decide to run a program which adds new links to the page that you wrote.

    Of course, you do have to question the common sense of the user who runs such a program, given that the standard set of links is unlikely to be impartial. But if you carefully choose which sets of smart tags to import, it could work.
  • This is becoming a standard practice for Microsoft - announce some 'feature' to guage public reaction.

    Soon they'll decide if the shouting is too loud and abandon the idea ..., or not.

    The same thing happened with

    XP subscriptions: http://slashdot.org/articles/01/05/06/0038258.shtm l

    Spamming: http://slashdot.org/articles/00/09/28/1341249.shtm l

    Passport: http://slashdot.org/yro/00/07/29/1228209.shtml --

  • by MaufTarkie (6625) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @06:55AM (#158434)
    There is none yet. Microsoft hasn't decided on what it'll be.

    They'll spring it on us at the last possible moment, so that we'll all have to scramble to "opt-out" of their little game.
  • by cluening (6626) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:11AM (#158435) Homepage
    Microsoft says site operators could insert a metatag disabling Smart Tags, so concerned publishers could avoid them.

    Yeah, and concerned car owners can lock their doors, and concerned grocery store oweners can get video cameras, but that doesn't make stealing an open car or robbing an unguarded store alright... This all sounds pretty horrible to me. I don't want somebody sticking ads or other links onto my pages for me, making it look like I am endorsing something I may know nothing about. But since "IE won the browser war," I guess they can do whatever they monopolistically want...
  • Ah, it looks like Microsoft prawns have attained moderator status: this message [slashdot.org] was marked down, because it offers a solution to this SmartTags problem.

    Basically, the idea is that content authors (ie. webmasters) need to implement server- or client-side blocking of MSIE version 6.

    If enough people rally together to do this, Microsoft will be forced to change their ways. And that's A Good Thing, regardless what any MS-pimpin' moderator figures!

    Promote this meme!

    --
  • by szo (7842) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @03:59AM (#158442)
    "Microsoft says site operators could insert a metatag disabling Smart Tags, so concerned publishers could avoid them."

    Its like when you can reply to a spam and you'll be removed from the list. No-one cares that I didn't want to be on the list in the first place, and I don't want to work in order to be not screwd. The same applies here I think...

    Szo
  • Hate to break this to you, but Microsoft did not abandon or scale back the "Passport" centralized login service. It's still around, but the reason it hasn't been heavily marketed to third-part content providers is that it's been retooled with an XML-transport protocol and is now being tested under the name "Hailstorm".

    As for XP subscriptions, they've put it off for single-user shrinkwrap versions of Office XP, but they're proceeding full steam ahead on the business licensing side. The newly retooled Open Licensing contract terms now require biannual renewals. Skip one or miss a payment, and you pay a penalty amounting to the price of a full, new version of the product plus the biannual "Software Assurance" fee. Just because they don't call it a subscription doesn't mean it isn't one.
  • by hatless (8275) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:12AM (#158444)
    Anyone actually played with this yet, or is this idle blather?

    As a technology, it's a nifty one that's been done before, but this would be the first time it would get wide distribution. And it seems like a nice enough new developer feature for Office/VBA apps. However, the way it's being rolled out in IE, with Microsoft-selected kerword/link databases, is a nasty bit of hijacking.

    Besides siphoning users away from everyone's sites and effectively placing text ads on everyone's pages without payment, there are privacy issues to be addressed. Do smart-tag clickthroughs send a referer request header? If so, MS or its marketing partner(s) will be able to collect traffic and even some user data that can be used to extrapolate usage patterns on other organizations' sites just as an ad agency could, only, again, without any kind of contract or compensation.

    Boo, hiss.
  • by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:48AM (#158447) Homepage
    Well, I work for a pretty large site on the web, and the amount of pages we have in our archives of news, data and just about anything else on cricket you can think of amounts to many millions of pages.
    These all need to be updated across the world, and we have enough hassle maintaining correct mirroring as it is, with bandwidth issues in many places like India.
    To disable the smart tags on all the pages we have would be a gargantuan effort. Unfeasable for us to do. And then mirror them out to all servers we have... Whoah...
    It seems that by this statement, Microsoft have just about said "We want the web to look this way. Change the whole way you build your sites if you want them to look how they always have, or else it'll look how we want it to!"
    Just think of all the people who've spent hours/days/years getting their sites to look just the way they want. Millions spent by corporations getting the right "look and feel".
    And Microsoft step in and say "Well, you can edit everything you have if you want to keep your look, otherwise, we own you."
    Rather than set a default of 'disabled' on one of their 'features', they expect the world to spend millions and millions of man hours going over existing working web pages to get them to work as they were originally intended to!
    This, perhaps, could be classified as the biggest piece of intentional vandalism in history!

    Malk.
  • I find it amusing that M$ will enforce the DMCA and any other restrictive copyright technologies but ignore them whenever its inconvenient.

    I own a web site. I write pages. They contain what I want them to contain, including links that I found relevant when I wrote the page.

    I definitely do NOT want M$ or anybody else defacing my page by adding or altering MY links.

    If they were sixteen year old european kids, they'd be hauled from their homes by the police.
  • M$ in its facist wisdom will now decide to route you anywhere M$ wants you to go today (namely, to where ever someone has given them money to get their tags to the top of the list.)

    There will be no possibility of garanteeing that the links that a visitor to your page has available on what they might surmise is your page are the ones that you, the author, actually placed there.

    This gives M$ the possibility to redirect the entire content of the internet to their own advantage.

    Imagine that you're a fundamentalist group and fork over enough dough to M$ to insure that links to your site's pages are used ahead of the competition WHEN PEOPLE WERE CLICKING TO GET TO THE COMPETITION'S PAGES!

    The potential for misuse is staggering. I'm no sci-fi writer but I can follow this train of thought "five minutes into the future" and it smacks of every "benign humanitarian experiment gone wrong" scenario I've ever read or watched.

    Crackers defacing a web-site for nothing but kicks have nothing on the potential for one-sided misdirection and misinformation of such a distopian web of deceit.

    It make the WorldWideWeb into the WorldWideLie, by default!

    I hope that we can find the moron who came up with this scheme, strap him down and McVeigh the idiot.
  • Well, instead of the GPL, how about the Open Publication License [opencontent.org] or Open Content License [gnu.org]?

    I suspect it wouldn't make the pages that Microsoft links to open, although it may make the links themselves open. But links are (or at least shouldn't be) the same as the content that they point to. However, if Microsoft adds slogans and logos for products, I think those could arguably be opened as well.

    I do think there are legal questions here-- is microsoft "republishing" your page by changing the layout/display/presentation from the author's intentions? I dunno though if it's really a copyright violation per se.

    Microsoft better really be careful about stepping on other people's logos and stuff though, because they could possibly violate trademarks (?).

    Dunno. Not a lawyer.
    W
    -------------------

  • I've resisted the urge to do something like that in the past. I may have to reconsider if I begin hearing stories about too many sites' web pages having links to inserted to MS-approved partners. I wouldn't worry too much about ignoring the users of that browser with 90-percent market share. I would rather configure a web server once than to have to go through tons of web pages inserting code to block Smart Tags.

    Anybody know of a way to have Apache generate a ``666'' error so I can create a special ErrorDocument to spit out when it receives a request from IE? (heh heh heh)


    --

  • ROTFLMAO! Am I the only one that expects to see things get inserted into web pages like:

    • desktop ==> link to Microsoft Office webpage
    • operating system ==> link to Microsoft Windows XP web page
    • productivity software ==> link to Microsoft Office webpage
    • Internet ==> link to www.msn.com
    • etc.

    Anyone betting that something like these will not be part of the defaults?


    --

  • Yeah, analogies are the worst form of argument, agreed. They never work, and seem to simplify the solution to a problem which is totally wrong. It's like when some religious icon says "Your soul is like a bucket of water, you can see the reflection of the moon in it if it is still, but if you move it too fast then the image is blurred!" .. basically that can be summed up in the phrase "Chill out." .. but by using some random analogy it seems to have a deeper and more profound meaning. Plus, this is an analogy that works, don't get me started on the shitty as analogies that get thrown around here that make no sense at all.
  • by jonbrewer (11894) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @10:46AM (#158458) Homepage
    I first came across flyswat [flyswat.com] installed on my mom's computer. She uses the NeoPlanet [neoplanet.com] shell for IE, something I set up for her in 1998. As it works, and because I can't figure out how to convert all of her email to Outlook, she is still using it. Anyway, I came to visit a year ago and found a bunch of brownish-green links on all her web pages. Links that were really commercial. After some investigation I found them coming from a program called flyswat running in the background. She didn't know how they got there, and didn't use them, so I uninstalled flyswat.

    Let me say right away, the idea isn't bad. I would really use it if it didn't change the look of the document with ugly brown lines... if I could right-click on any word and get a contextual menu on it. Even information on where to buy, or similar things commercial.

    And as long as it isn't turned on by default in MSIE 6, and it doesn't *replace* any functionality or links in a page I write, I'm not going to worry about it, and will likely be glad to have it as a browsing option.

    On a side note, I've always wanted to set up some post-processor for adding contextual links to documents I serve. I'd especially like for all names in my Intranet web documents to be linked to people objects, and projects to project objects, etc.
  • The only way in Microsoft is being less than honest is in having a default set of tags which favour their own sites and products.

    And you don't think this would get any worse as time went on, and the feature became more accepted?

  • Interesting...

    So...if any exploit, trojan horse, or even simple "trick" exists to get smart tag files onto unwitting IE6 user's systems, someone could create a "goatse.cx" virus that puts the infamous trolling link all over not just slashdot, but pages everywhere (from the point of view of the IE6 user).

    You can almost hear the goatse.cx guy frantically signing up to put banner ads on his page to cash in on all the hits he's going to get :-)


    ---
  • IE6 ships with smarttags disabled by default.

    That takes care of client-side, but not "server-side", which I think is what most people are worried about.

    The point is that people are worried that if Microsoft decides to "smart-tag", say, references to Linux to be links to Microsoft's amusing "Linux Myths" page, and the IE6 user turns on Smart Tags because he or she wants "smart tags" for their favorite stamp-collecting sites, Microsoft could then 'auto-deface' people's linux information sites with links to the so-called "Linux Myths" page, unless the operator of that site has gone through all of his or her pages and inserted the IE6-specific "smart-tag disabling" meta-tag.

    In short - the concern seem to be that Microsoft is making extra work for anyone who doesn't want to accept any links that Microsoft may want to insert into your pages when displayed to IE6 users.

    I'm personally less bothered by the fact that I'll have to go through and add tags to all of my pages than I am by the fact that I now have to add "Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0"-only tags, specifically. The notion that, as with file formats, Microsoft could potentially later change the format of the tags for IE 6.5, say, to add other features might "re-enable" the so-called "smart tags" for IE 6.5 users by default, until the page owners go back through and add/change "Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.x"-only tags to all of their pages AGAIN probably also worries some of us...


    ---
  • then all you lot would be whooping around, screaming with joy.

    No...we wouldn't. We'd be wondering what the heck Linus was smoking to have inserted a web page filter into the kernel, where it really doesn't belong...


    ---
  • by joshv (13017) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:09AM (#158466)
    I [msn.com] think [msn.com] there [msn.com] is [msn.com] absolutely [msn.com] nothing [msn.com] wrong [msn.com] with [msn.com] this [msn.com] idea [msn.com]

    josh [msn.com]

  • by sammy baby (14909) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:16AM (#158474) Journal
    Except the analogy doesn't work. If you didn't want hyperlinked documents why are you on the web with a browser?

    I'd say you have the analogy completely backwards. The question you should be asking is, "If I didn't want hyperlinks in my document, why should Microsoft feel the need to add them for me?"

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:03AM (#158482) Homepage Journal

    Dammit, I hate being on the side of MS and against EFF, but it seems like some people just don't understand what the WWW is.

    You don't have any guarantee of how your page looks or acts. You might have typed in some Javascript that does something annoying, included an image tag that happens to be an advertisement, linked to a Nazi or porno site, and written your textual content in English, and included a bunch of tags that you believe specify a physical appearance and layout of exactly how your page should look. You may even believe that your web page should only be viewed on a video display screen, and never be read aloud to a blind person or displayed on a pocket pager. But you don't have any guarantee that any user agent will respect any of your wishes.

    It is not a copyright violation for the user agent to heavily process your document prior to displaying it. If it were, then we wouldn't have web browsers (we would just use "wget" and "more" and read raw HTML). This is the nature of the web, and you know what you're getting into when you put a server on the Internet that replies to HTTP requests. Because the social convention for replying to HTTP requests is "anything goes" and everything is merely advisory. If the possibilities frighten you, then the WWW isn't for you. Run a dialup BBS instead, where people download PDFs. (And just hope that PDF-viewing developments remain stagnant.)

    It's fine with me if Microsoft gets bitchslapped in the marketplace and press over this due to everyone simply hating it (after all, Smartlinks is a rather cheesy idea). If you don't like it, don't use it. But it's not unlawful. If we change the law (either by passing legislation, or having a judge "clarify" (*cough*) the existing law) to make this illegal, then there some other things will be theatened as well. Just off the top of my head:

    • People's right to use translators
    • People's right to link a web browser to a dictionary so they can easily look up words that they don't know the meaning of
    • People's right to use third-party annotations, such a Third Voice
    • People's right to filter out ads or anything else they don't want to see
    • People's right to use style sheets
    • People's right to turn off Javascript, frames, ActiveX, Java, etc.
    • People's right to use any browser that doesn't render a page exactly the same way as whatever the market leader happens to be at the time
    • And a little more indirectly (but not much): People's right to use caches, anonymizing proxies, encrypted tunnels, or anything else that increases security or performance
    I hope Robin Gross rethinks this issue, because EFF is wrong this time.
    ---
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:58AM (#158483) Homepage Journal

    Of course, $HTTP_USER_AGENT is just fiction anyway. You just filtered out a lot of other users too since everyone tells their browser to spoof as MSIE, due to incompetent web admins going to extra trouble to exclude non-MSIE users.

    Due to a long history of abuse, that field has been rendered meaningless. Thus making any decisions based upon it, is always a bad idea.


    ---
  • by platypus (18156) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:42AM (#158498) Homepage
    The redirects are defined in a client-side file called msdnodc.xml with a clearly defined and well-documented DTD and plenty of documentation on the MSDN website.

    Certainly, there will be a default set of redirects installed with XP, and I have no doubt that these will be chosen to M$'s advantage.

    You are aware that the default installation of any software under windows is the same case and that it is of enormous value even for a company like AOL that its software is part of that default?

    We are talking of a unprecedent editorial power over the majority of internet users, not about the fairly competent minority

  • by platypus (18156) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:47AM (#158499) Homepage
    Many web companies maintain sites for clients and will be faced with the question who will pay for inserting that tag into each and every page.
    Yeah, many sites are template driven, yeah, most work might be done with a perl one-liner, but it's easy to imagine cases where this job will be quite painfull. (CGI-scripts where the page is dynamically created etc.)
    Someone should sue microsoft over that (just kidding ... class action suit?)
  • by Scutter (18425) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:05AM (#158502) Journal
    The article linked in the story is a good example of how a piece of information could be subverted using Smart Tags:


    But then again, what if someone went through this entire column and underlined words, without my permission (link to unflattering photo of author) and then put in the links to Web sites and pages that made a mockery or subverted everything I wrote (link to photo of Karl Marx)? Yes, I could see how that would really be annoying (link to high school yearbook photo of author).


    Frankly, if I write a story and post it on my website, I don't want Microsoft deciding what gets hyperlinked and what doesn't. I consider the hyperlinks to be part of the content that I "approve" for my article.

  • by WNight (23683) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @08:53AM (#158518) Homepage
    The smart-link feature is enabled by default, in a product shipped by OEMs to customers with no knowledge of computers. They can't be said to have chosen this feature because it's on by default.

    Junkbuster and Proximitron are employed by the end-user, to modify the copy of the web-page that they were given.
  • by hey! (33014) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @07:07AM (#158533) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that for the first time, Microsoft is fielding a browser that is not content neutral.

    By that I mean it doesn't just alter the appearance of the web page based on its syntax (i.e. because of tags the author has provided), but its semantics (what the author is saying).

    It's really easy to come up with all kinds of ways in which Microsoft can abuse this unique privilege it arrogates to itself, so I won't. Make up your own nightmare scenario. Personally, I'm not against this because of the various kinds of outrageous abuses Microsoft could theoretically undertake. I'm against it because it itself is an outrageous abuse. My works, as an author, are a matter between me and my readers. Microsoft has no business "improving" upon them.

    If this is such a valuable service, then the meta tag they propose should be an opt-in tag, not an opt-out one. Authors of web pages would gladly opt-in if the feature is as valuable as Microsoft says it will be. Of course, if practically nobody but Microsoft opts-in, then we know who this feature really benefits.

  • by Trifthen (40989) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:05AM (#158554) Homepage

    What, has everyone forgot the point of the internet?

    So there's a meta tag. And when company X makes another new feature I don't want my site to participate in, I'll need yet another meta tag, and another meta tag, ad infinitum. Why can't there be a meta tag to TURN IT ON instead of turn it off. Isn't that what meta tags are for? To give browsers extra information?

    Retrofitting the entire internet IS NOT going to make friends. This should be more of an opt-in than an opt-out. They're assuming that by default, everyone wants to participate when the exact opposite is probably true.

    ::sigh:: Embrace and extend. Yay.


    --
    Shaun Thomas: INN Programmer
  • by throx (42621) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:49AM (#158566) Homepage
    From the information I've seen:

    (i) If links are part of the content of a page, then the whole DeCSS case is sunk. You have to choose what you believe. Smart tags may indeed be the EFF's best friend here because if Microsoft can convince the courts that they are permitted to add whatever links they like because they are not part of a web page, then by implication you also have the right to link your page wherever you like and not be responsible for the content at the other end. So, either Microsoft and the EFF are both correct, or both are wrong. You can't have it both ways.

    (ii) Smart Tags may or may not be included in the release. Microsoft is testing the waters to see people's reactions and if it is too bad then they are likely to can the idea.

    (iii) Smart Tags will probably be disabled by default, or at the very least be an option in the Internet Connection Wizard. This means the end user is actually defining how they want to parse your web site - whether they want the tags or not.

    (iv) Third parties can provide their own smart tag filters to link wherever they like. This isn't a Microsoft-only club. You can even have a Slashdot smart tag if you like that links to articles on the subject.

    (iv) This isn't about publisher's rights. Microsoft isn't changing what is published, they are effectively providing reference material on what is published. As I stated in (i), links aren't content - they are just references to other content.

    ...and I wasted all those moderator points I would have loved to spend on this thread to bring you this. :-(
  • by Skweetis (46377) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:25AM (#158570) Homepage
    And you just know that their browser is going to have a convenient bug where the meta tag is ignored and the smart tags are always on anyway. My suggestion for webmasters: use some php:

    if(strstr($HTTP_USER_AGENT, "MSIE 6.0")) {
    &nbsp&nbsp echo "This page will not properly display in your browser, get a real one [mozilla.org]."
    }

    (If you don't know php, I think an explanation of this is still in the tutorial [php.net].)

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:32AM (#158584)
    > You could always write a little script that detected whether a smart-tag-capable browser was accessing your page, and redirect it to an "error" page, instructing the reader to get a different browser before visiting the page again.

    Or better yet, an ActiveX thingy that'd overwrite msdnodc.xml (the client-side file that controls smart-tag appearance) with "appropriate" smart tags.

    Wouldn't be a trojan, technically speaking. You'd just pop up a dialog box saying (in typically Microsoftian language):

    "This link will upgrade the file that contains your smart links. Do you want to upgrade your smart links? (Yes/No)"

    (OK, I'm in an evil mood today. Deal.)

  • by SmileyBen (56580) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:38AM (#158585) Homepage
    And it isn't even this innocent. Why should I have to insert non-standard meta tags into my webpages to get standard functionality. We'll have a bizarre situation where to get your page to display like the w3c says it should, you have to add in a tag that isn't part of the w3c standard. That's mad! What it means is that effectively everyone that wants to opt out of Microsoft's new scheme will have to learn to program Microsoft What's the difference between this and something like if Microsoft made it so that any program that runs on Windows has to add an extra command at the beginning telling it that you want it to come up with a random number when you use a randomiser, rather thanthe new added functionality where it always comes up with 0.5.

    Can anyone think of any other examples where you have to program something extra to get something /not/ to happen?
  • by mjh (57755) <mark@@@hornclan...com> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:20AM (#158586) Homepage Journal
    But Gross said that by embedding Smart Tags on Web sites without the express permission of the site owners, Microsoft could be accused of creating "derivative works," that is, unauthorized, edited copies of the Web site content that users are attempting to visit.

    Ok. So, can I apply the GPL to my website? If so, and if it turns out that M$ is creating a derivative work of my website, can I then force them to release the source code to that derivative work? And if so, what exactly would be the source code to the derivative work?
    --

  • by bwt (68845) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:11AM (#158592) Homepage
    Some people have made much of the fact that html is designed to allow different presentations. This may be true, but the web page design serves as a specification. Presentations of the page must vary within those bounds, other wise a derivitive work is created. In general, creation of a derivitive work is copyright infringement unless it is authorized by the copyright owner. An "opt out" strategy is not availing -- an explicit affirmation is required by law.

    There can still be a defense of fair use. For example, if I write a script to add links and run it in my own browser, I haven't done anything that affects the market value of the page, because my affect as a single user is insignificant. Also such a personal script is noncommercial in nature.

    Not so for Microsoft. They have been found to be a monopoly specifically in the browser market. As such, when they change your web page, it will be changed for the masses and it will alter the statistics significantly of your click patterns, which clearly affects your ability to profit from you copyrighted content.

    Additionally, Microsoft is attempting to profit from this feature, whereas an individual user is probably not doing so. Thus two critical factors of the fair use equation weigh against smart-tags, however this does not mean that all modification of web pages are infringing. Fair use is a case by case analysis.
  • by blazerw11 (68928) <blazerw@[ ]foot.com ['big' in gap]> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:23AM (#158596) Homepage
    (i) If links are part of the content of a page, then the whole DeCSS case is sunk. You have to choose what you believe. Smart tags may indeed be the EFF's best friend here because if Microsoft can convince the courts that they are permitted to add whatever links they like because they are not part of a web page, then by implication you also have the right to link your page wherever you like and not be responsible for the content at the other end. So, either Microsoft and the EFF are both correct, or both are wrong. You can't have it both ways.
    Real Fact: DeCSS case, I put the link on MY page.
    "Smart Tags", somebody else put the link on MY page.
    (i) Is saying that the whole thing is about where the link goes. The "Real Issue" is not where, but who put the link their and who controls where it goes.

    (ii) Smart Tags may or may not be included in the release. Microsoft is testing the waters to see people's reactions and if it is too bad then they are likely to can the idea.
    Real Fact: The code is written, works, and exists in Office XP already.

    (iii) Smart Tags will probably be disabled by default, or at the very least be an option in the Internet Connection Wizard. This means the end user is actually defining how they want to parse your web site - whether they want the tags or not.
    Real Fact: Probably

    (iv) Third parties can provide their own smart tag filters to link wherever they like. This isn't a Microsoft-only club. You can even have a Slashdot smart tag if you like that links to articles on the subject.
    Real Fact: Since these filters are XML files on the local user's machine that the user can edit, IE is making the user's hard drive available to third parties!

    (iv) This isn't about publisher's rights. Microsoft isn't changing what is published, they are effectively providing reference material on what is published. As I stated in (i), links aren't content - they are just references to other content.
    Real Fact: So far, it's links to stock quotes on MSN and where to by sports memorabilia on MSN.

  • by DreamerFi (78710) <johnNO@SPAMsinteur.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:07AM (#158610) Homepage
    Perhaps I'm just a lousy reader, but I have yet to see somebody who actually tells me what meta tag I have to use to disable this - I want to put this on my web site, but I'm unable to find out how. Getting the SDK for this from microsoft.com failed miserably as well on both my Mac and NetBSD machines, so if there's a kind soul on /. that can help...
  • by Ender Ryan (79406) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:00AM (#158618) Journal
    This is wrong, just plain wrong. Not because of copyright, not because of unfair competition, but because it gives someone else control of content I created(but not in a copyright sense).

    What I mean is, let's say I make a website dedicated to exposing Scientology for what it really is, a sick twisted cult that extorts money from people.

    Now, with Microsoft smart tags, if someone visits my site there will possibly be links to pro-scientology articles. What's really scary is that Microsoft actually does have an affiliation with some Scientology-owned companies.

    This is the ultimate example of Microsoft's "Embrace and Extend" strategy, using their web browser monopoly to create a monopoly on, well, the web as we know it.

  • by Speare (84249) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:10AM (#158629) Homepage Journal

    off-topic, I know, but...

    It's almost the same as someone loosing a worm or other virus onto the net.

    Someone using the term 'loosing' properly! Not a mistaken spelling for 'losing'! On the Internet! On Slashdot, no less! Yikes!

  • by donutello (88309) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @09:41AM (#158644) Homepage
    Sheesh. Get over it, kids. I know you hate Microsoft but I really don't see a problem here. Smart-tags are progress. Quit getting in the way of it.

    For one, it appears from most of the comments that most people have no clue what smart-tag technology is. Smart-tags provide the ability to automatically recognize certain strings and generate hyperlinks based on that text.

    You can write your own smart-tag recognizers! There's a smart-tags SDK which content providers can use to create smart-tag recognizers and a database of hyperlinks to generate. Of course, the ones that Microsoft ships point to MS properties, but anyone can create and ship their own recognizers pointing to their own stuff.

    The closest analogy I can see to all this whining is if you were whining about someone shipping a web-browser with the OS because you hadn't written a web-page and felt that put you at a disadvantage.

    As for the spam argument, that's ridiculous. All a user sees is a dotted underline on a piece of text which allows the user to get more information. Users who don't like seeing those lines can disable smart-tags or not install IE6. Users currently have the exact same functionality if they cut-and-paste the text out of the page and into a search bar. Smart-tags just make it easier.
  • by Deluge (94014) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @06:42AM (#158655)
    Real Fact: Since these filters are XML files on the local user's machine that the user can edit, IE is making the user's hard drive available to third parties!

    Oh no, cookies are files on my machine, IE is making my hard drive available to third parties already!

    Anyway, nobody's hard drive is being made available to anyone. Since the XML file will be a filter on your machine, it won't be any different from any other config file on the system, i.e. used by the system, not sent out to whatever website requests it.

    ---

  • by GodHead (101109) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:05AM (#158670) Homepage
    ...because this stupid feature is disabled by default*. In Microsoft-land this means that 99.99% of users will never enable or even be aware of it - ala the "Don't spam everyone I know with e-mail virii" check box in Outlook.

    * - This, of course, could change. That would be something to fight about.

    G.H.
  • ...because this stupid feature is disabled by default*. In Microsoft-land this means that 99.99% of users will never enable or even be aware of it - ala the "Don't spam everyone I know with e-mail virii" check box in Outlook.

    Heheheh...I'm surprised you haven't realized yet what Microsoft means by "default." They're not going to spend millions of dollars in time and development just to have something "disabled by default."

    What that means is this: you install Windows XP, and near the end, you get this dialog box: "Microsoft has furthered its internet innovation in pushing the limits of technology by bringing to you a new technology known as Smart Tags! With this option enabled, you will have the power to further your web-browsing experiences by being provided with new links on existing websites, expanding your browsing capabilities within the new Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0! Push OK to enable this feature."

    And as you said, for the 99.99% of users who aren't "aware" of any possible web options, they're going to absent-mindedly click OK, thinking that it's some required part of the internet.

    ...of course, it's still disabled "by default."
  • by Khopesh (112447) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:55AM (#158686) Homepage Journal
    this is EXACTLY like spam. why not go in from the other direction? disable your "smart tags" by default and allow a meta tag to ACTIVATE them.

  • by pricorde (124290) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @06:33AM (#158713)
    "Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation"
    :-)
  • by plover (150551) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @06:24AM (#158750) Homepage Journal
    Sorry, Tom, but the point barneyfoo was so poorly trying to make is that Microsoft will indeed have full real effective control over these tags for 95% of all users.

    Despite your optimistically high opinions of the population, 80% of them are not able to change screensavers without help desk assistance. More than 50% don't even know that screen savers can be changed. A giant screaming banner at the top of every modified page saying "DANGER: THESE LINKS ARE ADDED BY MICROSOFT, AN EVIL CORPORATE MERCHANDISING MACHINE! BY CLICKING ON THEM YOU WILL EXPOSE YOURSELF TO MICROSOFT SELECTED ADVERTISING! CLICK HERE TO CHANGE THESE LINKS" will go unclicked by that same 50%.

    Any time you have a default setting, count on it being used, and used heavily. Believe me, Microsoft does.

    I certainly don't want to be as offensive as barneyfoo, but you really need to leave acadamia and get out into the real world. Take a summer intern job on a help desk. Answer a few phone calls from people who are not stupid, but uninformed to a degree you cannot ever imagine until you've experienced it first hand. Go home that night shaking your head in disbelief at the questions you're asked. Then answer that phone every day for the next three months.

    AOL exists for a reason. Most people simply cannot ever expand beyond what they're spoon fed. That's why Microsoft will "own" these links.

    John

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @09:47AM (#158757) Homepage Journal
    Hey, TummyX, that squiggly purple link in your post isn't working. You know, the one that pops up with the little i icon when you move the cursor over it? When I click on the popup icon, my browser tells me that the "Page cannot be displayed." Can you fix that please?

    --

    Never underestimate the ability for a user to misunderstand what's going on. Many users are now used to links looking stange and doing unusual things thanks to CSS and JavaScript. Just because they don't look and work like a normal link doesn't mean the user will realize that it isn't a normal link. For all they now, you added these special squiggly purple links (SmartTag links look like Word's "misspelled word" underline, except that they are a shade of purple, for those tuning in late) in your page were made by you, and you went through some trouble to create the popup. I'll bet I could make a link look like a SmartTag via CSS and JavaScript if only I knew exactly how the system works looks and feels... there's no reason to expect that a normal user will not to mistakenly think that the purple links are links that you added to differentiate from normal links yourself.

    After all, it's your document - obviously you crafted all it's content... unless average users are educated as to exactly what SmartTags are, they'll learn to use them just like normal hyperlinks - most users will simply take previous knowledge and apply it to the new scenario - blaming you for any problems.

    --

  • by streetlawyer (169828) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:41AM (#158767) Homepage
    Bad news for JunkBuster, huh?
  • by Erasmus Darwin (183180) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:19AM (#158797)
    I already use manual smart tags when browsing the web. Using a combination of lynx [browser.org], gpm, and Surfraw [sourceforge.net], I can highlight any word or phrase, switch to another virtual console, type in either "webster" (for a dictionary lookup) or "google" (for a google lookup), then paste in the term I'm interested in. I then hit return, and *BAM* I've got my results. I do this a lot. I would jump at the chance of having a one or two click process to do this for me. I might be willing to switch to IE as my Windows GUI browser for this functionality. I would be willing to start trying Mozilla if it added this feature. I would definitely be willing to install a proxy to filter out the META disabling tag, if it seems necessary. Any web authors out there who have pages that already provide Merriam-Webster [m-w.com] and Google [google.com] search links for all possible terms and phrases in the page can feel free to ignore me. The rest should get off this moral high horse of "I don't want them changing my web page."
  • by Jon Erikson (198204) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @03:58AM (#158807)

    What is the main advantage of the web over other networked forms of information? That's right, it's the fact that it is hyperlinked, allowing people to veer off from what they're reading to related sites, and then return when they're done.

    People here often complain about how hyperlinks aren't used properly, and yet when Microsoft implement an automatic hyperlink generator, they complain!

    Since people writing websites are often engaging in practices such as closed sites (where there aren't any external links, keeping novice users within their system of sites - i.e. AOL or Freeserve) then we should applaud this feature, as it will allow millions to finally venture out into the web as a whole, and increase connectivity massively. No longer will you have to waste valuable time searching for the meaning of an unexplained term on a page - there'll be a Smart Tag leading directly to useful information!

    As for copyright issues, well you could say the same thing about proxy services like Junkbuster, which strip certain elements out of webpages before the user sees them. At the end of the day it's less offensive to copyright holders, because it adds value to their pages at no cost or effort to them, whereas Junkbuster removes any chance of them being able to fund their efforts, leading to the closure of many people's pages.

    No I think this will work out well for everyone, and I hope that minority browsers like Mozilla and Opera follow suit. No longer will we need to be constrained by the linking laziness of web authors :)

  • by kubla2000 (218039) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:10AM (#158817) Homepage
    No I think this will work out well for everyone, and I hope that minority browsers like Mozilla and Opera follow suit. No longer will we need to be constrained by the linking laziness of web authors :)

    You've dropped in a smiley but there's nothing to smile about in your comments.

    There are boring people and there are interesting people out there. Just because someone is dull does not give me, you or anyone else the right to insert "more interesting" or "more relevant" speech into their mouths.

    The internet is a free (or was anyway) forum where readers / users / clients could choose the information they did or did not want to receive. People could vote with their feet. Popular and interesting sites would be visited frequently. Dull, rarely updated sites would not.

    It's downright arrogant that microsoft or anyone else should feel it their duty to 'improve' upon what someone else has made. The Mozilla/Netscape sidebar is already doing that with the important caveat that users are able to switch it off at will. Embedded tags though... c'mon, there is *nothing* inherently good about them. We can hope for the benevolence of the company in charge of their "smartness" but if history is anything to go by, that hope's not likely to be realised.

  • by hillct (230132) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:08AM (#158827) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft claims that:
    Site operators could insert a metatag disabling Smart Tags, so concerned publishers could avoid them.
    The problem with that is that publishers would have to take positive action to prevent their rights from bein infrinced upon (I'm assuming that the publishers rights issue is completely valid on it's face, for the moment). It could be argues that placing these exclusionary tags on your website are similar to insuring copyright on your material, but Microsoft is not the federal government and does not have the authority to take over the responsibilities of the US Patent and Copyright Office.

    I expect Microsoft will be forced to shift from the exclusionary tag model to an inclusionary tag model where only sites with an inclusionary tag can be modified in this way. That way content owners have to give their eplicit permission to microsoft to edit their page in ways they would be completely unaware of.

    There is some middle ground. Perhaps Microsoft could check the page for the '©' symbol, and if it is found, then search for the inclusionary tag, granting them license to modify the page.

    Along the same lines, has anyone thought about how much they want to charge Microsoft for such a content license?
    I'll be sure to put a click-thru license (enforceable through the wonders of the DMCA) on my website, requiring Microsoft to pay some reasonable fee per page modification, per user - how about $100 per occurance

    --CTH

    ---
  • by ryanvm (247662) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:34AM (#158846)
    Not that big a deal because this stupid feature is disabled by default

    If you don't like the idea of SmartTags, this should be of small consolation. I can think of a couple of Microsoft's "bad ideas" that were initially disabled by default:

    • Product registration/activation
    • Copyright protection (as in WMA)

  • by ryanvm (247662) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:53AM (#158847)

    Seriously, this is soooo close to being a good idea. Slashdotters love everything2.com [everything2.com] - just imagine the entire WWW like it.

    SmartTags could be a very powerful improvement to the WWW if done properly. And that means no concentrated authority on where these links point to. I'd be interested in it if it used an open directory for the link info instead of some corporate "money word" bucket.

    As it is, who the hell wants to always be redirected to Microsoft's web site? Besides the pointy haired bosses. :-)

  • by GeckoX (259575) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:07AM (#158868)
    And just how many users are going to understand what is going on?

    And just how the hell are you going to know which links belong to the author and which were generated by M$?

    And what makes you think that M$ will do anything other than have sets of links that favor them explicitly?

    You're forgetting that this is already fully controlled by M$, there is no room for 'how it should or could be used properly' because Bill hasn't asked and isn't going to. He already knows what he's doing and he's relying on people like you to help him 'show everyone else' what a good thing it is.

    Don't you get it? This will allow M$ to turn ALL internet content into M$ content.
  • by Doktor J (261944) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:06AM (#158871)
    What is the main advantage of the web over other networked forms of information? [microsoft.com] That's right, it's the fact that it is hyperlinked, allowing people to veer off from what they're reading to related sites, and then return when they're done. [microsoft.com]

    People here often complain about how hyperlinks aren't used properly, and yet when Microsoft implement an automatic hyperlink generator, they complain! [microsoft.com]

    Since people writing websites are often engaging in practices such as closed sites (where there aren't any external links, keeping novice users within their system of sites - i.e. AOL or Freeserve) then we should applaud this feature, as it will allow millions to finally venture out into the web as a whole, and increase connectivity massively. No longer will you have to waste valuable time searching for the meaning of an unexplained term on a page - there'll be a Smart Tag leading directly to useful information! [microsoft.com]

    As for copyright issues, well you could say the same thing about proxy services like Junkbuster, which strip certain elements out of webpages before the user sees them. At the end of the day it's less offensive to copyright holders, because it adds value to their pages at no cost or effort to them, whereas Junkbuster removes any chance of them being able to fund their efforts, leading to the closure of many people's pages. [microsoft.com]

    No I think this will work out well for everyone, and I hope that minority browsers like [microsoft.com]Mozilla and Opera [microsoft.com] follow suit. No longer will we need to be constrained by the linking laziness of web authors :) [microsoft.com]

  • by freeweed (309734) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @09:10AM (#158900)
    Maybe I'm just slow today, but it took me a REALLY long time to catch on to the author's joke here. The first several paragraphs, I was thinking 'damn lazy writer, she's just describing what links she wants put in there, and probably has some tech guy insert them later'. Not until she started talking about Winer did I catch on.

    If an otherwise reasonably intelligent person (who spends 8 hours a day surfing the internet) can get suckered in like this, the affects on Joe Lunchpail really REALLY scare me :(

  • by s20451 (410424) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:09AM (#158914) Journal
    HTTP allows you to determine the type and version of browser that is accessing a page. You could always write a little script that detected whether a smart-tag-capable browser was accessing your page, and redirect it to an "error" page, instructing the reader to get a different browser before visiting the page again. (For good measure you could provide a link to Mozilla and an explanation of why smart tags are evil.)
  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon @ g m a i l . com> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:53AM (#158916)
    Oh yeah, I'm going to sit down with my Mom and show her how to build this file so that she can make sure she doesn't get pro-M$ content.

    Since M$ pretty much forces you to have THEIR OS installed on your computer, and THEIR browser, what makes you think you won't be force into THEIR "smart tag" contents? Oh sure, you can edit the file, but how many non /. readers do you think will do this? How much will /. have to pay M$ to get included in their file?

    No, I'm sorry. As long as M$ has such control over what's in the file, it's a BAD thing. Now, if the file's contents were generated by a third, disinterested party (as though one exists), things might be better.

    But for now, I say make page authors include a META tag to turn the feature ON for their website, rather than OFF. Site authors who like the feature will be more than happy to enable it for their pages.

    GreyPoopon
    --

  • by Cainus (444977) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:47AM (#158931)
    I'll be showing up in redmond tomorrow with an uzi and anyone that has not specifically asked not to be slaughtered (by 3pm today) gets plugged.
  • by pyramid termite (458232) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @05:16AM (#158965)
    What would happen if I looked at one of my web pages with IE 6.0 to determine what words were being smart linked and then added links of my own to those words that would make any resulting clicks go to a site that had absolutely nothing to do with the word? Anyone who clicked on the word Coca-Cola would be sent to a page about rhubarb farming. Better yet, we could rewrite all these words to link to Microsoft's site and see how well their server stood up. Which would take precedence in the browser - the Smart Link or the web page's link? Would people be able to tell if there were two links there? Would it be possible to disguise a regular link as a smart link by copying that little purple line under it?

    I say if they're going to shove this down our throats then we should screw it up for them.
  • by digitalcajun (458264) on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @09:41AM (#158966)
    There are three ways to get smart tags to appear in the user's browser:
    1. Embed them yourself (here's how [microsoft.com]).
    2. Write your own DLL [microsoft.com] that recognizes whatever terms you want to use. You can look up terms in a database, from a local XML file, or whatever else you're smart enough to code
    3. Use the built-in smart tag list functionality. That's all the IE6 smart tags are: a bunch of XML in the file that says "if you see term X, offer a link to http://somewhere/?x". You can edit this to your heart's content.
    I'm disappointed to see so much uninformed paranoia; it's obvious from all the discussion about "oh, Lordy, MS is going to change my links" that most of the posters here have no idea how the technology actually works. Read the SDK [microsoft.com].
  • by AsylumWraith (458952) <(wraithage) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday June 12, 2001 @04:50AM (#158973) Homepage
    Uhm, just curiosity here, and keeping in mind that I haven't read through the specs... If I read through what everyone is saying about the file msdnodc.xml correctly, you can change it to customize the redirects presented to you as SmartTags on webpages. What I want to know is, wouldn't it be a waste of time to add sites that you *already know about* to this file? So, you're going to add custom links to a webpage using certain keywords you already know the definition of, to information you already know about? The only way these SmartTags are useful is if they present information that you didn't already have/take you to places you didn't know about. And the only way you can get that, that I see, is by using the defaults. And doesn't MS control the defaults?

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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