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AOL, Microsoft Squabble Over Control of Online Music 185

Section8 writes: "As if Microsoft wasn't pushing on so many other fronts already (see Part 1 and Part 2), now it seems that Microsoft is seeking to place itself in total control of what format we use on the Internet to view anything. This article in the Wall Street Journal gives some interesting facts about what Microsoft is trying to do out there. Great quote from AOL rep: "[it is] Microsoft's intention to gain as much control over music on the Internet as they have over operating systems on the computer desktop, and we couldn't accept that"." AOL's merger with Time-Warner has given them greater incentive to not use Microsoft's media format... There's also a report on the AOL/Microsoft talks published by AOL.
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AOL, Microsoft Squabble Over Control of Online Music, Messaging

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  • It's good to see two monopolistic goliaths go at each other. God help us when they make peace and join forces!
  • Is it just me, or is anyone else both horrified and amused by the twisted relationship between these two companies? Kinda like an incestuous marriage in which both partners are bipolar.

  • by AirLace ( 86148 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:37AM (#145084)
    Despite what all the naysayers say, I believe we are seeing a shift in Microsoft's support of open standards towards the better. Recently, we saw them embrace the new P3P W3C privacy standard, for example.

    As long as they use continue to use open standards (http/html, xml, ogg []) to distribute their music, the competitive commercial environment will take care of the rest. If someone believes that Microsoft is distributing money at too high a cost, they can use the same tools to sell music themselves, as any company would do in an open market. The only risk is that Microsoft might try to replace say, html, with their own proprietary system that only runs on Windows. Only then do competitors like AOL and you and me face a serious risk.

    I don't use any of their software, but -- who knows -- their services might be good stuff. We all know that most of their endeavours outside software are pretty good (hardware like optical mice, force feedback joysticks, Xbox). Kudos to Microsoft and shame on you if you revert to your proprietary tactics of yesteryear!
  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:38AM (#145085) Homepage
    now it seems that Microsoft is seeking to place itself in total control of what format we use on the Internet to view anything

    That's shocking! What, have they developed some sort of ultra-secret "explorer for the internet" application that can be used to view web pages?

    Is there some "media player for windows" that will be provided with every copy of their OSes?

    Nexy you'll tell me they have even built an "encoder" of some sort for this strange new audio technology.

    Its a good thing AOL has discovered this secret, nefarious plot and warned us all in advance!...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:42AM (#145086)
    I just hope that Microsoft doesn't take control of the online porn industry, it's shady enough as is.

    This is a good exemple of what they are doing behing everybody's back..

  • by tim_maroney ( 239442 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:45AM (#145088) Homepage
    Disabling RealPlayer in AOL would clearly not be in the interest of consumers. This demand was an attempt to use Microsoft's monopoly in the desktop OS market to restrict trade by suppressing a competitor, RealNetworks.

    Microsoft seems to have decided that it has nothing to fear from the court, and unfortunately it may be correct. However, I prefer to think that the court of appeals hinted that it would not break up the company in order to see how Microsoft behaved once the pressure was off, and that they are taking careful note of the fact that the company is continuing to engage in plainly anticompetitive practices based on its monopoly power.


  • by penguinboy ( 35085 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:45AM (#145089)
    So AOL/Time Warner doesn't want Microsoft to control internet media. Probably all we're like to see come out of this is another proprietary format that's designed to limit the consumer's rights and focus on making money for AOL/Time Warner.
  • Microsoft wanted consumer access to RealPlayer disabled...

    How the hell would they do that? I'm a consumer, I want to consume internet music...
    Real Media, Quicktime, Windows Media... I can't believe these fools can't agree on a standard format of somekind.

  • by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:46AM (#145091)
    ...AOL Time Warner has announced an alliance with Red Hat Linux to bundle the Real Audio streaming content software on a bootable CD to its 16 million customers...

    (and then I woke up)

    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Thank god we have AOL/TW to compete against Microsoft -- they're such a wonderful alternative [] to an obvious monopoly [].

    And don't kid yourselves, both Microsoft and AOL/TW are monopolies, despite whatever you might have heard about regulations being wrong, and another form of 'communism', etc. Whatever the rhetoric, the fact is that our founders understood the need for regulations as a protective measure for consumers, and democracy as a whole. You can read about how their concerns were ignored in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, when restrictions on mass ownership of news/media outlets were all but erased; here [], here [], here [], and here [].
  • Issues with AOL/TW not allowing competitive ISP ads on their cable, and everyone knows the issues with Microsoft.. Which one's the worse?

    It looks like for this issue with file formats, we should be supporting AOL, since the Real Player is available for Linux, unlike the Windows Media Player..

    Is there any work on a player for Linux that would play the Media Player files, or is there a problem with Copyright/Trade secrets for any potential developers?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:49AM (#145094)
    AOL owns WinAMP and if M$ wants control over the music file format it might want to fight over WinAMP's ability to play windows media files, and next thing you know the newer version of the windos media audio or video format will be unplayable on winamp. So they may be trying to also get rid of MP# which will never happen. By the way, how come windos is the "choice" of consumers everywhere? Why because the already built computers come with it. And now M$ doesn't even have to pay companies to package windos with their desktops. Compaq Dell and the like can literally screw M$ domination if they packaged their computers with any Linux distro, and the users got used to it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:51AM (#145095)
    This is good for people who want to see websites that are actually written to standards because this means AOL are more likely now to use a Mozilla browser in the next release of their software, giving Mozilla a reasonable market share which will mean people will have to code their pages to web standards and we'll not have a Microsoft only web.

    BTW Netscape 6.1beta1 [] is now out and it's based on Mozilla 0.9.1 [] it's a MASSIVE improvement over Netscape 6.01 and 6.0 which were quite frankly a joke, therefore Netscape's not dead yet and if we can get AOL to support Netscape/Mozilla then there's a good future for the browser.

  • by angst_ridden_hipster ( 23104 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:52AM (#145096) Homepage Journal
    I say we support whichever side looks like they're losing.

    bukra fil mish mish
    Monitor the Web, or Track your site!
  • Microsoft isn't trying to control anything based on merit or technical superiority. They are trying to control the market by forcing exisiting competitors out of it. I see Microsoft as a modern day "Mafioso"; the difference is that the sleepy heads in gov't will not make change until it's absolutely too late. The stuff Microsoft is doing wouldn't have been tolerated 20 yrs ago, times change and the people in gov't change and/or get greedy and the only hope is that they get greedy enough to choke on their own salivation.
  • To quote an ex-US President:
    "There he goes again"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @11:56AM (#145099)
    How about this for a poll?

    Which of the following is most evil:

    • AOL
    • CIA
    • FBI
    • RIAA
    • SDMI
    • MPAA
    • ICANN
    • USDOJ
    • USPTO
    • Microsoft
    • CowboyNeal

    If you mod me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine! =P

  • could you imagine if email, or the web, or God forbid, even the basic transfer protocol, were being developed today?

  • I swear I'll never read another article concerning the music media again.

    from now on I mind my own business as I proceed to rip all my CDs to .mp3 format, if it dies out it won't be because of me. And yes, I do intend to share!

  • by r2ravens ( 22773 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:05PM (#145102)
    As long as we all keep using MP3 (and it's not going to go away) or Open Source altervatives, this will be like two fleas fighting over the dog.

    I guess mindshare is everything... and MP3 has it. Sorry AOL/MS.

    I will, however, have to reassess the statement that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

    How ironic that since we have a government not interested in enforcing anti-trust law, the major force for promoting competition in the sheep-consumer marketplace is the merged corporate monolith AOL/Time-Warner.

    What a world...

  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:13PM (#145103)
    "It looks like for this issue with file formats, we should be supporting AOL, since the Real Player is available for Linux, unlike the Windows Media Player.. "

    I'm not a big fan of either one, personally. While both are nice for watching broadcast media like NASA TV, I don't like the way many sites use them as a "Thou shalt not download" tool on their media (it feels like a TV station trying to prevent me from using my VCR). Especially when they force me to download a proprietary player to view something they could have easily just encoded as an MPG.

    (Anybody else miss the days before the banner ad?)

    And as far as who I think we should support, I think we should support the idea of both of them mutually driving each other out of business. While Windows wants to make their own music encoding scheme the new standard, AOL/TW is also trying to fuck with on-line music through the RIAA.

    All in all, these two companies were in talks to try to divy up markets, deciding how we can and cannot access parts of the internet, while a new MP3 codec was released.

  • ROTFL. I think they should all join together and form a single giant conglomerate called Big Brother Unlimited.
  • by linuxci ( 3530 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:15PM (#145105)
    The breakdown in talks mean that AOL are probably gonna seriously consider using gecko rather than IE, and that's so good for Netscape and remember Netscape is the biggest contributor to Mozilla. Even if you like IE you have to agree it needs competition because otherwise Microsoft will have no incentive to improve it. This is indeed a great day for web standards, even though the breakdown in talks was about music.

    Try Netscape 6.1 PR 1 [], it's much better than the crappy Netscape 6.0 browser, if you've not tried it, give it a go and let them know what you think (select Help > Feedback Center), even if Mozilla based browsers get a 20% market share it should be enough to encourage webmasters to code to standards and write pages to work anywhere.

  • Either the content providers (AOL-Time Warner) or the big ass OS manufacturer desides. Hmm, no matter what, there is ONE standard, most certainly not open, that is going to be pushed onto the web etc etc etc. I just say, we loose. I use windows, but I still loose with this. This is just one little step towards the next step, a controlled and censored media (internet, newspapers, TV, radio, etc)...

    Open standards for content is much much more important than bitching about Microsoft Windows. I just wished I could tell you all how to fix this...
  • by linuxci ( 3530 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:20PM (#145107)
    You've obviously not tried Mozilla or Netscape 6.1 (that's 6.1 NOT 6.01 or 6.0), they're a massive improvement over previous Mozilla and Netscape releases, so please download and then offer some constructive criticism.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's got to suck to be Real Networks right about now, just like it sucked to be Netscape a couple years ago.

    That said, the biggest problem I see with all of this is that MS will most likely not make there proprietary formats available to users of other operating systems and stengthening their monopoly as well.

    I think that MS should be allowed to create whatever formats they choose to use for their products but they should be forced to either: a) publish the format for anyone to see and use or b) create viewers/editors for alternative operating systems includeing Linux, BeOS, and others.

    I like being able to get RealPlayer for Linux, particularly when most streaming video and audio is in Real format. I don't like the idea of not being able to get any streaming audio or video or getting poor quality because everyone has switched to a MS format which is only available to users of Windows.

    All I ask of MS is to provide viewers/editors to other operating systems or to make it possible for third parties to create these viewers/editors.
  • by FTL ( 112112 ) <slashdot.neil@fraser@name> on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:24PM (#145109) Homepage
    The breakdown of talks between MS and AOL has given Mozilla a future outside of geekdom. Had the talks been successfull, the web would have been MS-only within two years.

    Let's not waste this opportunity.

  • by NotoriousQ ( 457789 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:27PM (#145110) Homepage
    According to an AOL official close to the negotiations, Microsoft wanted consumer access to RealPlayer disabled, a step that AOL felt would tilt the scales in favor of Microsoft's Windows Media. RealPlayer and Windows Media use rival formats, making content formatted for RealPlayer incompatible with Windows Media.

    Does anything seem funny here. If realplayer and M$ Media Player use different incompatible formats, why would M$ not install it. It does not compete with their product. What I am thinking is that there may be a deeper issue here. One is that they would want to reduce the amount of realplayer formatted files on the net. But why, everyone knows that no one will switch to wma's. It will be either mp3's or something else. Not wma's. I don't see windows winning here.

    Also I think there is another thing brewing here, although this one is more of a conspiracy theory, but given the XP integrated CD-R copyright protection, and online checking that only 2 copies of same disk can be installed, it is a possibility. Something tells me M$ will force every player to go through the codec system, meaning realplayer would have to use the codec, thus Windows Media would be able to play any format, and since its preinstalled....(fill in rest here). The funny thing is that given the track record of realplayer for win, I don't think that that is such a bad idea.

    On the other hand I would hate to see M$ player be the only player, given that it starts sucking more and more, especially in the RAM department.

    Remember, when you are downloading MP3's, you are downloading communism!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:28PM (#145111)
    I know that windows users are mindless sheep who can not see the difference between an anti-competitive, innovation hampering, standards breaking company and a normal ma & pop shop but please stop with the 1950's McCarthism commie talk just because one of your friends told you that linux user's where communists :-)

    Using and/or developing open source software has nothing to do with communism, it has to do with co-operation and problem solving, computing is not like farming or fast food or some other regular business it is more like a science and a technology that is developing very quickly and is just as important to our evolution as say, modern medicine or energy generation

    i for one believe that people should work and co-operate together for the advancement of computing not hide there favorite new advances from other brilliant minds like one would hide their new cheese burger recipe.

    I do not believe that proprietary software is "immoral" or "wrong" however i do believe that people working together openly to develop new software technologies and sharing ideas and advancments is a great thing and is much more productive than the proprietary development model.

    While i do agree that computing is a great source of income and jobs in this world i also believe it is a great technology and it's continued advancment can not be trusted 100% to companies especially these days when most companies fight each other with lawsuits and illegal practices rather than better products and idea's.

    Not to mention that the Internet was developed with *our* tax dollars and depends 100% on open standards and protocols. Changing the formats of the internet to only work with your products is no different that changing a national interstate highway to only work with yoru model of car. that is exactly what microsoft is attempting to do. Also if you knew anything about the law you would know that using a monopoly to try and gain another monopoly is illegal.

    I do not appreciate being insulted, and called a communist, especially by a person who obvioulsy has no idea what they are talking about

  • There can be only one!

  • How soon untill Microsoft wants to controle online porn? I mean they are a huge part of all online revenue.. looks attractive...haha no pun there
  • ...someone were to try to take an open source audio standard, like Ogg Vorbis, and add some kind of content protection to it (a la WMP) so that the RIAA would be happy with that as a format. In many ways, Microsoft seems to be trying to encourage use of WMP because of its content protection schemes, and recording artists (read: RIAA) like that idea.

    Of course, there are the usual complaints and caveats: for every content protection scheme, there is a potential hack (though one wonders if open source could do better at content protection); why should there be protection in the first place (though suppliers -- i.e. RIAA -- will never go along with that line of argument IMO); would such an effort result in a fork of OV (since I doubt the main body of developers would go along with such an idea); and so on.

    I don't really advocate this, but I think it's an interesting idea nonetheless, and it would at least be a way to put a dent in WMP as a format of choice for the RIAA...

    Oh hell, I'll just go back to ripping my own MP3s with iTunes. Rip, mix, burn and all that. ;-P


  • Use Mozilla. It's not so bloated and full of crap that you don't want or need,
  • Considering HD sizes and broadband coming along, bitrate doesn't matter much.. 128k, 64k.. so what? If I can put it on overnight and have DAYS of music when I wake up? (If I have decent sites to get it from, which aren't *that* hard to find.. say two-three friends with similar interests and mutual leech + all public sharing tools)

    What truly matters is the LIMITATIONS. Can I play this on another platform? Can I copy this to my RAM player/mp3 cd player/mp3 car stereo/mp3 home stereo? Can I share it with whoever I want? Can I convert it to a future format, or am I forever stuck with the one I have?

    Also, most good systems are open standards, think mpg3/4, which are currently the most used audio and video standard (though you need at the very least a wrapper to make a MOVIE with both video and sound, like wmv, divx etc). People can look at that and suggest how to make it better.

  • And if it isnt yet now, it will be in a couple of years, whatever we all want it to be or not, and after a couple of years there will be one big revolution and the world will be one, cause microsoft made it one microsoft only world and we all will hate it so much that it will become our common enemy, thus meaning we all have the same goal and become one big happy family..

  • But Real Player does compete with Windows Media Player. The issue isn't the existing audio/video files. The issue is encoding new material. Because of Microsoft's "we must dominate everything" mindset, they don't want *ANY* audio or video to be encoded in any format other than their own.
  • Personally I do use Mozilla most of the time, but I did take a look at 6.1 and AOL seem to have learnt their lesson and have reduced the number of "Sponsored Links" and other annoying ways to make money, now Netscape 6.1 looks like a real product not a piece of adware.

    As for normal users: I's like to see them use Netscape as it gives Netscape market share and the bosses at AOL/TW are more likely to allow Netscape people working on Mozilla, if everyone uses unbranded Mozilla then they have no incentive. The improvements in 6.1 show that they've realised that people don't like in your face advertising and endless amounts of links.

    As for me, I'll mainly stick with Mozilla as I get nightlies and like to be on the cutting edge.
  • by Ig0r ( 154739 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @12:49PM (#145120)
    As long as you write your own damn code you aren't 'forced' into using any license.

  • What do you think they're TRYING to do?
  • They don't like to talk about about it, but big corporations are already making lots of money from pr0n.

    A recent study shows that 50% of people staying in major hotels rent at least 1 pr0n movie. Direct TV which carries several pr0n channels is owned by Hughes Aircraft (a division of General Motors).
  • As I have said, they are trying to reduce the number of files in realplayer format on the web. The question is, how is this control earning money for M$. They are not making $ off mp3 on the web, or the fact they are playing them. In fact realplayer does, considering that there are commercials in their player. I also don't think that M$ would really be all about control, unless they would see tons of green stuff in it. And besides, in windows, winamp really whips the llama's ass. M$ media player and realplayer do not. (I just wish winamp supported some video formats, but then I never checked all the plugins)

    Remember, when you are downloading MP3's, you are downloading communism!!!
  • The fight is not over music files formats. It's over streaming. Have you seen all those places that force you to download RealPlayer? Have you noticed that you cannot save the streaming audio/video that you receive?. That's not a bug, it's a feature. And the content providers use the RealPlayer format because of the (relative) security. MS offers now the same. And wants the market. And it's going to get it, of course. Nobody is going to switch to MP3 because then everybody could save the streaming audio/video, and distribute it again.


  • Who cares? Nullsoft is the worst $70 million anyone ever spent.
  • It really whips the llama's ass.

    A truly great player for things we cherish most (read: mp3)

    Why not just bundle that...(besides it is owned by AOL).

    M$ will never agree.....

    Remember, when you are downloading MP3's, you are downloading communism!!!
  • ... None of above, they're all just as evil.
  • but I like all the stuff! I like having AIM in my sidebar, spelling checker, java and all the plugins already there. My dream will come true when AIM is combined with ICQ so that I can chat with 200 million people
  • I don't even use linux, I'm somewhere between a 'techy' and a 'computer illiterate', and I'm more driven by politics than computers, so I doubt I have the patience to figure it out.

    That said, you completely missed the point. I doubt you read what I linked, and you obviously don't understand the difference between a monopolized market and 'competitive capitalism'. Let me try it this way:

    AOL/TW vs. Microsoft = Plutocratical []

    Speakeasy DSL [] vs. Carolina Broadband [] = Capitalistic

    If you can't see the difference, let me expand on my point: the first group accounts for over 25% of ALL MEDIA in the country; including TV, radio, newspapers, movies, music, software, and the internet. They have no competition because they control the medium through which their competitors would normally be advertising []. Once the practice in that story spreads, in places like Charlotte North Carolina (where I live), you won't see any commercials that advertise any product that competes with any product sold by AOL/TW -- because Time Warner provides the ONLY Cable TV service.

    And why the hell are you so motivated to be against diversity of choice?? No one here is trying to change the laws from what they were; the Telecommunications Act did that by changing what the laws HAD BEEN FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY. The people who ARE trying to change them, are doing it to put them back the way they were SUPPOSED to be.
  • by r2ravens ( 22773 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @01:09PM (#145130)
    Naysayer checking in here...

    They are not using open standards to distribute the music, that's the whole point to the article.
    The content may be transmitted via TCP/IP, but they are encoding in their own media format (including DRM and being proprietary source just for starters) and trying to kill the Real format.

    MS will never do anything with .ogg, they can't apply Digital Rights Management to it to make the RIAA happy and they can't control it. ...Well maybe they could if they attempted to 'pollute' it like they did to Java. But why would they bother, they just use their desktop monopoly to force people to use their own Media Player formats by breaking the competitors product. "It ain't done 'til Lotus won't run."

    MS using open standards? I think not. They have subverted or attempted to subvert every single standard they have come near (Kerberos, smart tags, anybody?)

    One doesn't trust an addict until they have admitted that they have a problem, apologized/made amends *and* exhibited changed behavior. MS has made no steps whatsoever of this kind. They continue to thumb thier nose at government anti-trust action, lie, deceive and subvert to this very moment.

    ...endeavours outside software...

    Well, they don't have a monopoly on endeavours outside software, they are at least required to compete on the merits of the product.

    Kudos to Microsoft and shame on you if you revert to your proprietary tactics of yesteryear!

    ??? Huh? Revert? Yesteryear?

    Shame on them? Proprietary tactics? Yup. To this very day. That's what the whole problem is in the negotiations between them and AOL.

    And shame on AOL too. They're no angels. They demand proprietary solutions as well. They just don't have quite as large a monopoly to leverage.

  • Since when have Microsoft used .ogg format ?

  • Avifile (I have no URL but its on Freshmeat) plays all windows media player formats.
  • Over the past year or so, a lot of websites that used Real Player for streaming video changed to Windows Media Player because the software/licensing for WMP is cheaper than Real Player.
  • What's aybabtu ?

  • The standards have been implemented for a reason, it's to make the web a place where people can access information regardless of platform and regardless of disabilities []. One company can't just come along and then change the standards so that browsers coded to the standards don't work properly (Netscape were once like that, but now with their funding of the Mozilla project they're now doing the right thing).
    It's very simple to write a page to the standards that works in both Mozilla and recent versions of IE with NO browser sniffing code, you may have to ditch support for IE4 or add some code to cater for IE4 too (not difficult), but you should design pages to the standard spec, it'll then work in Mozilla, in recent versions of Windows IE (most standards are supported now) and Mac IE (which is more standards compliant than the Windows version), also not forgetting Opera.
  • Think for a minute about how content-protection works and you'll realize that an open-source alternative is totally impossible. The whole idea of content protection is limiting how people use digital media, and preventing them from copying it. This relies on a media player program that limits how people use that digital media. Obviously, this means that the player program is working on the "security through obscurity" principle.

    For instance, if the consumer is not supposed to make a copy of some streamed content, the player program accomplishes this by simply not giving the user that capability. If a particular media file is only supposed to by playable by a certain person on a certain computer, the playr program accomplishes this by looking at part of the file that gives it such instructions, and comparing them with something stored on the computer.

    Obviously, if you had the source code to a program which worked in this way, it'd be trivial examine that source and write a patch which disabled all the content-protection mechanisms. Open-source software simply cannot be used to limit people's freedom.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @01:48PM (#145137)
    > I just hope that Microsoft doesn't take control of the online porn industry, it's shady enough as is

    He: "Hey, baby, where do you want to go today?"

    She: "Ooooh, nice glasses! I love short men! Please fsck me!"

    He: "Fsck? No way, baby, haven't you heard, you can get cancer with that stuff? It's defrag.exe or nothin'..."

    She: "I suppose I have to register first, huh? Still, that's an Xcellent Penis, I'd pay $30 a month for some of that lovin', hon..."

    He: "Yeah baby, you know it's cheaper to get it this way than to buy it outright... 'sides you couldn't afford me without the subscription..."

    She: "God I love it when you talk dirty..." [ fade to black ]

  • All Your Base Are Belong To Us If you really didn't know that, consider yourself lucky. Where the hell have you been?
  • What happens when they make your cds "rip-proof"? See Here [].
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @02:02PM (#145140)
    > I guess mindshare is everything... and MP3 has it. Sorry AOL/MS.

    That's the part that still scares me.

    If MS really wanted to take over the world, they'd do to MP3 what they did to AVI.

    That is, they'd use the same file extension to represent dozens of codecs, many of which were proprietary.

    Download an arbitrary .AVI and ask yourself what you really have. It's pretty tough. YUV? IV31, IV41, IV51? 2.63? MPEG4v2? MPEG4v3? DivX ;-)

    Attempt to play an AVI with even one byte screwed up in Windoze Media Player, and it says "Nope, I won't even show you the video up until the corrupt part." (Sometimes you can get around this with File->Properties->Preview in the 'doze explorer, which just shows how brain-dead WindozeMediaPlayer is).

    So WTF does this have to do with MP3? Plenty.

    People like to swap files that end in the .MP3 extension. All Bill has to do is pay Thompson enough money, and buy the right to stuff whatever crap he wants into a file ending in .MP3, and stuff whatever brains he wants into Windoze Media Player to say "Ah, the file ends in .MP3, but it's actually a WinMedia or RealVideo file. I'll decode it accordingly".

    On the encoding front, it'd be easy for him to do the same thing - MP3Pro (different codec, same file extension, albeit with some backwards compatibility) from Thompson is already doing this. Bill could make his "music recorder" tool record in a proprietary codec, but save the file with the .MP3 extension.

    Within a month, clueless luzers would flood the pool of MP3s with these Windoze-only files that happen to end in ".MP3", and we'd be in the .AVI situation - "Damn, this thing won't play, what the hell codec do I need today" all over again.

    With .AVI, it was inevitable, as we had CPU speeds going from 16 MHz to 1.6 GHz - a factor of 1000 - and similar growth in hard drive sizes. We really can do better video today that we couldn't have fantasized about when the first .AVI codecs were introduced.

    But music? No thanks. MP3 at 320 is indistinguishable (for me and anyone I know) from CD. For most folks, MP3 at 192 is "good enough". For anyone - by definition - a lossless compression of the original .WAV is "perfect". We already have most, if not all, of the technology we're ever likely to need when it comes to "How can I make this compressed bitstream sound like the 2-channel stereo recorded on this CD".

    All that's left is to screw it up by embedding it in various DRM schemes. I dunno about you, but I think I'll pass on that.

  • AYBABTU = All Your Base Are Belong To Us !!!

    For great justice, go to the AYBABTU history page [] and download a music video or two.
  • by Starrider ( 73590 ) on Sunday June 17, 2001 @02:09PM (#145142)
    Not to mention that the Internet was developed with *our* tax dollars

    This is only true if you are talking about the old internet, the one used by the DoD and the defense industry. That baby was designed for national security and can withstand a nuclear strike. However, the modern internet, optical fiber based, was developed by the major telecommunications companies to increase voice traffic. Data traffic was originally secondary. I seriously doubt the companies like Cisco, Alcatel, and Lucent were using tax dollars to develop their products.

    and depends 100% on open standards and protocols

    Um, wrong again. Open standards don't really exist in networking or in telecommunications. Every vendor does things differently. The OSI model is NOT widely used and each vendor has its own implementation of what they want to do. Remember IPX? TCP/IP has finally taken over and dominated networking as Novell will now allow a server to run on solely TCP/IP.

    Lets get real people.

    We must find the Goldilocks zone.

  • Microsoft isn't trying to control anything based on merit or technical superiority.

    What a load of shite. The two main things talked about in the AOL/MS discussions are web browsing and multimedia. IE is technically superior to the competition. WMA is technically superior to MP3. WMV is technically superior to Real Video.

    Pretend all you want that Netscape's troubles were due to IE bundling instead of the simple fact that their code was crap, but the fact of the matter is that the real reason people switch is because Microsoft puts out a better product.


  • Personaly I'm going to stick with mp3 for audio, and mpeg for video. Since I runs a PC, a linux box, and a couple macs, this is the only way to go. Those are the only two formats that are truely compatable between these various systems. Or, at least the only ones that matter IMHO.

    While they may not be truely open source (I still shudder at that name (it should just be GPL folks)), I don't care. The formats have been toyed with enough that they are understood.

    Just my 2 cents
  • I know that a rational argument can be made that Microsoft has a desktop monopoly, but please explain how AOL is a monopoly.


  • Microsoft and AOL have (mostly) gotten their power fair and square.

    Bzzt. Sorry, if you'd read some balanced coverage of the antitrust trial you'd know that this isn't true.

  • Despite what all the naysayers say, I believe we are seeing a shift in Microsoft's support of open standards towards the better.

    Microsoft has always supported open standards well.

    They just don't use them in anything purely Microsoft. Any Microsoft user can easily receive things using open standards. Sometimes it is a little hard for them to send things in open standards.

    This is a battle royale over distribution of streaming media. In this case, Microsoft's format is already open. Neither format is a standard. Each side wants control over the server side, not the client side. Real wants to stay alive. AOL wants the streaming server marketplace to stay open. Microsoft wants EVERY server that streams audio to pay Microsoft. The same as EVERY web server.

    To do this they will support open standards on their client ends. But the servers will support things propriatary to Microsoft. They merely need adequate marketshare before beginning this practice. Then it will be free client upgrades for everyone, and the server pays the piper.

    Once the server is under control, leveraging the client can begin. It is all about making a buck, and slowly screwing the crap out of the consumer. The Microsoft way.
  • Well you can tell an obvious troll, but just to clarify:
    Mozilla supports PNG fully and has no problem accessing secure sites, Netscape 6.1 therefore has no problems with these features.

    ...and anyone who's actually seen IE2 will know this is an obvious troll and not a good one at that :)
  • I've noticed the same, and it's too bad because WMP sounds like shit at low bit rates (like talk radio stuff). Real started doing audio, and they really had that down, at least.
  • Not so much Anti-MSFT, just more anti-monopoly. This situation could well have been totally different.

    Imagine if it was IBM's OS/2 that became the number 1 desktop? Do you not think that you would be say this instead:

    "Slashdot is becoming less and less of a place of information and more a platform for anti-IBM, anti-corporation propaganda."

    Who knows in this case if MSFT would have taken a liking to Linux and made their own distro?

    You are of course correct in that corps have to make the most money available. The part you did not cover is what happens when it becomes to big and powerful, therebye halting consumer choice, killing off innovation and driving up prices? That is a hallmark of a Monopoly....

    So, yes most people here are angry at MSFT for those very reasons.

    >Many of slashdot's readers fail to recognize that Microsoft and >AOL are both responsible for making the internet accessable >to the normal, non-techie consumer.

    Have we forgotten OS/2 (you know, the one from IBM that got killed off)? AOL had clever marketing, just pour out millions of CD's....Indeed I remember the days before AOL, it was so easy to get connected via Compuserve. And if you were in the UK, Demon Internet was very easy too. Hate to say it, your remark was almost as bad as the one some people make about MSFT and paychecks...Sorry it could have easily been another company. And yes, we could easily be "hating" that other company.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2001 @03:28PM (#145156)
    Why should MS be forced or guilted into letting AOL into their OS distribution? Isnt Windows still property of AOL? I think MS should tell AOL to stick it - you want in? To bad.

    MS just did, that's the point of the article. And AOL wasn't the one forcing or guilting anything. They wanted to purchase a service from Microsoft, and Microsoft started making demands that AOL reduce the value of their product by removing support for a third party Microsoft competitor's media format. AOL declined and let the matter drop. Where is AOL forcing anything? Are the suing to get their software onto the desktop(they would actually have a valid case because Microsoft's demands are illegal)? No, they're simply letting it drop.

    I just cant see this in other industry's - "Walmart to have KMart section in every story". It just doesnt work for me.

    More like "Walmart to have clothing department". Yeah, you never see anything like that in real life. Hell, there's even a McDonald's in the one around here, which is probably a more accurate analogy.

    if competitors like AOL...demand access to their competitors product..don't have an OS (A), and you are a competitor to MS (B).

    Lemme guess, you're one of those right-wing authoritarian feudalists who call themselves free-market capitalists? You seem to know, but simply not understand, that America Online does not produce an operating system that competes with Microsoft Windows. Neither does Real. Let me repeat that for the thinking-impaired in the audience:







    You also seem to be under the delusion that AOL is trying to force their way onto Windows when by all accounts(except yours) that is not the case. Microsoft does not need AOL, Microsoft is not in any danger of going bankrupt if they don't get this deal, Microsoft owns the service that AOL wants. It is Microsoft that holds all the cards, and it is one of Microsoft's extra-market demands that is the sticking point in the deal, and it is AOL that chose not to play by Microsoft's rules.

  • Oh could I be so stupid !

  • It's already happening...witness mp3Pro.

  • > i for one believe that people should work and
    > co-operate together for the advancement of
    > computing not hide there favorite new advances
    > from other brilliant minds like one would hide
    > their new cheese burger recipe.

    that's it, i demand 'fatburger' release their cheeseburger recipe under the GPL.

    if they refuse, why, i'll just order one 'to go' and reverse engineer that sucker and post it all over the web.

    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Yea, MS is a pussy cat, and open standards pillar.. What are you talking about? It drives me nuts - each time somebody sais something bad about MS, there are always another somebody saing, you know - MS is actually has a very good a. OS b. Brouser c.Database d.Hardware e.programing tools d.whatever. If you like it so much then stay with them and pay them and shut up. There are other people who do not feel this way and they concerned whith MS using their desktop monopoly to control yet another market segment. Is it hard to understand? It is not about product it is about freedom of choice. How do you know that the product good or bad if you have nothing to compare with? It is that simple, so try to understand other people's point of view. O C@n@d@!
  • What? .wma (copy controled) is an open standard? .NET is open? Media Player is open? Their acknowledged plan is to replace media file formats with their proprietary one. And eventually, closing the architecture of the PC to make it impossible to copy certain files without authorization, files such as video, music, e-books...

    Their "innovative" hardware they mostly develop by acquiring companies, or purchasing interests in those companies. I don't recall many hardware innovations they claim over the last 20 years that weren't copies of someone else's ideas or products. Curved keyboards, mice, trackballs, all these things were made by someone else before Official Microsoft Innovative Products came along.

  • Microsoft's format is already open? sm edia/sdk/wm7sdkmac.asp

    This was largely a play to get all clients to use its format. Otherwise, REAL likely would have dominated the market. Microsoft specializes in giving free products to establish market dominance.

    The bottom line is that all clients can READ wma format (if they choose to). REAL format, OTOH, is patented. Therefore, only REAL clients can read REAL streams (or anyone else REAL allows to).

    This gives Microsoft an obvious advantage in the server market. Once they own the servers... it is all over.

  • Even if the court revisits the case, it will be 2010 by the time it wends thru the system again, and it will be far, far too late for anything at all to be done about Microsoft.

  • It's very simple to write a page to the standards that works in both Mozilla and recent versions of IE with NO browser sniffing code, you may have to ditch support for IE4 or add some code to cater for IE4 too (not difficult), but you should design pages to the standard spec, it'll then work in Mozilla, in recent versions of Windows IE (most standards are supported now) and Mac IE (which is more standards compliant than the Windows version), also not forgetting Opera.

    Been there, done that, have a personal site [] to prove it. As long as you're not using Nutscrape 4.x or earlier, it dishes out standards-compliant HTML. It's been tested with IE 5.5 and Opera 5.something on Win2K, a fairly old Mozilla on Win98, IE 4.01 and a fairly recent iCab beta on MacOS (7.5.5 on a Quadra 610...old school), and Lynx on Linux. Except for iCab, all the graphical browsers rendered the page more or less the same. The Lynx rendering also looks halfway decent (if I say so myself). I'd attribute iCab's problems to being a recognizes that the page uses standard HTML and CSS, but doesn't render it properly.

    (If my Apache sees that you're using Nutscrape, it runs the HTML through some "moronizer" scripts to make it displayable. It also displays a nag message that you need to get a real browser.)

  • Probably all we're like to see come out of this is another proprietary format that's designed to limit the consumer's rights and focus on making money for AOL/Time Warner.

    Exactly! It seems to me that AOL/Time Warner isn't anti-monopoly -- it's just that they want to be the ones with the monopoly. People complain, left and right, about how Windows ships with and forces you to install IE. But I've yet to see anyone point out the fact that Netscape's custom install does not let you avoid installing AIM.

  • If you like it so much then stay with them and pay them and shut up.

    If you like Linux [], FreeBSD [], Apple [] or any other platform so much, then stay with them and shut up. There are other people who do not feel this way and they [are] concerned with those operating systems being made to look like the end-all and be-all of computing while any interest in a for-profit company must be squashed. Is it hard to understand? It is not about product it is about freedom of choice.

    Amazing what your own words mean when turned around just a little bit.


  • "The only risk is that Microsoft might try to replace say, html, with their own proprietary system that only runs on Windows."

    In which case THEIR standard will fail. We've seen them fail with things like that before.

  • err...that was a joke, son. i believe as you do, i promise :-)

    Treatment, not tyranny. End the drug war and free our American POWs.
  • Once again, history is written by the victors. May we never forget that Microsoft's "Internet Exploder" was way behind Netscape in quality and only caught up by slowing Netscape down. Not that Netscape's code wasn't crap mind you ;)
  • I don't think that's likely. AOL bundles IE with its service in return for Microsoft bundling AOL's software (and an icon in a prominent place on the default desktop) with its operating systems.

    AOL and Microsoft might fight little battles over other things, but that particular informal agreement is too important to them to risk. You might see AOL attacking Windows Media Player and bundling Winamp instead, but you won't see AOL dumping IE - the little spot on the default Windows install is too valuable for them to do that (and conversely, having IE bundled with AOL is too valuable to Microsoft for them to dump the AOL icon/software in favor of MSN software).
  • Considering that they often lie, it could almost be a little gentle reminder. "We think 0% of the time would be 'well'" sort of thing. Whose definition of 'well' are we looking at here? *G*
  • The Mozilla coders at Netscape are still going strong. I believe that "backing away from browsers" was just bullshit spewed by an AOL exec.
  • Why did this troll get modded up?

    How is Real an open standard?

    How has Microsoft subverted Kerberos? Hint: They haven't.

    Why must Microsoft bend over backwards to integrate AOL's crappy software into Windows XP?

    You know, if AOL actually used open standards they wouldn't have to build specialized crappy software.
  • MP3 has various patent troubles... you're probably best going with Ogg Vorbis []: no patent problems, and the quality is improving every day.

  • I'm not sure that any of this is really news - at least it's not new. Microsoft has been battling to get a foothold for their music transport format for quite some time now. That they have a relationship with AOL is CERTAINLY NOT NEWS. That they behave as if their windows desktop space is a comodity to be bargained with shouldn't be news to anyone at all. There have been a number of articles on this subject.

    In fact, Microsoft - through implementation of HailStorm - is looking to find more virtual realestate to sell off or rent out, since windows desktops have physical dimensions. The solution here will partially be implemented with OfficeXP and will be firther implemented with WindowsXP. By moving services off the desktop and onto servers, microsoft is then only limited by the size of the enviromentally controlled warehouses they use for their server farms.

    Back to the main issue of media formats for a moment: I wouldn't be suprised to see a move by Microsoft to implement 'streaming only' restrictions into media recordings. This idea has been played with by several companies and recording industry organizations including the RIAA []. This is discussed in a vary good posting on /. [] which describes the RIAA's version of a Streaming-only service.

    I agree that this move by microsoft is yet another anti-competitive behavior, but I have ceased being suprised by Lord Bill's moves, a long time ago


  • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Sunday June 17, 2001 @07:45PM (#145210) Homepage
    believe me, im as baffled as you. +5 this ain't...

  • All this code really does is link to the Microsoft APIs. This doesn't make it an "open" format, because you cannot independantly reimplement the functionality of the APIs without Microsoft's "magic" DLLs and libraries. The APIs are open, the format itself and codecs are not. You will likely never see an WMA player on a non-supported operating system. Even the embeded player codecs are distributed in binary (ELF) format and can only decode 1 minute of data without properly purchasing licenses from Microsoft. There is absolutely nothing "open" about this, it's regular proprietary technology that is being heavily guarded, because as I said, failure to do so would probably undermine or weaken their "Digital Rights Manglement" selling feature to studios.
  • I'm surprised nobody else really commented on this. Read that line again in the article. Microsoft wanted AOL to sign a "Mutual Legal Release" which basically said they wouldn't take legal action against each other for the term of the contract.

    Would YOU sign an agreement like that with Micrsoft?
  • If MS really wanted to take over the world, they'd do to MP3 what they did to AVI.

    That is, they'd use the same file extension to represent dozens of codecs, many of which were proprietary.

    I would like to point out that this is by design, not M$ EvilDoing(tm)

    AVI, like Quicktime, is not a video and audio codec, but rather a file format that binds various tracks of data together. With AVI, it is audio and video. The actual encoding of the 2 tracks really doesn't matter. The same is true with Quicktime, although it is a lot more flexible.

    The Quicktime file format is open, but within that file there can be numerous tracks of different types, text tracks, Flash tracks, as well as video and audio tracks. Those video and audio codecs may be (and often are) proprietary encodings.

    Formats such as Quicktime and AVI are *designed* to bind separate tracks of data together, and leave the actual encoding of that to someone else.

    This is why when you download an AVI, it may have a mp3 as an audio track, as mp3 is real audio encoding, and it might have a DivX/Mpeg4 video track, which is real video encoding. AVI just binds these 2 together into a single file.

    While I admit, confusion would result by appending .mp3 to a totally separate audio encoding (which is definitely bad), AVI is not an encoding, and your comparison is flawed.
  • The whole point is that the talks for Microsoft to distribute AOL software and display the AOL icon have broke down, therefore the AOL icon is not gonna appear on the Windows desktop, so AOL have no reason to use IE.
    Microsoft wanted everything their own way and AOL weren't happy to agree, obviously MS thought that icon meant more to them than it actually did.
  • Is it just me, or does this COMPLETELY remind you of Antitrust. Is this first stage until MS Windows2k2 (W&MD Edition)comes out? lol W&MD being World & Market Domniation Edition :)
  • For any of you who have been breathing for the last decade or so, it should be obvious about the way M$ operates. The history of incremental co-option of sphere of influence should make it plain that while it might be music on the web today, it will be video on the web tomorrow. If you were Time Warner with a large content library, would you care to limit your distribution channel on the web to a single vendor? I think not. Especially when M$ has demonstrated that they love to get you, close off your exits and then put a gun in your face for more money. I can see it now: "Digial rights enabling? Well, that will be an incremental $$ and btw, for us to support it, you will have to upgrade to Windoze XPensive". Stay tuned gang. This one is going to get interesting. Can you imagine what might happen if AOL were to start to distribute a Linux that the average joe could use on those millions of CDs they send out??

  • As long as you write your own damn code you aren't 'forced' into using any license.

    With GPL this is not true. If you link to GPLed code your code is forced to be GPL. This may not be such a big deal with applications, but it can be a real pain when writing drivers. Linux doesn't have a binary driver interface. This is one of the reasons that you don't see Linux drivers for a lot of hardware that's out there, or that you see open source drivers that are missing large portions of the functionality that is available in the binary Windows drivers. A lot of companies aren't willing to give away to many secrets about technology they spent millions to develop, and the design of Linux combined with the GPL makes it difficult for them to hide that information. You can still do it, but it's more difficult. Your driver breaks as the kernel goes through minor revisions. Kernel patches for other packages can easily be incompatible with your driver. Supporting different distributions is even a challenge, so you end up supporting just Red Hat to keep support costs managable. Supporting Linux drivers is a considerable challenge, and in the end how much more hardware are you going to sell because you have a Linux driver.
    You want more Linux drivers, give us driver developers a binary driver interface. There is a price you will pay for them. You will end up with more closed source drivers, which is a serious issue for many Linux developers and users. Not only is there the philosophical issue of closed sourse software, there is the real issue of bugs in drivers can easily crash the kernel. A good binary interface will encourage programming styles which produce fewer bugs, but the simple fact remains that crappy drivers crash kernels, and if the source is closed, the only choice you really have is to not use it if it doesn't work well. Some companies aren't going to write open source drivers, or provide enough information for other to write them. It's up to the kernel developers to decide how willing they are to support binary driver developers. I heard that Linus is against a binary driver interface, though I have that information second hand, so I can't point you to a quote. If this is truely the case I don't expect a large increase in the number of device drivers available in the near future. Linux is a constantly evolving OS, so maybe the right time for a binary driver interface will come.
  • I have found that this has already actually happened.

    SoundAmerica [] used to (and I believe still does) encode .wav files as .mp3, but the file extension is still .wav. What this means, is that Windows Media Player, for which you need this special codec, can play these .wav files, but WinAmp has a hard time, because it thinks these are .wav files when in reality, they're .mp3 files with .wav extensions. (I once renamed one of them from .wav to .mp3, and while the quality was sub-par WinAmp played it fine.)

    In all this time, I have wondered who came up with this codec and this idea of making "MP3-encoded .WAV files." I was wondering if Frauhoffer would be interested in finding this out, but chances are, with Patent Madness striking business models these days, they probably already know.

    Chief Technician, Helpdesk at the End of the World

  • This is a horrible analogy because when the house is built you own it, you don't license it. This completely invalidates any argument you were trying to make with the analogy.

  • I see your point, but I have two questions...

    Why couldn't you just do what nVIDIA did with their kernel space driver and make a binary-only module which is compiled in with the actual kernel interfaces? This would allow future changes in the interfaces while still staying compatable with older drivers if support stops.

    (I guess this is rhetorical)
    Why must the hardware manufacturers worry about telling people about the interfaces to their hardware which doesn't have to give any information about any closed processes that occur inside?


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