Bonum Certa Men Certa

The W3C and Fake Authority

Microsoft Shill - TE



Summary: Why the W3C is losing its way now that it is motored by Microsoft, Apple, and IBM (and headed by Novell's former CTO)

Timothy B. Lee (not Berners-Lee), a personal favourite as a writer on the issue of intellectual monopolies (whose opinions are similar to those of Berners-Lee), has published "Reputational Arbitrage" where he refers to "The Fine Line Between Legitimate Think Tank And Industry Shills" as Mike Masnick put it:



Tim Lee recently had an excellent post that deserves even greater attention. It kicks off by talking about how a series of groups that purported to be "free market" think tanks have, over the past few years, tried to become active in debates over copyright and patent law, often promoting stronger IP laws -- which seems a bit odd for supposedly "free market" operations, since intellectual property is a government-granted monopoly on an abundant resource -- or the very antithesis of a free market ideal. What Lee noted, is that these newer groups weren't really intellectually honest "think tanks," but rather were operations funded by certain business interests, set up to look like independent think tanks, and then trying to ride on the good reputation of the think tanks out there who are intellectually honest...


We have already written about Microsoft's (mis)use of so-called "think tanks". Even days ago we saw somewhat of an upcoming example. Basically, people in the IT sector must always remember that Microsoft admits stuffing panels [PDF] and even bribing to get its way. It's all part of entryism at large. There is nothing too far fetched about it as it's done in many other fields by other companies too (Monsanto for example).

To give just one example, consider the Yahoo hijack and watch this new infographic of Yahoo. In particular, it is worth seeing how Microsoft's arrival at the scene destroyed the company and made it Microsoft's vassal. It helps show just how destructive Microsoft can be inside in the industry, ruining and breaking things (eliminating rivals) rather than creating new things (actual productivity).

To give a more recent example of apparent entryism, see this recent story about the W3C. Apple and Microsoft both have too much power in there and it causes problems on the Web. A few days ago we found this Microsoft and Apple apologist bashing web standards and defending proprietary extensions like Microsoft's and Apple's. Quoting just a portion:

Another of the trends underlying the supposed death of the web is the shift from web standards to proprietary languages for developing networked applications. This is exemplified by the iPhone app ecosystem, which is inhabited largely by apps that could be websites but have been implemented instead using Apple’s Cocoa Touch API. I touched on most of the justifications for taking this approach in my previous post. Basically, it was the shortest path for Apple to get to where they wanted to be in terms of features and tools. Conspiracy theorists might claim that they also wanted to maximize lock-in by making it harder to port apps to other platforms, doubtless citing Apple’s decision to ban third-party development environments for iOS. There’s probably some truth to that as well, despite the fact that they ended up relaxing these restrictions.


Some people have been trying to give credit to Apple for Flash abolishment, but almost no company restricts cross-platform portability as much as Apple. It totally ignores all the Free operating systems (with Free software at their core) for sure, based on the fact that Apple ignores their existence. The GPL too is still disliked or dishonoured by Apple. When the W3C tells us that MPEG-LA patents have room in HTML5-compliant documents, one must remember the note about "fake authority". Given what the W3C does to ISO at the moment we have plenty of reasons to just label the W3C a compromised (as in hijacked) 'think tank'. We warned about it when Novell's Jaffe was appointed as its head. Jaffe's history, which includes the Novell-Microsoft patent deal he co-architected, speaks for itself.

Techrights believed that it's time for Berners-Lee to come back to steering/heading the W3C and restoring sanity to it. Berners-Lee, a longtime follower of figures like Richard Stallman, has left his 'baby' in the hands of the very same people whose work is antithetical to Stallman's. For instance, all the chairs at the W3C are occupied by companies whose policy is pro software patents, which Berners-Lee called "a terrible thing" at the end of last year.

Tim Berners-Lee
Image from Wikimedia

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