Is Microsoft the Great Satan? (Old Version)
Many people think of Microsoft as the monster menace of the software
industry. There is even a campaign to boycott Microsoft. This feeling
has intensified since Microsoft expressed active hostility towards
In the free software movement, our perspective is different. We see
that Microsoft is doing something that is bad for software users:
proprietary and thus denying users their rightful freedom.
But Microsoft is not alone in this; almost all software companies
do the same thing to the users. If other companies manage to dominate
fewer users than Microsoft, that is not for lack of trying.
This is not meant to excuse Microsoft. Rather, it is meant as a
reminder that Microsoft is the natural development of a software
industry based on dividing
users and taking away their freedom. When criticizing Microsoft,
we must not exonerate the other companies that also make proprietary
software. At the FSF, we don't run any proprietary software—not
from Microsoft or anyone else.
In the “Halloween documents”, released at the end of
October 1998, Microsoft executives stated an intention to use various
methods to obstruct the development of free software: specifically,
designing secret protocols and file formats, and patenting algorithms
and software features.
These obstructionist policies are nothing new: Microsoft, and many
other software companies, have been doing them for years now. In the
past, probably, their motivation was to attack each other; now, it
seems, we are among the intended targets. But that change in
motivation has no practical consequence, because secret conventions
and software patents obstruct everyone, regardless of the
Secrecy and patents do threaten free software. They have obstructed
us greatly in the past, and we must expect they will do so even more
in the future. But this is no different from what was going to happen
even if Microsoft had never noticed us. The only real significance of
the “Halloween documents” is that Microsoft seems to think
that the GNU/Linux system has
the potential for great success.
Thank you, Microsoft, and please get out of the way.