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Did Microsoft Squelch Korby’s Reply?

[Sep 2, 2007] Note: Far more important than my speculative words in this post are those in Korby’s reply. I encourage you to read it and consider carefully what Korby communicates–professionally and openly. Yahoo! is quite lucky to have Korby joining their team.

Did Microsoft Squelch Korby’s Reply?
Some of my readers may recall a while back that I posted some of my thoughts about Microsoft’s Claimspace initiative. (See “Can We Trust Microsoft with Claimspace?“) In that post, I challenged the mind behind Claimspace, Mr. Korby Parnell, to lay out the case why we the Internet community (and more specifically, the part of the Internet community among whom I frequently associate, which includes open source and free software technologists, advocates, and other riff raff) should trust Microsoft to host a system that proposes to aggregate information that links to our personal, online reputations.

Shortly after putting up my post, Korby accepted the challenge, and posted a brief “my response pending” on his blog, which he titled “Trust Microsoft with Claimspace.” I was intrigued by how Korby managed to except straight from the title of my post to make a rather gutsy claim of his own. Not the dodging and runaround that I was expecting at all.

This ought to be interesting, thought I.

Now–many, many weeks after my opening salvo, and Korby’s immediate promissory retort–there has been no reply.

What happened? Knowing Korby’s passion for his project, I really doubt that he forgot about his commitment to reply. (I actually gave him a heads-up that was going to post my original inquiry on my blog. His reply was something to affect of a friendly “Bring it on!”) And, from my all-too-few conversations with Korby, I get a distinct sense that he groks the free software ethos fairly well, and respects it, too. So, I don’t think that Korby has decided that either the topic or the primary audience for whom I wrote my initial inquiry are not important enough.

Voids in public information force people to fill in the empty space with conjecture, and seldom does that lead to a positive interpretation of the facts. (To be sure, one learns this well from spending time in Novell’s ranks.) The lack of response to defend Microsoft’s trustworthiness and intentions with Claimspace leads me to suspect that Microsoft cannot provide a satisfactory answer to my original question.

Can we trust Microsoft with Claimspace? From what I can tell, the answer is no, we can’t.


3 Responses

  1. Interesting and fair comment.

    However, as someone who uses both open and closed source I dare say that most people don’t really care as long as things work–in the same way that, for now, the world accepts de facto US control of much of the world’s DNS.

    I’m not really persuaded the Microsoft is “evil” and I don’t mind paying my Microsoft taxes (in particular because much of Bill’s money goes to the Foundation and that’s a good thing), though I resent and find ways around the company’s UK ripoff pricing (double US prices). If power is clearly abused there’s always anti-trust legislation. The question of Microsoft’s trusworthiness has already been answered to the satisfaction of the Chinese government by allowing it and others to see code. Maybe this precedent will be relevant in future.

    Regulating rather than killing a prospective monopoly may be a better idea, especially if there’s no trusted alternative (and a zillion open source ones just illustrates why a dominant player in the market has its uses in the first place).

  2. Very shortly after I published my “You can Trust Microsoft…” post, I was informed that my team had been acquired by a sister team, inside Microsoft. A week or two later, I learned that our new management team had decided to suspend development of Claimspace to concentrate resources on projects of higher [perceived] importance. My public silence, on this matter, was thus occasioned by organizational change and tenuous project status. Aye, I could have published a theoretical response to your post, Ted, but I felt that doing so might put me–personally–at risk of “over-promising and under-delivering.”

    The decision to delay or cancel Claimspace played no small part in my subsequent decision to part company with Microsoft. Last week, in Sunnyvale, CA, I was baptized in purple Kool-Aid, squeaked out my first awkward yodel, and was rechristened kparnell, a Yahoo!

    I was raised to not say anything unless you’ve something good to say. With regards to Microsoft, I was honored to work there for 7-1/2 years with some of the smartest, most driven, inspiring, talented, and hardworking folks I’ve ever known. In many ways, I was sad to leave. For me, it was time. Would I consider returning? Someday, sure.

    Microsoft is a business. Like any business, their objective is to make money by providing products and services that people value enough to pay for them. Simple, right? Not always. Microsoft, like any successful business, often provides products and services of great value for which they seek no direct payment. Naturally, products and services of this type raise suspicions. My team was planning to provide Claimspace as a public good and I was hell bent on leather to hold us to our word. To draw from the previous commenter’s analogy, we planned to provide Claimspace to the world as gift, just as the United States government has provided currency control (through the dollar and interest rate regulation), Tang, Velcro, the GPS satellite system, and core Internet technology (through DARPA), to name a few, to the rest of the world…for free!

    If and when Microsoft (or anyone else) delivers Claimspace or a Claimspace-like system, I will read the fine print, CAREFULLY. I will engage with its creators, personally, to get to the heart of their objectives. Hopefully, I can challenge them as effectively as you challenged me, in this case. I applaud you.

    In concept, Claimspace is a place around which a market of opinion can be formed, by people like you and me. If and when Microsoft delivers Claimspace or a Claimspace-like system, it will be the custodian of those markets. Any system or agent that collects, stores, and disseminates information about the perceived credibility or reputation of an identity must itself be credible and trustworthy, beyond doubt. The governors of the markets that emerge from the activities of such a system or agent must be credible, trustworthy, and objectively transparent. Their failure to be and do GOOD will inevitably precipitate the collapse of the very market they hope to form and sustain, at the personal expense of their paying customers.

    Looping back to your question, “Can we trust Microsoft with Claimspace?”, I perceive a bigger question still: Can we trust Microsoft? If and when Microsoft ships Claimspace, I will feel much more comfortable saying “Yes” than I now do. With hegemony comes responsibility. Is Microsoft prepared to live up to its hegemonic responsibilities (to do good for all mankind), as its founder has with the establishment of the Gates Foundation? That remains to be seen, unfortunately.

    Korby Parnell

  3. […] was sorry to read here of the cancellation of Microsoft’s Claimspace–an interesting software application that […]

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