The Microsoft perspective...

Robert S. Thau (
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 12:01:09 -0500

Microsoft's webzine, Slate, has a new monthly column on techie issues;
the first installment discusses "push media" (one of those enormously
hot topics at places like Internet World which will determine the
future shape of the net, and which the W3C is not visibly trying to
influence or standardize). The column is at

Of particular note is the last paragraph, describing the economics of
PointCast's local redistributor software, which first compares the
thing to a protection racket, then to drug dealing, and finally winds
up by describing it approvingly as a situation where "everybody wins".
This is certainly an unusual --- one might even say unique --- per-
spective on protection rackets and drug dealing. Indeed, you might
almost wonder where Pointcast learned to apply those sorts of tactics
in the software industry.

In case anyone doesn't believe me, here's the quote:

In fact, some corporations have
banned PointCast because it was
causing huge increases in their net
traffic. PointCast responded with a
piece of software for companies' central
computers designed to minimize its own
impact. And this one's not free. It's
almost a protection racket. You give
away your software free to a company's
employees. A few weeks later, you
saunter over and say, "Nice little corpnet
you've got here--too bad it's getting all
clogged up. Buy our software and we'll
keep it running smoothly." Once a
company buys that software, it is less
likely to switch content providers. So
maybe it's more like dealing drugs. Either
way, everybody wins: The employees
read their news, the company has a clear
net again, and it's a nice annuity for

Robert Thau