14 July 2007

Microsoft's Advertising Framework

This says it all, really:

An advertising framework may reside on a user computer, whether it's a part of the OS, an application or integrated within applications. Applications, tools, or utilities may use an application program interface to report context data tags such as key words or other information that may be used to target advertisements. The advertising framework may host several components for receiving and processing the context data, refining the data, requesting advertisements from an advertising supplier, for receiving and forwarding advertisements to a display client for presentation, and for providing data back to the advertising supplier. Various display clients may also use an application program interface for receiving advertisements from the advertising framework. An application, such as a word processor or email client, may serve as both a source of context data and as a display client. Stipulations may be made by the application hosting the display client with respect to the nature of acceptable advertising, restrictions on use of alternate display clients, as well as, specifying supported media.

In other words, every app running on Microsoft's advertising-enhanced OS will spy on you so that those nice advertisers can push junk in your face. Thanks, Microsoft. (Via Slashdot.)


The Open Sourcerer said...

I like your blog a lot. You find some great snippets around the net and this one really makes me query the intelligence of the US Patent Office, and their laws... How on earth, can that be called "an invention". It doesn't strike me as unique, be unlikely to happen due to evolution, or have no prior art? Sounds like a typical page from google's content network if you ask me...


Glyn Moody said...

Well, I think the problem is that once you cross certain lines, this kind of stuff is inevitable. It's the same with software patents: if you admit them in princinple, deciding what is or isn't a real invention just becomes a kind of "angels dancing on the head of a pin" argument: it comes down to lawyers arguing niceties.

That's why I believe strongly that the only sensible solution is say that neither software nor business methods are patentable at all.

And to those who mutter darkly about "computer-implemented inventions" I'm afraid I just take the view that if you can't point to something new and analogue that you've devised, then it's just an idea/algorithm, albeit instantiated as software, and as such, not patentable.

Anonymous said...

Just because Microsoft is granted a patent, it doesn't mean they have to use it. So they could just license the idea to someone else. Or, possibly, they could claim they are playing the good guys and will stomp on anyone else who tries to use it. However, it's possible (and I'm not an expert in US patent law, so don't quote me) that US Patent legislation has a remedy (in commmon with some other countries) against companies that sit on unexploited patents, by allowing anyone to demand a licence of right, so this tactic would be pretty disingenuous.

Which of course highlights the fact that any piece of open source code which incorporated anything like this would have the offending portions ripped out overnight.

Which then led me to ask myself the question: when did Microsoft start actively inserting code into their products which hinders rather than assists the user? It occurred to me that this is a pretty subjective test as, for example, simplifying part of the UI could both help novices and hinder power users. So as a thought-experiment, it seemed to me that posing the question in the form "If the app in question had been released as open source, which bits would the community have ripped out to almost universal acclaim" is a useful way of thinking about it.

I was a huge fan of early Microsoft software: I thought the DOS version of Word was superb, as is Excel. So my vote goes to the "feature" in Outlook which prevents any third party app from accessing the contacts database (to sync with a mobile phone, for example). That, unfortunately, is the very small tip, of an implausibly proportioned iceberg.

Oh, and the refusal of later versions of Windows to format hard disks greater than 32GB using FAT.


- Andrew

Glyn Moody said...

Well, speculating about Microsoft's deepest intentions is probably not wise - that way lies madness.

Good point about the ripped-down open source test: it reminds us that with closed source, we just don't have that option. Like it or lump it....