Saturday, September 02, 2006

Microsoft, Adobe, and other thieves

I just tried my new version of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 (I work with 2000). The first thing that the program did when it came up was royally piss me off. It came up with a browser window to take me to a Microsoft web site to the latest useless "community news". How did it ever become acceptable for a random program to access the Internet without so much as warning me, much less asking permission?

I own this computer; I bought it for my own use. I also pay money for internet access. When Microsoft takes over my hardware and my internet access without my permission for their marketing purposes, I feel that I've been robbed. They have stolen the use of my property for their purposes. Not only have they used my property for their purposes, their purposes are directly opposed to mine because I actively and strongly want to avoid their marketing drivel. Microsoft is fully aware of the fact that some large percentage of their customers will be annoyed by this push marketing but they did it anyway because the theft is too small for anyone to do anything about it. I guess it's OK to steal if no one is going to prosecute you.

Lately, Adobe is doing the same thing. When you open a PDF file these days, you will see advertisements in the upper right-hand corner of the tool bar. Adobe is stealng from two different groups here; they are stealing from me the use of my hardware and internet connection, and they are stealing from the website with the PDF file the customer attention that the website has acquired (and customer attention is valuable property). I'm pretty sure that small software companies that post PDF files to describe their software and services didn't give Adobe permission to advertise possibly competing services on their own web pages. Yet that is what Adobe is doing.

Where is this going? Will I someday be unable to buy a computer that doesn't subject me to five minutes of advertising for every hour of use? Will all browser and pluggin companies follow the Adobe lead so that it becomes impossible to access any web site without being subjected to flashing banners and moving images trying to distract me from the content of the web site, even when the site itself has no ads?

What if every company involved in bringing me a web page starts to insert their adds on the page? That would include at least the manufacturer of my computer, my internet service provider, the publisher of my browser, the web hosting service of the web site, and some unknown number of intermediate computers between me and the web site. I could be subjected to four layers of advertisements (and privacy intrusions) just to access a simple web page, regardless of what the web page does.

Is there any stopping this gradual loss of control over my computer and my on-line experience?

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