Internet Public Health and the Supercomputer of Evil

Ed Felton thinks that it’s not obvious if Microsoft did or didn’t make the right decision when it recently announced that unlicenced copies of Window’s won’t get security updates.

I, on the otherhand, think it’s reprehensible. Microsoft made a calculated business architecture choice over the last few decades. A choice that made perfect sense, at the time. They adopted a worse is better approach to products to capture a stronge network effects around their products. This strategy meant that rather than get it right they again and again had to get it to market fast. It meant that again and again if some initiative didn’t get traction they left it half finished and moved on to the next round in the game. This design choice about how to run the business was perfectly rational and it was a wise choice given the pace of technology change.

This worse is better platform stategy turns out to have had a really bad side effect.

Today it’s clear. Microsoft’s platform legacy: they have created the worlds largest supercomputer, one that only evil people can utilize. Microsoft has become the sloppy platform of evil doers.

Who bears the cost of this foul up? Well I have six thousand spams in my email client right now. My firewalls get hit a few times a second with attack attempts. i’m not unusual. Every single person in the net is paying the price of Microsoft’s miscalculation.

So clearly it’s offensive of Microsoft to decide that it won’t try to clean up the mess. Failing to provide updates to unlicensed copies of their software has to negitive externalities. First it punishes the folks that stole a copy of Microsoft software. Secondly it punishes the entire public Internet. The second externality clearly outweights the first. The first only makes sense if you: don’t believe that Microsoft has used differential pricing carefully to achieve stronger network effects; that Microsoft has very high quality models of who has legal licenses; and that vigilante enforcement of property rights is ethical.

But then, I suspect that Microsoft wouldn’t mind in the least: fouling the nest of Open Internet; making it unlivable; and push the majority of users into their proprietary bubble.

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