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TBTF for 1995-11-03: Blackbird flying in the dead of Net

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Fri, 3 Nov 1995 00:49:53 -0500

News from MecklerMedia Internet World: Bill Gates wants to take over the
world. (This is news?) Microsoft unveiled "Blackbird," which I'd been
hearing about for some months, believing (along with the rest of the in-
dustry) that it was Microsoft's code name for an authoring environment
for their proprietary network, MSN. No such luck. Microsoft now intends
Blackbird to displace HTML entirely as an Internet publishing platform.

This aggressive move is part of a rethinking of Microsoft's entire net-
work strategy, forced on them by MSN's slower-than-expected rate of

Blackbird is a new, powerful and flexible network publishing standard
of Microsoft's devising. I saw a demo at Internet World yesterday.
Blackbird allows the Web page designer to choose fonts, specify the
layering order of graphics, lay out multicolumn text, etc., etc. All
heady stuff for creative types long hamstrung by the limitations of

But HTTP servers can't serve it, and HTML browsers can't display it.

Firestorm a'coming. Watch the entire budding Net industry draw breath
and scream at Microsoft, "Not again you don't!" A replay of 1985 when
the budding workstation industry chose the X Window System and rejected
Sun's NeWS, after having swallowed Sun's NFS. (From which we're all
still suffering the indigestion.)

Comment from Randy Enger <renger at atria dot com> (1995-11-03):
Indigestion from adopting the X Window System or Sun's NFS? I would suggest both. And if pressed, I would say X is a worse problem than NFS to programmers (although probably the inverse is true for administrators).
I can't point you to any Web resources on Blackbird. Microsoft's home
page is silent. The search engines haven't indexed "Blackbird" yet,
except as it relates to the Paul McCartney song, and to certain exotic
pies, and to the spy plane that was Microsoft's inspiration for the name.
Followup (1995-11-06, 13:00 EDT): James Gleick has an article in the New York Times Magazine for Sunday 1995-11-05. It's a fascinating and in-depth look at Microsoft's growing (and perhaps now unstoppable) dominance; Blackbird is just one corner of the fabric he weaves. Check his home page <http://www.around.com/> over the next few days -- he says he may post the article there. (It's not up yet.)

>>From EPIC Alert 2.13 (1995-10-31):

Digicash's eCash is the one electronic-cash proposal that protects the
anonymity of its users, and can be proven to do so. eCash is a software-
only solution. Other proposals based on smart-card technology have been
moving forward. One such, Mondex, has put smart cards in the hands of
6,000 consumers in Swindon, UK, on the way to an eventual trial of 40,000.
Mondex is now being investigated by a British consumer-protection agency
because of false promotional claims that it preserves anonymity. The
action started when the Director General of Privacy International, Simon
Davies, filed a complaint with a local council. You can see the original
complaint at <http://www.privacy.org/pi/activities/mondex/complaint.txt>.

Talk about "No respect" -- sent in by Monty Solomon <monty at roscom dot com>.

On Oct. 26 a group of hackers who call themselves the "Chaos Merchants"
broke into Rodney Dangerfield's web site <http://www.rodney.com/>, re-
moving his home page and leaving in its place an obscene picture. The
Chaos Merchants have a reputation as rebels opposed to any commercial
ventures. They apparently resented Dangerfield's highly publicized site,
which was voted a "Cool Site of the Day" and has been written up in En-
tertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. The site was enjoying 80,000 hits
per day and has been a financial success, selling Dangerfield's videos,
books, films, and screensaver. It also plugged his wife's flower business,
Jungle Roses. Commented Dangerfield [bowdlerization by the editor]: "Talk
about 'no respect!!' First, my car gets broken into, then my house gets
burglarized, now my flinking website!! These flinkers are trying to make
a statement by this atrocity and I hope they are stopped!"

Two more privacy straws in the wind (for more see TBTF for 1995-10-24).

1. >>From Edupage (1995-10-31):

> According to a new Equifax / Louis Harris survey, almost 80% of U.S.
> consumers fear they've lost control of their personal information
> gathered by computerized information systems and 43% are concerned
> about marketers collecting information but even more (51%) are worried
> about government information gatherers. (USA Today 31 Oct 95 A1)

2. Nick Szabo argues from such statistics that there's hay to be made by
companies that take the high road on privacy issues pointing out their
competitors' privacy shortcomings. His article "Privacy Marketing" appears
on the TBTF archive by permission.

Zima's home page <http://www.zima.com/> has been making waves ever since it
opened its refrigerator door. Did you see them featured on NPR's Frontline
this week? Those guys are inventive. Here's a recent idea they've put into
practice to increase their hit rate, sent in by Scott Lawrence
<lawrence at world dot std dot com>:

> The home page for Zima (the pseudo-beer-like-beverage) has a running
> sweepstakes that any eligible Webmaster can enter -- copy a graphic from
> their site to yours and use it as a link back to them and you're
> entered in a weekly drawing for $1000. There are two graphics to choose
> from -- one gets you 1 entry and the other gets you 2. If you leave the
> link active for 2 months you get entered in a grand prize drawing for
> $5000. See <http://www.zima.com/web/webm.html>.


>>EPIC Alert -- mail listserv@cpsr.org without subject
> and with message: subscribe cspr-announce <your name> .

>>Edupage -- mail listproc@educom.edu without subject
> and with message: subscribe edupage <your name> .

TBTF alerts you twice a week to bellwethers in computer and communications
technology, with special attention to commerce on the Internet. See the
archive at <http://www.tbtf.com/>. To subscribe send the
message "subscribe" to tbtf-request@world.std.com.
Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.