Open source supremo backs MS as Apple sides with AOL

"Microsoft deserves to win this battle," says Eric S Raymond

Apple today poked a finger in Microsoft's eye by siding with AOL in the great Instant Messenger debate that has even had the great and the good of the open source community siding with the Beast of Redmond. Apple's deal with AOL, to support AOL's instant messaging (IM) service on the Mac, presumably by building it into the OS as a bundled app, is probably more about persuading AOL to better support the MacOS. True, the company offers its AOL software for the Mac, but usually many months after the Windows release. Still, it does help AOL's strategy of winning support by playing on anti-Microsoft sentiment. Part of the plan involved releasing the protocol for the IM service under an open source-style licence. Trouble was, it allowed Microsoft to get in there and develop its own IM client. Since then AOL has tinkered with the protocol with the effect that it has continually broken Microsoft's client, and others. It's that apparent support for open standards combined with a willingness to change those standards to prevent someone using them that stuck in the craw of open source guru Eric S Raymond. "When all is said and done, Microsoft is right on this one," he wrote. "Their intentions may be predatory, but if the history of open source and the Internet is any guide, we should back them to win this fight. "Microsoft... deserves to win this battle." Raymond makes a fair point. If you want anyone to have free access to your software, that must, by definition, include Microsoft. Otherwise it simply isn't genuine open source. Apple could certainly have timed its AOL announcement better -- as is very keen right now to attract the support of the open source world through Darwin, its open source cut-down version of MacOS X Server. So perhaps this is indeed a covert attempt to stick one over on Microsoft. So much for the $150 million investment, Bill is probably thinking right now. ® See also Mail wars: the Microsoft versus AOL square-off

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