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Berners-Lee slams ‘blatant’ MS browser tactics

Good old, bad old days

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Tim Berners-Lee, The father of the World Wide Web and director of the W3C standards organisation, has attacked Microsoft over last week's blocking of people with non-MS browsers from using its MSN.com site.

In an email interview with CNET, Berners-Lee said: "Obviously this was a blatant attempt to use the leverage of some content to produce domination at the software layer."

He continued: "I have fought since the beginning of the Web for its openness: that anyone can read Web pages with any software running on any hardware. This is what makes the Web itself. This is the environment into which so many people have invested so much energy and creativity. When I see any Web site claim to be only readable using particular hardware or software, I cringe - they are pining for the bad old days when each piece of information needed a different program to access it."

Microsoft was widely criticised last week when users of other browsers including Opera, Mozilla and some versions of Netscape were unable to access the redesigned MSN.com site. They were given an error warning and advised to "upgrade" to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Microsoft initially blamed other browsers for their failure to comply with W3C standards - which really got people's backs up. Within hours MSN started working again with the other browsers and Microsoft changed its explanation. It was now "an error" and the company "took immediate steps to correct that mistake".

Berners-Lee is not impressed: "Control over a person's desktop and their browser is control over their whole Net-mediated perception of the world out there," he wrote. "It is very powerful."

CNET quotes several people touting alternative browsers who say that traffic and downloads from their sites have rocketed in recent days. You can read the full story here.

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