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San Jose Mercury: Microsoft caught in 'dirty trick' vs. AOL

Aug 13, 1999, 21:15 (22 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Markoff)

"Microsoft Corp. acknowledged Thursday that one of its programmers apparently masqueraded as an independent computer consultant earlier this week in an effort to discredit America Online's tactics in the companies' quarrel over instant messaging.

Microsoft had reason to be red-faced about the incident -- first, because the company was unable to identify which employee had forged an e-mail message on Tuesday accusing America Online of irresponsible behavior and second, because whoever did it sent the message to the one computer security expert who was most likely to find a way to trace it back to Microsoft."

The ruse has added a bit of Spy vs. Spy melodrama to a bitter dispute over instant online messaging that American Online and Microsoft -- the world's two largest Internet service providers -- have been waging for several weeks. ... America Online executives say Microsoft is making illegal use of proprietary directory information that is essential to connect instant messenger users with each other via the Internet."

"Computer industry analysts said that the incident echoed a 1992 controversy in which Microsoft employees masqueraded as independent computer users and posted messages to public computer bulletin boards with opinions critical of IBM's OS/2 operating system, a product that competed with Microsoft's Windows. 'This is par for the course for Microsoft marketing,' said John C. Dvorak, a columnist for PC Magazine. 'In the past we called them Microsoft munchkins. It was a scandal.' "

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