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I cut Microsoft out of my life, or so I thought

Goodbye Big FiveJournalist Kashmir Hill spent six weeks blocking Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple to get their money, data and attention, using a personalized VPN. That's what happened.

Week 4: Microsoft

When I initially planned to block all the technology giants of my life, I had not planned to include Microsoft, especially since Microsoft is, these days, at least, rarely at the reception of criticisms of destroying civilization as we know it.

The days of Microsoft as a supervillain of technology are a distant memory, dating back to the 1990s when 20 states, along with the US Department of Justice. They met as Voltron to take the technology company for violating antitrust law.

But then I remember that Microsoft is a web hosting giant when I see news in August that threatened to attract its hosting services from Gab due to the anti-Semitic content of the social network. And since November, Microsoft competes with Amazon and Apple with the title of most valuable public company in the world. This all forced me to admit that Microsoft still deserves its inclusion in the "Frightful Five" along with Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple. If nothing else, I think, will be interesting to see the long-term effect of antitrust repression of decades: It would be easier to block Microsoft because the government tried, at the beginning of the 21st century, to prevent unjustly dominating the computer industry?

To prevent it from using any of the Microsoft services, connect my phone, computer and smart devices to a custom VPN designed to me by the technologist Dhruv Mehrotra; It blocks the 21,573,632 IP addresses controlled by Microsoft. If you are like me and use Mac exclusively, you may think that Microsoft does not use it many times. But social workmanship-LinkedIn, Skype and Github-as well as a great distraction of work in the form of Xbox work. During the block, I can not use any of them, nor can I connect to websites and applications hosted by Microsoft Azure, its fast-growing expansion activity.

Although I do not use any Windows machine, do not have a Xbox and do not have access to Microsoft Office for document creation, the company is still complicated to block, not so much online, but in the real world, where Dhruv and its VPN do not me they can help. In a surprising example, I ran into Redmond's giant in my car – a Ford Fusion 2015, which I have of a long-term rental service called Canvas. I was taken for weeks but only now I noticed a poster on the center console with a colorful four-frame logo that reads, "SYNC, powered by Microsoft." It turns out that Microsoft technology boosts the car entertainment and navigation system, so I have to drive to work in silence.

(This is really one of the latest models of Ford where that is the case; Ford dumped Microsoft because its software was too problematic. Now Ford offers Google and Amazon services. "Ford and Alexa, a game made in the sky," says Ford website, which sounds like nothing, but my idea of ​​the divine.)

When I tell Dhruv about this, it indicates that there are many other places where we could be using Microsoft services without realizing it, such as when I bought coffee at a coffee shop that uses Windows as the operating system for its payment system or when using the transport public that uses Microsoft to feed their back-end services. As the New York Times points out, Microsoft is "primarily a technology provider for business customers."

This means that Microsoft is virtually impossible completely Avoid without completely withdrawing from society, which, at least for me, is not an option. As Amazon was inevitable on the web, Microsoft is inevitable IRL.

So Microsoft is in many ways a company "B2B" these days, and it is undeniable that I trust services at some point this week that we use yours Services when sponsoring restaurants, cafes, stores or any other place where monetary transactions occur. But in terms of direct consumption of Microsoft products, this is the easiest week in my giant technology blockage experiment so far. Microsoft is still a giant, but its impact is difficult to measure in this experiment, because many of its billions of dollars come from products like Windows servers that are used to administer government and corporate infrastructure, instead of being used directly by consumers.

I do not say that consumers do not use Microsoft products on a large scale: Windows still accounts for 40 percent of all operating systems that access US government websites, including iOS and Android, which is a good indication of its general prevalence It's not just a problem for this consumer As I admitted in the introduction to this series, it reflects my own technological prejudices. Avoiding the company while it works in society is probably impossible, but that is it possibly, I think, to avoid personally using Microsoft products.

Perhaps this is the way things would go independently of what happened in the nineties. Maybe this was the type of business that Microsoft was destined to do. Or maybe, if the government did not intervene for decades to prevent Microsoft from mastering the world of computers, we would still be using Microsoft Hotmail and the surfing friend who feeds the Microbook and publishing our photos in Microgram and Binging. concern

This antiquity of antiquity from Microsoft decades ago was complicated and abrupt in the way that any legal issue is, but that was reduced to a very simple catalyst. Windows was the dominant operating system 30 years ago, as it is already on PC today and the Internet just started to develop. In 1994, a company called Netscape launched a popular internet browser called Navigator that was sold for about $ 50 and Microsoft decided to download it.

To try to secure its domain in the growing business that was Internet, Microsoft developed its own Internet browser called Internet Explorer, it was returned for free and insisted that it be packaged with Windows. So when you bought a computer – which was probably operating Windows because most computers did – you would get Internet Explorer installed by default in the same way that you get Safari preinstalled on your iPhone or Google Play Store preinstalled on your Android phone, which has Internet Explorer has a distinct advantage.

Microsoft was using its powerful control of the supply line of the computer operating system to its domain controlling people's Internet experience (Netscape eventually also made a free Navigator, helping to establish the bases for an internet where almost everything is "free" but monetized in our place our attention and the data). The regulators worried that Microsoft used its dominant position in the software industry to crush competitors and competitors, and so demanded.

To give Internet Explorer people free of charge was seen as, ultimately, harming consumers, which is a version of the antitrust law that US regulators abandoned in their majority, although activists such as the Open Market Institute are pushing for he re-embraces It is an approach that Europe has adopted recently, as evidenced by its anti-trust repression in Google last year; European regulators fined $ 5 billion to make their search engine default and include the Google Play Store and the Chrome browser for free on Android operating systems, which are used in 80 percent of smart phones.

The government originally hoped to break Microsoft into two companies (one that made operating system software and another that operated the rest of its products), which is similar to what business technology critics demand for companies such as Facebook and Google.

But the only concessions that the government finally obtained from Microsoft after a long-running battle were the promise of not conspiring to prevent competitors from being excluded from new computers and the commitment to make Windows interoperable with non-Microsoft software. Still, this was significant, according to law professor Tim Wu and US senator Richard Blumenthal, who wrote in a New York Times that the concessions opened the door to the rise of new technology companies:

[W]What we know is that the remedy pushed Microsoft to act more cautiously, creating an essential opening for a new generation of companies. It could seem a cruel irony that immediate beneficiaries of the antitrust case of Microsoft – that is, Google, Facebook and Amazon – have now become imbeciles. But this way the cycle of innovation works: it creates space for parrots to become giants, but it prevents giants from being crushed by the next generation of soaps. (Microsoft was, at the beginning of 1980, the beneficiary of another antitrust case, against IBM, the colossal computer of its time).

The new technology companies that thrived because the government accelerated the growth of Microsoft are now dangerously large and powerful, according to antitrust critics. But regulators, at least in the U.S., have raised very little concern about monopolies. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple have combined more than 400 companies and start-ups over the last decade, without any purchases faced by regulators, as the Wall Street Journal points out.

"Today's titans on the tower of their realms, safe behind their user data walls and benefiting from extreme network effects that make the competition serious from the startups is almost impossible," wrote Antonio García-Martínez at Wired recently about lessons learned from the legacy of Microsoft. "US Antitrust laws, written in the industrial age, do not capture many of the new realities and the potential dangers of these vast empires of data. Perhaps they should."

Throughout the week blockade to Microsoft, my devices try to send more than 15,000 packets of data to the company's servers, or the amount of data they attempted to send to Facebook when it was blocked, not much in comparison to Google (more than 100,000) or Amazon (almost 300,000). Most of the interaction with Microsoft is a constant flow of about 1,000 packages every night that mistreat me and Dhruv until we realize that when I open the application of my library to read before sleeping, an application whose data should be hosted by Azure. I could read what I had already downloaded: o Wheel of Time books, because they are a monster for fantasy series for TV, but due to the attempt to interact with Microsoft at the bottom as I do, I leave the book during the week.

I will reiterate here that this low level of interaction with Microsoft can be unique to me or, at least, unusual. Many readers probably have a Windows machine at work or they will see their favorite programs on a Surface tablet or use Outlook for their corporate email and they would not find the Microsoft block as simple as I did. Even I, who thought I only trusted Microsoft for LinkedIn, Skype and, apparently, the radio of my automobile, was carried out through this exercise that probably interacted with him in the real world, at cafes or paying the fare on the bus, in ways that I could not capture this week.

The big difference between Microsoft and the others in the Big Five is that they have been forced into the shadows while others operate freely their respective empires on our faces all the time.

So, if the conclusion is that I can live (without a doubt) without Microsoft today because of the anti-monopoly repression of the government in the 90s, the question is what the government should do now about the behemoths. I am discovering that I can not live without it.

Next: Apple

This series was supported by a Dhruv Mehrotra grant from the Eyebeam Center for the future of journalism.

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