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MS Complaints, Google, and a Search Engine Mystery
Friday, October 31 2003 @ 03:03 PM EST

Groklaw's readers have noticed that MS's search engine in the US and its UK counterpart are providing noticibly different results. It began with a reader posting a comment about a NY Times story that Microsoft had been in talks with Google. Reader tcranbrook expressed alarm at the idea of a MS acquisition of Google and was the first to notice the search engine difference:

"As just a hint of what this would mean. A current search for Linux on google returns 58,500,000 hits. A similiar search on MSN - serach yields 419 hits. And the fourth from the top includes this gem:

Alternatives to Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP

What can we do to initiate and support a move for the DOJ to block any such aquisition? (Ya, ya, I know, we tried this before. But, we have to try again.)"

The Times story indicates that Google wasn't too interested, but what if they had been? Another reader then challenged the result, because a search they did came up with 16,206,703 results for a search for "linux". A third commenter pointed out that it was a matter of which country you used to search, that searching www.msn.com returned 419 results but searching www.msn.co.uk returned 16206703 results. Hmm. Does anyone have an explanation?

The odd thing is that searching for "microsoft" on the two engines resulted in the a wide disparity also, according to another reader:

"I wouldn't read too much into it. A search for 'microsoft' at msn.com returned nearly 4000 results, the same search at msn.co.uk returned over 20 million results."

Why is that not odd in itself, though? I tried searching for SCO, and the US search showed 48 entries; the UK showed 1,251,184. So they think Americans don't want to know as much as the UK? Is it a different search engine? Someone then tried searching for "linux services" on each and got this result:

"You're right. I ended up with the uk one because I just typed it into the address bar and let the browser auto-search it. Try this out: If you search for linux services you get 3134557 results on the US search (3119410 on the UK search). linux - 419, linux services - 3134557? What's actually going on here?"

My search for "linux services" showed 9,981 for the UK, 10,117 for the US. If I dropped the quotation marks, I got the same figures the Groklaw reader did. Google produced 136,000 for "linux services" and 14,700,000 if you drop the quotation marks. I also searched for Groklaw, and I got 7,439 for the UK; 7,816 for the US. Google produces 71,600. Some disparity in the US/UK MSN results wouldn't be surprising, because there could be differences in how many linux services there are in one place than in another, for example, but then you'd expect "microsoft" to show more results in the US search engine, logically, instead of the reverse. Maybe the UK search engine runs on Linux. (joke) Some of the differences are minor. But the wide disparity in some of the results is what we haven't figured out yet. There is an effort to create an entirely open source search engine, Nutch, I have learned.

While they investigate, and in response to requests for this information, here is how to file a complaint regarding the MS antitrust matter. There was a status conference with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly on October 24. She expressed concern that so few companies had signed up for the Microsoft license and she has asked the government lawyers to look into the reasons why and has scheduled another hearing for January when they will report their findings:

"'I think all of us had hoped for more agreements,' Kollar-Kotelly said. 'I am interested in finding out why we don't have more licensed products.'

"The judge said nine companies that already signed agreements 'look like it's pretty much the heavy-hitters.'"

Er, maybe because it costs $50,000? One of the nine companies that signed up is SCO, which only recently signed on for a license. The article continues:

"The judge urged government lawyers to interview companies that decided against licensing Microsoft's technology to determine whether the court should require changes to Microsoft's terms. She said it was unclear whether competitors were unhappy with those terms or simply not interested, adding 'there's not much we can do about that.'"

Evidently she would like to understand what is the bottleneck. The Interim Joint Status Report on Microsoft's Compliance with the Final Judgment, which Microsoft helped to write, and which you can read here, put a rosier spin on things, but evidently the judge wasn't sold, at least without further information. Here is part of what the report says:

"Second, the goal of the Court's remedy was to provide a new opportunity for developers, i.e., to ensure that any developer that wished to do so could develop products that would interoperate with Windows using Microsoft's protocol technology built into Windows. As the Court described, Section III.E , 'ensures that ISVs will have full access to, and be able to use, the protocols that are necessary for software located on a server computer to interoperate with, and fully take advantage of, the functionality provided by any Windows Operating System Product.' United States v. Microsoft , 231 F. Supp. 2d 144, 190 (D.D.C. 2002) (quoting the Competitive Impact Statement prepared by the United States). (6) That goal has been achieved. Microsoft has identified all of the relevant protocols, created more than 5,000 pages of technical documentation describing them, and made available licenses granting licensees the necessary intellectual property rights to implement Microsoft's protocol technology in their own products.

"The Final Judgments, of course, bind only Microsoft and thus do not compel third parties to take protocol licenses nor obligate Microsoft to obtain any specified number of licensees. The focus, rather (as described above), is on creating an opportunity for developers to use the relevant technology if they wish to do so. The licenses that Microsoft has made available effectuate those goals.

"In considering the significance of the number of third parties that have opted, to date, to take licenses, it is important to bear in mind that developers have never needed to license Microsoft's communications protocols in order to interoperate with Windows clients. Third parties can (and routinely do) build products that interoperate with Windows using their own protocol technology or using industry-standard protocols that are built into Windows (as to which no license from Microsoft is needed). The Final Judgments successfully ensure that, in addition to these alternatives, industry participants also have the option of licensing Microsoft communications protocols on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The fact that a larger number of third parties have not licensed Microsoft's communications protocols accordingly does not evidence either non-compliance by Microsoft or a failure of the Final Judgments to achieve their purpose. . . .

"Microsoft has received eleven inquiries and complaints since the July 3, 2003 Joint Status Report was filed with the Court. All of these inquiries and complaints were received through the Web site Microsoft established as described in the last Joint Status Report. As with prior inquiries and complaints received, virtually all of these matters were entirely unrelated to any of Microsoft's compliance obligations under the Final Judgments.

"Only one submission related to Microsoft's obligations under the Final Judgments. It raised a general question about the affordability of the royalties under the MCPP for smaller developers. As to this single submission, Microsoft had already restructured the royalties under the MCPP as a result of feedback it received from the Plaintiffs and third-parties, thus addressing the question raised by this one individual. In addition, as discussed with the Plaintiffs, Microsoft recently undertook even further steps to make it easier for smaller companies to obtain licenses under the MCPP. Of the remaining submissions, four related to class action litigation, four related to product use issues, one related to an ISV's development of an application for Tablet PC, and one raised a general issue about the manner in which Microsoft develops its servers, Web sites and tools."

MS's legal news page says not a word about the judge's reservations. The report has a couple of interesting footnotes. In one, footnote 4, in discussing MS's ad campaign touting its efforts, it says that the company "contacted more than 20 journalists following the launch of the ad campaign to encourage further press coverage of Microsoft's efforts." So, if you wonder why there are so many FUD stories in the tech press, this may be an answer. Not that it's a crime to contact the press. But it shows that contacting more than one or two would be necessary to counteract a FUD campaign. Footnote 5 says this about the companies that signed up:

"5. The Plaintiffs have also questioned the MCPP's progress by noting that three of the eight current licensees (NetApp, Starbak and Cisco) previously held licenses from Microsoft or had other relationships that provided them with rights to earlier communications protocol technology."

Obviously, SCO has a relationship with Microsoft as well, and the AP story notes it:

"To entice more companies to license its technology, Microsoft previously agreed to reduce from $100,000 to $50,000 a prepayment from rivals and reduce the price it charges so that it collects 1 percent to 5 percent of the revenues of the software that includes its technology.

"Since that change, only five more companies have signed licenses with Microsoft, including the Utah-based SCO Group Inc., which has separately threatened to sue companies using the Linux operating system unless they pay a licensing fee."

Not all of us were positive how "separately" it is, after seeing them on this short list.

So, if a person wanted to file a complaint, where can you do it? I looked around and here is what I found. You have a number of choices, which you can evaluate as to how likely each entity is to act on your complaint and also according to the nature of the complaint, but it all seems to end up in the same pot eventually if it's about the antitrust case, so there is no need to file with all of them, with the exception of the information on contacting Massachusetts, which seems worth doing no matter what else you do. First, the states have a very informative page, which lists pretty much all you need to know. You can file a complaint with them using their online form. The settling states have coordinated enforcement. There were two settlements, and you can read the judgments on the California settlement and the New York settlement. Here is what the coordinating states page says you can do:

"If you believe Microsoft is violating either of the state final judgments, you can file a complaint by submitting an on-line complaint or by mailing a written complaint (along with supporting documentation, if available) to:

"Coordinated State Enforcement of Microsoft Antitrust Judgments c/o California Office of the Attorney General 455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000 San Francisco, CA 94102

"Complaints filed above may be shared with the California Group, the New York Group, the Technical Committee and the United States Department of Justice ('USDOJ'). Complaints filed above must pertain to enforcement of the New York Group or California Group's Final Judgments. If you have a complaint against Microsoft outside of the scope of the state final judgments you should submit it directly to the individual government agency or agencies having jurisdiction."

Massachusetts is involved in monitoring the case and it has its own lawsuit still going forward, and on this page, here's what they suggest:

"In 1998, Massachusetts, together with a group of states and the United States Department of Justice, filed a civil law suit against Microsoft Corporation alleging antitrust violations. In 2000, the Court found Microsoft liable for maintaining an illegal monopoly in personal computer operating systems. In November 2002, following an appeal and several court hearings, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a judgment in the Massachusetts case prohibiting Microsoft from continuing certain unlawful conduct.

"Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly is seeking stricter and more rigorous restrictions on Microsoft's business practices than those put in place by the Court judgment, and has asked the Court of Appeals to consider the matter. Massachusetts is scheduled to argue its appeal in November 2003.

"Even though Massachusetts is pursuing a further remedy, the Massachusetts Attorney General is working to ensure that Microsoft complies with the injunction issued in November 2002. If you or your business have a complaint about Microsoft's business behavior or practices, please complete a Complaint Form (File Size: 26 KB) and forward it to the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division, One Ashburton Place, Boston, MA 02108-1598, Attention: Kenneth Miller, CPAD. If you have a complaint against Microsoft, you also may call Kenneth Miller at (617) 727-2200 ext. 2965."

There is also the Technical Committee, which "investigates complaints from third parties concerning Microsoft's compliance with the Final Judgment". Complaints may be submitted via email to Complaints@TheTC.org . It is made up of three individuals, one chosen by the plaintiffs, one by Microsoft, and one by both together. The plaintiffs chose Dr. Harry Saal (Harry@TC.org) as their appointee to The TC, and Microsoft chose Franklin Fite, Jr. Those two then chose Skip Stritter (Skip@TC.org) as the third TC member. Complaints can also be filed with the Justice Department.

On the SCO v. IBM front, IBM has just served SCO with a third set of interrogatories and requests for documents, according to the court's docket page. It's clear IBM knows how to fight, and they intend to be victorious, whatever it costs, no matter how much effort is involved.


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