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Re: Bad News on IE6 XML Support


I use a lot of Microsoft products and consider myself one of your customers.

As a customer, I can tell you that I was not happy when I opened up one of
my XML documents (which renders fine in IE) in newly-installed Netscape 6.1
and Netscape crashed.  I wasn't quite sure whether it was a Netscape problem
or a problem with my document.  As it turns out, its not a Netscape problem,
it is a problem with illegal characters in the document (again, which
renders just fine in IE).

There are a number of people who have posted on this list who have more
technical expertise than I.  I believe they have made a number of excellent
ponts, to the extent that having followed this thread, I think the

Joshua  Allen wrote:

>A. Allowing users to look at "broken" XML files in the browser without
>   fatally failing, when those documents contain low-range ASCII
> characters.

This is bad.  See comments below.

> B. Failing when users try to view XML in the browser, when there are
>  characters above 0x10000.

This is bad.  See comments below.

> C. Not recognizing a mime type which does not exist, and recognizing
>   another that also does not exist, but is used in most browsers.

I think you've made your case, at least until the mime type is registered.

> D. Being "mean and evil"

I don't think you, personally, are mean and evil, nor do I think Microsoft
is mean or evil.  Microsoft and its employees, like any other private
company, have an obligation to work for the best interest of the company and
its shareholders.  Although there are some social commentators that believe
companies should have a social concious and should look out for the greater
community good, companies do not generally have such an obligation.  The
obligation is to the shareholder.

The counterbalance to this obligation is that the company can be held liable
for certain negligent, reckless, and intentional acts, and there are express
prohibitions against engaging in illegal acts.  For instance, company
employees cannot commit fraud in the name of shareholders.  And, indeed, if
one does, then the company or the employee, or both, may be subject to
civil, or sometimes even criminal, liabilities.

Like it or not, in its pursuit of sharholder interest, Microsoft's behavior
has raised the eyebrows of U.S. Federal and State Government and now more
recently, the European Union.

Based on what I've read on this thread, I think "[a]llowing "users to look
at "broken" XML files in the browser without fatally failing" (your words
above) is the type of anti-competitive behavior that people, including your
customers, would like to stop.  What it means is Browser Wars II.   I'm not
an anti-trust lawyer, so I can't say whether it is anti-competitive in the
sense of violating U.S. Anti-trust laws, but I think it would certainly
raise additional eyebrows if DOJ laywers knew that Microsoft has made a
concious decision to deviate from a standard that it helped develop, that is
ostensibly agrees to, that it claims it adheres to in its marketing, and
that just happens to allow Micrsoft browsers to render a larger percentage
of "documents" than its competitor's browsers, when its competitors are
follwing the agreed standanrd and Microsoft is not.

Aside from anti-trust concerns, Microsoft might also want to consider what
other legal action might be taken against it.  Lawyers are paid to dream up
"causes of action" (i.e., ways to sue individuals and entiteis -- especially
entities with deep pockets).  Indeed, it is not difficult to see how these
facts would fit into a claims of fraud, misrepresentation, theft by fraud,
perhaps even products liability.

It is difficult to see how any one individual or company would sue
Microsoft.  However, there are class actions that can be filed when enough
companies or individuals are harmed by the same behavior or product.  To the
extent that Microsoft is costing people money and resources because they
must spend time supporting deviations from the standard (in any product), I
think Microsoft puts itself in a precarious position.  Yes, all software has
bugs.  But, an unintentional bug is much different than an intentional
decision to deviate from an industry standard.

When MSXML parses an XML file and finds an error, it know exactly where that
error occurred and what that error is.  As a Microsoft customer, I would
prefer to see a pop up box on a screen telling me what the problem is with
my document and a link to a help file that tells me how to fix it, rather
than have to keep up with all the variances in browsers from now until
eternity.  As a lawyer, if I were litigating, I would use this fact to
establish knowledge, intent, and the ability to remedy without great cost
and difficult, which as far as I'm concerned, is the fine line between a bug
and actionable conduct.

The bottom line, I think, is -- is it worth it?  Is it worth another browser
war?  Is it worth more litigation?  Is it worh the loss of goodwill in the
comunity and all the pot-shots on mailing lists and at conferences?

As an aside, the real, long-term solution to this sort of problem is a
neutral organization that does conformance testing and brands products with
a seal of approval.  Conformance testing is not a Microsoft problem,
however -- it is a community problem.


Winchel "Todd" Vincent III
Attorney and Technical Consultant
Project Director, E-CT-Filing Project
Georgia State University College of Law
US Phone: 404.651.4297
US Cell: 404.822.4668
US Voice Mail: 770.216.1633
US Fax: 770.216.1633
Email: winchel@mindspring.com