The 1996 Controversy about the 10-Connection Limit on TCP/IP in NT
The Ten-Connection Limit in NT Workstation. My open
letter to O'Reilly customers urged them to spread the word that Microsoft's
limits on the use of TCP/IP in NT Workstation was an attack on the freedom of
individuals to publish on the web. Microsoft later responded by claiming that
this policy was based on technical differences between NT Workstation and
NT Server, a claim that was proven
untrue by Andrew
Schulman and Mark Russinovich. In followup, Microsoft backed down to an extent,
by removing the technical limit, but keeping it only as
a license restriction. Andrew Schulman provided further background on the
controversy here. Unfortunately, many of the links in his article no
of my Open Letter to Microsoft, and Microsoft's press release backing down a
few days later. Internet.com's Intranet Design Magazine conveniently
includes the text of the open letter I wrote to MS, followed by a copy
of their July 19, 1996 press release announcing the removal of the technical
(but not licensing) limits in question. Their editorial gives me
credit for the change, which may be a little overstated, since a lot of
people were ticked off about this.
I wrote a letter to the Justice Department, which
was published online as well.
In order to force people to use their product, Microsoft is now
telling people that it is violating their license to use web technology
(except in an extremely limited way) on any platform but the one on which
their server is bundled.
Not only is this bad for all Microsoft's competitors in the web server
arena, it is extremely bad for the World Wide Web as a whole, since it
institutionalizes a vision of the web that is extremely limited. In my
email to Bill Gates and to Jim Allchin (copies attached), I pointed out
that the Web is still in its infancy, and to set arbitrary limits on how
users should deploy it, based not on advantages to users but purely on
the basis of damaging competitors, could cripple this technology before
it ever has a chance to reach its full potential.
I would make the further point that Microsoft's claim that they are
able to set licensing terms for the TCP/IP protocol (which, as an interoperable
networking protocol, applies not just to their software but to any internet
software) is a subtle and dangerous extension to their licensing rights.
It transforms a licensing agreement covering a single company's products
into a licensing agreement for an entire family of technologies--technologies,
moreover, that Microsoft did not develop and has no proprietary interest
- A brief summary of my comments on CNNfn, 8/22/96:
"Speaking on CNNfn's Digital Jam, O'Reilly & Associates president Tim
O'Reilly said he was questioned earlier this week by Justice officials,
and that he told them that Microsoft is artificially trying to keep some
competitors' software from functioning properly on its desktop Windows
"O'Reilly said he's concerned by the fact that Microsoft -- which by its
own admission is somewhat of a late-comer to the Internet software
market -- is trying to take control of the global network. 'They're doing
all they can to take control (of the Internet). In the process, I think
they're damaging it pretty seriously.' ... Microsoft started creating a
showdown when it began bundling its Web server with Windows NT,
it's high-end operating system. Microsoft is reportedly telling companies
they can't use competitors' software on the NT workstation platform and
have sought to limit the use of standard Internet protocols with their
"'They're saying 'you have to use our platform the way we want you to.'
The vision they have is contrary to the way people want to use it. They're
saying we'll tell you how to use the Internet and saying the way we want
you to use it is the way that benefits our revenue the most.'"
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