Will Microsoft Hijack Web Pages?

by David Sims

Related link: http://cnet.com/news/0-1003-200-6210768.html

CNET and the Wall Street Journal are reporting on a devious little feature of Windows XP that lets Microsoft add hyperlinks within the browser. In effect, the reports say, Microsoft is assuming the power to "edit" other people's web pages, by making it appear to the user that these hyperlinks occur on the page.

This is somewhat similar to the Related Links button in Netscape's browsers, except that Microsoft plans to incorporate those related links directly into the text of a web site. Unsavvy users may think these links were put in place by the web site's author or publisher, giving Microsoft the power to hijack these unsuspecting souls back to Microsoft's own sites or, as likely, sites of companies that Redmond strikes a deal with.

I'm often the Microsoft apologist around these parts, playing the devil's advocate to my Open Source colleagues and taking the side of consumer acceptance. But this is certainly one of the most devious acts Microsoft has come up with in a while, and even I won't be able to support it.

If you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal online, you can also read Walter Mossberg's report on smart tags.

Help! As resident Microsoft apologist around here, even I can't come up with a defense for Smart Tags. I'm open to suggestions.