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Joel on Software

Passport Responses

by Joel Spolsky
Friday, July 28, 2000

My article Does Issuing Passports Make Microsoft a Country? seem to have hit a nerve. Here are some quotes from the responses I received. I can't resist mentioning one fact: out of the dozens of emails I received, only one supported Passport, and that was from a Microsoft employee. Which just goes to show how powerful the Microsoft Reality Distortion Field gets in Redmond.

Microsoft controls PassPort and.. they control Frontpage, arguably the most popular web management software. How much time before they put "Passport extensions" into Frontpage that will make your and my website part of the PassPort network? It's not just Microsoft sites, they'll know all about you if you visit competitors, mom-n-pop shops, porn sites, etc etc.

-- Jacob Levy

That's scary stuff. Enough so, that I've added an entry to my local DNS server which says *.passport.com is a CNAME for 127.0.0.1. Interestingly enough, most MS sites quit working, but I'm pretty sure I'm off their radar now.

-- Dave Polaschek, Polaschek Computing

What Microsoft is doing is what every ad banner network has been doing for ages: spying on you. Ever since the cookie was integrated into most browsers, there has been zero privacy on the net, ethical or not.

-- Nick Bauman, WebHelp.com

Following on from your M$ Passport article, I have not seen anybody talking/writing about the fact that the M$ cookie-cutter "initiative" that has got DoubleClick and others so riled, is just another stick to lever business onto Passport, because it will be one of the few ways to achieve what cookies do (and worse obviously) without them.

-- Robin Benson

The new MSN 6 beta browser (downloadable from msn.com as "MSN review 1") does in fact eliminate this step. To use the browser you have to enter your Hotmail ID and password. Then you are treated to a flashing white bar and a message that says "signing in...". After that, access to MSN, Hotmail etc is seamless... no signing in or out.

-- Prasenjeet Dutta

Do you think the alternative: typing all of your information every time you log into a site and having so many passwords to remember is acceptable?

Do you use multiple credit cards so that no one credit card company knows your purchase habits?

Wouldn’t you prefer targeted ads (e.g. houses for sale in Jerusalem) to the random ones—given that you’re seeing ads anyway?

Single identity is the #1 feature of AOL and Amazon (why else would you pay more for toys from Amazon?)

It’s silly to suggest the theoretical concern that one day the system will try to charge you more if you have money—(a) first of all, that’s true today anyway (if you buy an item from a high-end retailer targeted at wealthier folks you will pay more than if you bought the same thing at Target), but (b) the web makes it so easy to compare prices that Expedia couldn’t get away with your scenario. And, passport requires a log-in, so it’s easier to hide your Bankruptcy book purchase from passport than it is to the credit card companies.

Someone has to solve this problem. If you think you know a better way, then that would be a much more interesting article…

-- An [anonymous] 10 year Microsoft veteran


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