Google on Microsoft / Yahoo! Deal: "Wah!"
In case you've been under a rock, Microsoft appears to be trying to take advantage of Yahoo! Inc's recent poor performance to make an unsolicited offer (as far as I can tell, it's not a hostile bid until and unless Yahoo! officers declare that they will be fighting against it by offering a deal they think their stockholders will prefer) to buy the company.
Clearly, given Microsoft's intent to compete with Google, this is a great move for Microsoft - the Microsoft search engines have always lacked popularity compared to Google, and Yahoo!'s engines are still hugely popular. With Yahoo!'s large user base for other web pages, this acquisition amounts to a huge number of eyeballs to which Microsoft can expose their Internet product strategies.
Google, obviously, is a little perturbed by this.
How do they choose to express their concern?
By pointing to the openness and innovation which has underscored the Internet's development throughout the years, and which has been the reason that the Internet has remained popular and usable.
Now, I will definitely agree that Microsoft is known for locking up many of their most interesting innovations inside of patents.
However, the company is also very well known for contributing technical standards to the Internet body of knowledge as expressed in the Internet RFCs.
Let's see how innovative and open Google has been, by searching for "Google" in the Internet RFCs - let's see how many employees have written these open and innovative documents.
- RFC 4473: "...search engines such as Google." is the only occurrence - so it's not written by a Google employee.
- RFC 4646: Tags for Identifying Languages - authored by Yahoo! and Google employees.
- RFC 4647: Matching of Language Tags - essentially part II of RFC 4646, by the same authors.
- RFC 4657: Contributors include a Google employee
- RFC 4772: Notes that Google was searched.
- RFC 4693: An administrative note about the IETF, written by a Google employee.
- RFC 4838: Delay-Tolerant Networking Architecture - technically, Vint Cerf was a Google employee at the time, but appears to have done this as work for JPL.
- RFC 4954: An authentication extension for SMTP, co-written by a Google employee.
- RFC 4959: Authentication extension for IMAP, co-written by a Google employee.
- RFC 4981: Refers in passing to Google.
- RFC 4990: Use of addresses in GMPLS Networks, co-written by a Google employee.
- RFC 5023: The Atom Publishing Protocol, co-written by a Google employee.
- RFC 5034: POP3 Authentication extension, co-written by a Google employee.
- RFC 5050: Vint Cerf of Google is listed as a contributor.
So, the number of RFCs listing Google employees as authors or co-authors is nine. If you are ruthless in your search for originality, and cut out RFCs that appear to be copies or extensions of other Google employee RFCs, as well as those that were written for other employers than Google, you get five. And one of those is a note about the way in which the IETF operates.
What about Microsoft - when have Microsoft employees ever contributed time to the development of Internet RFCs?
Compared to Google's fourteen matches in the RFCs, "Microsoft" is found hundreds of times. So I tried to limit my search to RFCs that were likely written by Microsoft employees - a good search term for this is to find those RFCs in which either "Microsoft" or "Microsoft Corporation" is at the end of a line. I further limited the search to documents where this match was found in the first 25 lines.
175 RFCs.Okay, so maybe some of those were duplicates, or unimportant ones, and Microsoft have certainly been doing this longer than Google.
Google's first employee-written RFC came in September 2006, so in eighteen months, they've written at most nine, at a rate of one every two months; Microsoft's first is dated December 1995 - that's 146 months ago, so that Microsoft employees are producing RFCs at a rate of slightly more than one every month - more than twice as fast as Google.
I think that if Google wants to cry "shame" that Microsoft is not open or innovative, and that this will cause the Internet to shrivel, they should perhaps start with a little introspection.
- Buying an Internet founder does not make you into a founder of the Internet.
- Buying an RFC author does not make you open and innovative.
- Complaining that a competitor's proposed acquisition will stifle openness and innovation only makes sense if you are, by comparison, a champion of those two qualities - by comparison through the reading of RFCs, Google appears somewhat secretive and dull.
P.S. Please don't comment in this entry about "embrace and extend" - let's face it, openness and innovation as they apply to the Internet are all about "embrace and extend" - Internet standards are published so that they can be adopted and advanced. This discussion is not about whether Microsoft copies from other companies - after all, if this is all about openness and innovation, copying is a good thing.