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March 18, 2012

"The Internet Tidal Wave" — by Bill Gates (1995)

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From Letters of Note:

May 26th, 1995: Bill Gates sends a memo, entitled "The Internet Tidal Wave," to all executive staff within Microsoft. In it, he makes clear his intention to focus the company's efforts online with immediate effect and "assign the Internet the highest level of importance," going on to call it, "the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981."

A few highlights from a long but highly quotable 16-year-old memo include: Gates forewarning, "One scary possibility being discussed by Internet fans is whether they should get together and create something far less expensive than a PC which is powerful enough for Web browsing"; the Microsoft boss later grumbling that after 10 hours of browsing the Internet, he "had not seen a single Word .DOC, AVI file, Windows .EXE (other than content viewers), or other Microsoft file format," then adding, "I did see a great number of Quicktime files"; and his determination to "match or beat" the services offered by Netscape, a "competitor 'born' on the Internet" who then boasted "70% usage share" in the browser market. There are many more choice moments.

Gates even ends the memo with a categorised appendix of external websites, all of which he recommends. Under the heading "Cool, cool, cool," links can be found to Lycos, Yahoo, and RealAudio. It's worth noting that 3 months after the memo was circulated, MSN was launched.

A full transcript follows courtesy of  Donelle Gan. The original memo can be seen in its entirety, in PDF format here.

March 18, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

DARPA/Internet WAIS servers Archie & Veronica, BIX, The Well, The Source, Genie, Compuserve had all been significant forces prior to the creation of the WWW protocol.

I had ISDN at home in 1992 (Integrated Systems Digital Network / fractional T-1) and had been accessing DARPA through The Well dialup gateway for at least a decade before that.

Bill was late to the party. Ask any of us who tried to implement a TCP/IP stack on Windows 95 (neither a trivial hack nor a stable process) Windows didn't have a Redmond-sanctioned TCP/IP stack until Windows 98 (and, the code for that stack was lifted from BSD Unix).

Bill did not want to lose his monopoly. He sat on Internet implementation and this memo demonstrates that Bill Gates was partially responsible for the (still) sorry state of Internet integration into his OS.

Think I'm just flaming away at Billionare Bill? Look at the malware. Robert Tappan Morris, Jr. Released the first Internet worm, exploiting a buffer overflow hole in the Unix Sendmail program. Aside from that monster, literally millions of bits of nasty code target Windows. Windows exploits are the reason that we have Spam at the level we do today. Windows "zombie" machines are amassed into "botnets" millions strong and vast resources are lost to these Windows exploits - all because Bill Gates and his company were focused on money not quality.

Unix has been in constant use since Bell Labs invented it in the 1960s. The Internet and our telephone systems run on the Unix OS. Modern Apple (OSX machines) run BSD Unix as the core OS on everything from desktop to iPad & iPhone. Count the malware cases that target Unix. It is not a trivial task to hack a Unix system. Windows? Well, the last Tuesday patch from Microsoft for Windows 7 contained patches for yet another set of " zero day" exploits. I shudder to think where Windows 8 will rank as a targeted OS.

Even today most business users are still with Windows XP. Around the world Windows 98 is the most common OS and, Microsoft won't patch new exploits of either 95, 98 or XP (out of their maintenance cycle a/k/a "we can't make money off of these old users.") and would never issue patches for pirated copies of their OS (leaving behind a massive ecosystem of vulnerable machines with no concern for the damage they are doing to the Internet).

OK, Bill - you knew - this memo proves your mens rea. For pity's sake: Microsoft must fix the old OS machines already!

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Mar 18, 2012 3:04:48 PM

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