Corporate Deception and Media Indolence

The Register: AltaVista admits service a sham. No one at AltaVista was available to comment on how something that doesn’t exist could be put on hold.

See also Search nets no AltaVista customers; portal halts unfeasible access plan (Wall Street Journal).

Is “scandal” too strong a word for what Alta Vista has been pulling here? Is “lazy” too weak a word for the way the press in the United Kingdom echoed — and hyped — Alta Vista’s claims that it was offering an unmetered Internet access service?

Not all reporters were failing to do their jobs. The truth emerged when The Register, a wonderful online technology publication based in London, and several other media organizations started asking where the customers were.

The technology business is famous for this kind of thing — announcing products that appear late, if ever, and treating customers as if they were stupid. But the technology leaders are the new Masters of the Universe, and they feel they can get away with anything.

Usually they do. Look at the scandal — this is the precise word — of online privacy, or the lack thereof. The industry claims that self-regulation is the solution. Of course it does. Self-regulation is no regulation, by definition. It’s a lie, a blatant lie. But the tech crowd owns the politicians these days.

The media should push harder. I don’t agree entirely with this essay, entitled “Squeal With Care,” by Dave Winer, but he’s right that journalists aren’t asking tough enough questions.

Technical Non-Support

If the technology industry were a divorced parent, it could be sued for non-support of its dependents — the customers.

The latest evidence is Microsoft’s decision to cut off unlimited tech support for its Office products in favor of Web help. This is yet another example of profiteering at customers’ expense. Microsoft isn’t the only company that has done this, but it’s one of the few companies that could easily have afforded to do the right thing.

When you have a monopoly position, as Microsoft does in operating systems and office suites, it’s easy to do the wrong thing.

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