Microsoft Holds Off on Smart Tags

Walter Mossberg (Wall Street Journal): Microsoft Will Abandon Controversial Smart Tags. Microsoft continues to defend the Smart Tag idea in principle, and the company plans to work toward including it in a future release of Windows or of the browser, in some more acceptable form.

Any way you look at this, despite the possibility that Smart Tags could re-emerge later, this is good news. Microsoft has been listening to people, and in one of those rare moments of humility the company has decided, at least for now, to do the right thing.

It’s entirely natural for Microsoft to keep defending Smart Tags as a Good Thing. To do otherwise would be an admission of having done something wrong — and that is just not in the corporate DNA except as a rarely used marketing tool. (For an example of the latter, note that Microsoft has been trashing its idiotic Clippy paper clip Office “helper” in the campaign to sell Office XP.)

The uprising against Smart Tags has been largely an Internet phenomenon, but let’s give a major nod to Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal. He wasn’t the first to report about this feature, but he was the first to sound a loud and — given his column’s prominence — influential alarm. Thanks, Walt.

Note that Smart Tags aren’t dead. See this from ZDNet’s coverage:

“At this time we just don’t believe it’s going to be ready when (Windows XP) ships in October,” Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinan said late Wednesday. “External feedback” was one of the factors that led the company to remove the feature, although he indicated it could be resurrected in later versions.

Cullinan also emphasized that Smart Tags remains a feature of Office XP, the upgrade to Microsoft’s suite of applications that launched on May 31.

Note the language. They just aren’t ready. And they’ll still be in Office, which has a monopoly market share rivaling Windows itself.

Still, a small degree of celebration is fair. The tags are out of our browsers for the time being. That is progress, real progress.

I’m glad to have been one of those “external factors” helping Microsoft to understand that it was doing something wrong — whether the company ever admits that or not. And I’ll remain a factor in trying to prevent this abomination, this unwanted markup and editing of other people’s work by the company that monopolizes what amounts to the Internet-access dial tone, from popping up again.


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