The Personal Blog of Stephen Sekula

Microsoft and the closing of democracy

This is a rant. I’ve earned it.

For years, I have made the long, hard slog to Washington D.C. I have written to my Congressional representatives, made phone calls to local and national offices. I have dug into the political process, thought hard about modern democracy, and tried to work within the rules of society in order to make a better society.

Now Microsoft is pissing me off. First, they develop Silverlight, a new web video technology available only on Windows and Mac. Despite the HEROIC efforts of a few people to create an open-source Silverlight interpreter for Linux [1], neither the Olympics website (an NBC/Microsoft partnership) nor the Democratic National Committee website (a DNC/Microsoft partnership) will allow me to use the open plugin to view their Silverlight video.

First, they detect that I am on Firefox and/or Linux. If I use the user agent switcher plugin to fake my browser/OS combo, they still require me to download the Windows binary Silverlight plugin.

I refuse to pay for a private operating system in order to gain  access to my democracy. Let me say this one more time. I REFUSE TO PAY A PRIVATE COMPANY FOR ACCESS TO MY DEMOCRACY. I am offended that a national media agency like NBC closed the Olympics to the open-source community. I am DEEPLY offended that the Democrats have also made it impossible for the open-source community to access this aspect of our democracy.

The Democratic  party represents a huge number of voters in this country, many of whom are open-source  liberal thinkers like myself. To shut us out, to shut out the people that gave them the technology to create a fund raising EMPIRE on the internet, is offensive to the core. The Obama machine wouldn’t be what it is today without LAMP – Linux, APACHE, MySQL, and PERL – the foundational open-source technologies that make most of the web possible. I hope that when they post video from the convention, it’s in a more accessible format. Even flash is available to the masses, something Silverlight is not.

I am so offended by this, if I find out that the Obama website doesn’t offer a more accessible form of video I plan to switch to being a registered independent again. I refuse to participate in a party that separates me from my access to the democratic process by a proprietary wall. A government by the people, for the people, should not suffer the prohibitions of a private company.

I say to the Democrats and the Republicans – don’t lock our democracy in the closed silos of proprietary technology behemoths. Since both parties seem so caught up in religion these days, let me offer the following. Remember that the devil makes some pretty tempting offers in the desert. Can’t you show the same fortitude in your decision making process over something as simple as open technologies that was once shown by a lone man in the desert. Or, have you so quickly abandoned the very moral model that you espouse from podiums and podcasts?

Rant, concluded.

[1] “Implementing Silverlight in 21 days”

4 thoughts on “Microsoft and the closing of democracy”

Comments are closed.