Microsoft apologizes to Drupal community...for competing

Microsoft has been advertising against Drupal in favor of its WebsiteSpark program. This isn't cause for concern, as it's an indication that Microsoft is competing, as it should be.

This post was updated at 2:30 p.m. PST in light of Microsoft's apology, which confirmed the anti-Drupal ads.

Microsoft has launched an advertising campaign against Drupal, an open-source Web publishing system, to promote its WebsiteSpark program. Some will see this as a devious plot on Microsoft's part to crush open source beneath its monopolistic feet.

But here's a more rational explanation: Microsoft competes with Drupal. This is what competitors do: compete.

Here's what Microsoft is accused of doing:

The other day I was checking Listology.com for the Drupal website list. But what attracted me more on the page was the small Google adsense block with the title "Forget Drupal and get:"...

Oops, here is an advertisement against drupal on a very page that lists all drupal websites. But the biggest surprise was that the advertisement was from none other than Microsoft. Clicking the advertisement takes you directly to the page of Microsoft's new product - Webspark, on Microsoft.com.

The horror! The horror!

Microsoft's WebsiteSpark program is designed to make it easy for Web developers to work with Microsoft technologies like .Net. It's hard to find anything nefarious in this, but some see Microsoft's alleged attempts to steer Drupal developers to WebsiteSpark as evidence that Microsoft is more worried about Drupal than it is Google, since it's using Google AdWords to place the ads.

As for Microsoft, no sooner had the community reared its incensed head than Microsoft's Mark Brown dashed out an apology:

I want to offer my sincerest apology for this. I have contacted Google and we are working on having this ad pulled as soon as possible. In addition we are working internally to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Really? For what? Having a business? For competing in the same way the Drupal community does?

This is silly. Microsoft is simply using the advertising channel open to it on the Listology Web site, trying to nudge developers its way. Acquia, the company set up by Drupal's founder to commercialize Drupal adoption, is doing the same thing.

Both are simply advertising where they hope to have a significant return on advertising dollars spent. It's called business. It's not personal.

It's the very same reason that Acquia advertises on Joomla.org, a competing open-source Web publishing system, as Joomla leader Elin Waring notes.

Take off the hair shirt, Microsoft. It doesn't become you.

After all, Microsoft is also promoting Drupal in Google searches:

A Jekyll and Hyde moment for Microsoft? Not really. The Web Platform team, of which Mark Brown is part, undoubtedly wants Drupal developers building on Windows.

But guess what? The WebsiteSpark team wants such developers building on Microsoft's Web technologies. It's a big company with different teams and different priorities.

In other words, it's nothing about which to be concerned. In fact, I'd worry more if Microsoft were doing the kumbaya thing with every open-source project, forgetting its fiduciary duty to compete vigorously...including against open-source competitors.

There is no free lunch with open source and there is no free pass for open source. We're grown-up boys and girls. We can compete. As for you, Microsoft, stop pandering to the hurt feelings of open-source developers who should know better.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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