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Microsoft employee's move against AOL backfires

A Microsoft programmer reportedly masquerades as an independent computer consultant in an effort to discredit AOL's tactics and behavior in its instant messaging battle with Microsoft.

A Microsoft programmer apparently masqueraded as an independent computer consultant in an effort to discredit America Online's tactics and behavior in its instant messaging battle with Microsoft, according to reports.

Once the email message accusing AOL of irresponsible behavior, sent earlier this week, was traced back to a Microsoft employee, the software giant didn't deny the connection, the New York Times reported today.

Microsoft has not been able to identify which employee sent the message, the Times reported.

The message, sent via a free Yahoo email account, was ironically sent to a person who was more than qualified to examine where the message originated and evidently traced it back to someone within Microsoft.

Richard Smith, president of Cambridge-based Phar Lap Software, told the Times that he received the email message from someone who identified himself as Phil Bucking of Bucking Consulting.

In the email, he wrote that he was developing his own instant messaging program and was following AOL's efforts in blocking Microsoft users. He also stated in the message that he believed AOL is using a programming error that has created a security flaw to detect Microsoft users, and that it's unfair of AOL to put user security at risk, according to the report.

He said in the message that he chose Smith because Smith had "significant credibility with the press" the Times reported.

The instant messaging battle between the two giants began last month when Microsoft released its own instant messaging software, by which people can send and receive emails in real time.

Since then, the messaging battle has heated up, with AOL being aggressive in blocking Microsoft users as well as pulling in other companies to take sides. As reported, AOL attempted to block Microsoft instant message users from communicating with AOL users.

To add to the frenzy, both companies have been pulling in allies for support--Microsoft has recruited allies AT&T and Prodigy, and AOL has gained support from Apple and Sun.