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Microsoft tries to close off the web, one MSN contact at a time

Microsoft seems to not have learned much from the antitrust suits brought against it.

You've got to hand it to Microsoft. The company knows how to go against the grain. Just at the moment that the rest of the planet has discovered that there is huge value in opening up, Microsoft has been stalking the web, demanding payment from startups that want to allow users to import their MSN contact lists to other web services, as Fortune notes.

Here's the "deal":

If the company wants to offer other IM services (from Yahoo, Google or AOL, say), Messenger must get top billing. And if the startup wants to offer any other IM service, it must pay Microsoft 25 cents a user per year for a site license.

However, if a company wants to force its users to abandon 73% of their friends (assuming it'sroughly a three-way race between AIM (53 million active users), MSN (27 million active users), and Yahoo! (22 million active users), then they can use MSN for free! Wow! Dave Rosenberg calls this "bizarre and stupid." I think he's being overly generous.

Microsoft will gain more by enabling more people to use MSN than it will by squeezing quarters out of startups. Connecting its IM service with Yahoo!'s was a step in the right direction. This attempt to extort money from startups is 10 steps in the wrong direction.

Data is the future of lock-in, but some companies like Google are attempting to preserve user choice by signing up to data portability agreements. Not so Microsoft, which doesn't seem to have learned much from its antitrust trial besides how to evade detection.

Its excuse for this amazingly bad policy? That the agreements it's seeking to impose "merely represent what Microsoft wants--not what it will ultimately get in each instance." Wow! What a soothing response. "When we told the villagers that we planned to rape and pillage, that's just what we wanted to do. We figured we could make do with simply pillaging.

Just the sort of company with which I'd want to do business. You?