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Embrace, extend and extinguish

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Title: Embrace, extend and extinguish  
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Subject: United States v. Microsoft Corp., History of monopoly, Interoperability, Network effect, Fear, uncertainty and doubt
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Embrace, extend and extinguish

"Embrace, extend, and extinguish",[1] also known as "Embrace, extend, and exterminate",[2] is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found[3] and was used internally by Microsoft[4] to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors.


The strategy and phrase "embrace and extend" were first described outside Microsoft in a 1996 New York Times article titled "Tomorrow, the World Wide Web! Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet",[5] in which writer John Markoff said, "Rather than merely embrace and extend the Internet, the company's critics now fear, Microsoft intends to engulf it." The phrase "embrace and extend" also appears in a facetious motivational song by Microsoft employee Dean Ballard,[6] and in an interview of Steve Ballmer by the New York Times.[7]

The variation, "embrace, extend and extinguish", was first introduced in the United States v. Microsoft antitrust trial when the vice president of Intel, Steven McGeady, testified[8] that Microsoft vice president Paul Maritz used the phrase in a 1995 meeting with Intel to describe Microsoft's strategy toward Netscape, Java, and the Internet.[9][10]

The strategy

The strategy's three phases are:[11]

  1. Embrace: Development of software substantially compatible with a competing product, or implementing a public standard.
  2. Extend: Addition and promotion of features not supported by the competing product or part of the standard, creating interoperability problems for customers who try to use the 'simple' standard.
  3. Extinguish: When extensions become a de facto standard because of their dominant market share, they marginalize competitors that do not or cannot support the new extensions.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Microsoft critics, and computer-industry journalists[1][12][13] claim that the goal of the strategy is to monopolize a product category. Such a strategy differs from J. Allard's originally proposed strategy of embrace, extend then innovate both in content and phases. Microsoft claims that the original strategy is not anti-competitive, but rather an exercise of its discretion to implement features it believes customers want.[14]


  • Browser incompatibilities:
    • The plaintiffs in the antitrust case claimed that Microsoft had added support for ActiveX controls in the Internet Explorer web browser to break compatibility with Netscape Navigator, which used components based on Java and Netscape's own plugin system.
    • On CSS, data:, etc.: A decade after the original Netscape-related antitrust suit, the web browser company Opera Software has filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft with the European Union saying it "calls on Microsoft to adhere to its own public pronouncements to support these standards, instead of stifling them with its notorious 'Embrace, Extend and Extinguish' strategy".[15]
    • On Office documents: In a memo to the Office product group in 1998, Bill Gates stated: "One thing we have got to change in our strategy—allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples [sic] browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company. We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends [sic] on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities. Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destroy Windows." [emphasis in original][16]
  • Breaking Java's portability: The antitrust case's plaintiffs also accused Microsoft of using an "embrace and extend" strategy with regard to the Java platform, which was designed explicitly with the goal of developing programs that could run on any operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux. They claimed that, by omitting the Java Native Interface (JNI) from its implementation and providing J/Direct for a similar purpose, Microsoft deliberately tied Windows Java programs to its platform, making them unusable on Linux and Mac systems. According to an internal communication, Microsoft sought to downplay Java's cross-platform capability and make it "just the latest, best way to write Windows applications".[17] Microsoft paid Sun US$20 million in January 2001 ($26.6 million in present-day terms[18]) to settle the resulting legal implications of their breach of contract.[19]
  • More Java issues: Sun sued Microsoft over Java again in 2002 and Microsoft agreed to settle out of court for US$2 billion[20][21] ($2.62 billion in present-day terms[18]).
  • Networking: In 2000, an extension to the Kerberos networking protocol (an Internet standard) was included in Windows 2000, effectively denying all products except those made by Microsoft access to a Windows 2000 Server using Kerberos.[22] The extension was published through an executable, whose running required agreeing to an NDA, disallowing third party implementation (especially open source). To allow developers to implement the new features, without having to agree to the license, users on Slashdot posted the document (disregarding the NDA), effectively allowing third party developers to access the documentation without having agreed to the NDA. Microsoft responded by asking Slashdot to remove the content.[23] The Microsoft extensions to Kerberos, as introduced in binary form in Windows 2000, have since been described in RFC 3244 and RFC 4757, and these extensions have since been listed in Microsoft Open Specification Promise. This document relates to "Microsoft-owned or Microsoft-controlled patents that are necessary to implement" the technologies listed. Microsoft's legal statement concerning unrestricted use of Microsoft intellectual property also includes the Kerberos Network Authentication Service v5 (RFC 1510 and RFC 1964).[24]
  • Instant messaging: In 2001, CNet's described an instance concerning Microsoft's instant messaging program.[25] "Embrace" AOL's IM protocol, the de facto standard of the '90s and early 2000s. "Extend" the standard with proprietary Microsoft addons which added new features but broke compatibility with AOL's software. Gain dominance since Microsoft had 95% OS share and their MS Messenger was provided for free. And finally, "extinguish" and lock out AOL's IM software, since AOL was unable to use the modified MS-patented protocol.
  • Adobe fears: Adobe Systems refused to let Microsoft implement built-in PDF support in Microsoft Office, citing fears of EEE.[26] Current versions of Microsoft Office have built-in support for PDF as well as several other ISO standards.[27][28][29]
  • Employee testimony: In 2007, Microsoft employee Ronald Alepin gave sworn expert testimony for the plaintiffs in Comes v. Microsoft in which he cited internal Microsoft emails to justify the claim that the company intentionally employed this practice.[30]


An older variant of the phrase is "embrace, extend then innovate" in J Allard's 1994 memo "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet" to Paul Maritz and other executives at Microsoft. The memo starts with a background on the Internet in general, and then proposes a strategy on how to turn Windows into the next "killer app" for the Internet:

In order to build the necessary respect and win the mindshare of the Internet community, I recommend a recipe not unlike the one we've used with our TCP/IP efforts: embrace, extend, then innovate. Phase 1 (Embrace): all participants need to establish a solid understanding of the infostructure and the community—determine the needs and the trends of the user base. Only then can we effectively enable Microsoft system products to be great Internet systems. Phase 2 (Extend): establish relationships with the appropriate organizations and corporations with goals similar to ours. Offer well-integrated tools and services compatible with established and popular standards that have been developed in the Internet community. Phase 3 (Innovate): move into a leadership role with new Internet standards as appropriate, enable standard off-the-shelf titles with Internet awareness. Change the rules: Windows become the next-generation Internet tool of the future.
—J Allard, Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet

Companies other than Microsoft

During the browser wars, other companies besides Microsoft introduced proprietary, non-standards-compliant extensions. For example, in 1995, Netscape implemented the "font" tag, among other HTML extensions, without seeking review from a standards body. With the rise of Internet Explorer, the two companies became locked in a dead heat to out-implement each other with non-standards-compliant features. In 2004, to prevent a repeat of the "browser wars", and the resulting morass of conflicting standards, Apple Inc. (maker of Safari), Mozilla Foundation (maker of Firefox), Google Inc. (maker of Google Chrome) and Opera Software (maker of the Opera browser) formed the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) to create open standards to complement those of the World Wide Web Consortium.[31] Microsoft originally refused to join, citing the group's lack of a patent policy as the reason.[32] However, Microsoft Corporation is currently listed as a member.[33]

See also

Footnotes and references

  1. ^ a b "Deadly embrace". The Economist. 2000-03-30. Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  2. ^ "Microsoft limits XML in Office 2003". Archived from the original on September 22, 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  3. ^ "US Department of Justice Proposed Findings of Fact—Revised". 
  4. ^ "US Department of Justice Proposed Findings of Fact". 
  5. ^ John Markoff (July 16, 1996). "Tomorrow, the World Wide Web! Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-25. 
  6. ^ Rebello, Kathy (1996-07-15). "Inside Microsoft (Part 1)". Business Week. Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  7. ^ Steve Lohr, "Preaching from the Ballmer Pulpit". New York Times, Sunday, January 28, 2007. pp. 3-1, 3-8, 3-9.
  8. ^ "Steven McGeady court testimony". Retrieved 2006-03-31.  (DOC format)
  9. ^ "United States v. Microsoft: Trial Summaries (page 2)". Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  10. ^ "IN MICROSOFT WE TRUST". Archived from the original on April 19, 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  11. ^ "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish (IT Vendor Strategies)". Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  12. ^ "Microsoft messaging tactics recall browser wars". Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  13. ^ "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish: Three Strikes And You're Out". Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  14. ^ "U.S. v. Microsoft: We're Defending Our Right to Innovate". Retrieved 2006-03-31. 
  15. ^ Opera files antitrust complaint with the EU
  16. ^ A memo to the Office product group
  17. ^ Matt Richtel (1998-10-22). "Memos Released in Sun-Microsoft Suit".  
  18. ^ a b Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  19. ^ "Sun, Microsoft settle Java suit". Retrieved 2001-01-23. 
  20. ^ "Microsoft's lawsuit payouts amount to around $9 billion". Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  21. ^ "Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Enter Broad Cooperation Agreement; Settle Outstanding Litigation". Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  22. ^ "Microsoft's Kerberos shuck and jive". 2000-05-11. 
  23. ^ "Microsoft Asks Slashdot To Remove Readers' Posts". 
  24. ^ "Microsoft Open Specification Promise". Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  25. ^ Jim Hu (2001-06-07). "Microsoft messaging tactics recall browser wars". CNet 
  26. ^ CIO: Adobe Speaks Out on Microsoft PDF Battle
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Expert Testimony of Ronald Alepin in Comes v. Microsoft—Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, Groklaw, January 8, 2007.
  31. ^ "What is the WHATWG and why did it form?". Retrieved 2007-08-25. 
  32. ^ "MSConversations". Archived from the original on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2009-07-28. 
  33. ^

External links

  • Report on Steven McGeady's testimony
  • Report on Microsoft documents relating to Office and IE Embrace, extend and extinguish
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