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Lessons from a Protest
by Vikas Kamat
Page Last Updated: October 31, 2016

We  responded to Dave Winer's call External Link for Microsoft-Free-Fridays in June of 2001 to protest Microsoft's  SmartTags technology in future versions of Web browsers. The idea is  simple -- we ask that you use Microsoft Internet Explorer anyday of the week, except on Fridays. We encouraged use of the alternate browsers by making our popular content viewable only via non-Microsoft browsers on Fridays. (see The Campaign against Microsoft SmartTags)

After two weeks of running this experiment, here's what I have learnt.

Civil Non-cooperation Works!

Mahatma Gandhi described his civil non-cooperation movement as a way to make the wronging party "realize the injustice he is engaged in." He went on to describe that a nation or an army (a company), no matter how powerful, cannot rule upon millions of citizens (customers) who are not cooperative. We have already heard rumors of a softening stance External Link at Microsoft on SmartTags. 

Update on June 29, 2001. Microsoft agrees to remove SmartTags!

So next time, you want to fight for justice, remember Gandhi.

A Blog As Good as What's Cool at Yahoo!

The only initial exposure our protest received was a link at Winer's Weblog, Scripting.com External Link. It was picked up by many news networks, and boy, were we flooded with traffic. I'd compare the traffic surge to the best known methods of website promotion.

Bloggers make note -- your link is powerful. Use them with responsibility.

Opera is Cool

I downloaded an alternative, non-Microsoft browser called Opera External Link. The foot-print is small, the application is stable and I love the interface. I would rank it among the best pieces of software I have ever used.

People Do Use Multiple Browsers

I do not know if it was the result of curiosity, or a characteristic of the audience that is interested in Web issues, but  77% of the users who were denied access to the content (on Fridays), immediately switched browsers and requested the same document again!

I was Wrong About PDAs

"Who would want to surf the Web on their cell-phone?" I had always asked rhetorically. Surprisingly, the people who cared about this Microsoft-Free-Fridays thingy seemed to be using either PDAs or cell-phones to read the story -- over 50% of the traffic we got from Europe for this story came this way.

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