Silverlight in Yahoo?
Silverlight is a new technology from Microsoft and it competes directly against Adobe's Flash. Silverlight works on Apple Macs and Windows PCs, but not on other platforms. A project from Novell called Moonlight strives to fill the gap for GNU/Linux users and it sometimes gives the illusion that Silverlight is in fact supported under GNU/Linux. But there are limitations imposed on distribution. Software patent woes play a role as well.
Using its channel of partners and its own Web properties, Microsoft has slowly begun spreading Silverlight across the Web. Silverlight is even being recommended now among the system updates for Windows users, alongside security patches. Microsoft.com is said to be heading towards a Silverlight-rich redesign whose purpose seems to make this technology more widespread and thus unavoidable.
Would Yahoo follow suit if Microsoft were to acquire it? Yahoo is the Internets most visited Web site, based on Alexa's traffic ranks.
It is important to remember that Silverlight can be used to discriminate against GNU/Linux users, turn them away from Web sites in a variety of ways, or make them more sensitive to software patent threats. Moonlight is, after all, built upon Mono, which is a clone of .NET, for which Novell pays royalties as a form of legal coverage.
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On several occasions in the past year, Yahoo was accused of censorship against open source software. Yahoo Answers, for example, rejected and deleted advice advocating the use of GNU/Linux or BSD. Yahoo remained silent for many months before complaints became loud. It then responded to this by saying that it was not a matter of policy. Mischievous moderators are likely to be reprimanded.
One cannot help but think that if Yahoo was staffed by Microsoft employees or if Yahoo's existing staff served Microsoft, then competitive threats such as Free software would be treated less fairly than ever before.
According to Mary Jo Foley, a long-time journalist specializing in Microsoft's business, the company may have been caught altering search results to assist or defend business goals. Yahoo, unlike Microsoft, has its search engine used by many different people, so corporate censorship, as opposed to political censorship, is an iffy territory to approach. Tolerance and balance is what makes the Web more credible, whereas policing has trust eroding.
Ways Forward and Conclusion
Amid new rumors and unverified reports that Rupert Murdoch wishes to bid for Yahoo, one ought to think about the dangers of consolidation. When two companies collide or merge, another is often marginalized. This was seen just a week ago when Nokia acquired Trolltech, hurting some of its rivals in the process.
The main sufferer here, in case Yahoo and Microsoft combine to gain market share, is Google. Being one of the prominent supporters of Linux, Google deserves defending against this possible acquisition. Moreover, for the reasons listed above, GNU/Linux users ought to realize that there is nothing too encouraging about the big news from last week.