Halloween Documents FAQ

French Translation *offsite

Since the first Halloween Document was released on 1 Nov 1998, I have received an astonishing flood of email questions about them. Dealing with these has made getting any other work done difficult, so here is a list of the most common ones with answers.

Are these for real?

Yes. Microsoft has acknowledged the authenticity of these documents. Furthermore, they have surfaced as an exhibit in the Comes vs. MS. antitrust litigation. Bill Gates himself had them distributed internally.

How did you acquire them?

They came to me by email from three different sources. Like any good investigative reporter, I'm not going to reveal who those sources were.

However, I will say that none of the author/contributor/reviewers listed in Halloween I and Halloween II were among them.

What was your motive for publishing these?

For close on twenty years I have watched Microsoft peddle inferior technology with slick marketing, destroy competitors with dirty tricks, and buy its way out of trouble. Like most people in the know, I grumbled about it to colleagues. I expressed my resistance to the Borg of Redmond by refusing to use Microsoft products, and by helping develop alternative open-source software. But in the end, if software consumers remained oblivious, what could be done?

I never stopped hoping that some day the truth would come out. So, when a chance came for me, personally, to blow the whistle on Microsoft using its own words – to show the world what lurks behind the smiling facade – I jumped at it.

Some have accused me of hating success, of envying Bill Gates, even of "software socialism." Well, a net-worth of fifty-eight billion dollars doesn't equal success in my terms, not when it was bought with crappy engineering and unethical business practices. I'd rather be me, thank you. And, far from being any kind of socialist, I'm a hard-core libertarian; I'm opposed to antitrust law on pro-free-market principle, and have publicly stated that I will not cooperate with the DOJ lawsuit.

I want to see Microsoft broken on the wheel not by government fiat but by enlightened consumer choice. That is why I published these documents.

If you care, you can read an angry rant that goes into more detail. Don't if you're easily offended, and don't mistake it for a statement of OSI.

Would you please make un-annotated versions available?

No. As it is, my defense against a copyright-violation suit by Microsoft would have to make rather creative use of the exemptions in copyright case law relating to journalism, satire and commentary. I fear that making un-annotated copies available would place me at significant legal risk.

Could the leaks have been a ploy by Microsoft?

Some people have speculated that these documents were deliberately leaked in order to strengthen Microsoft's defense in the ongoing antitrust action; by playing up the Linux threat (the theory goes) they establish that Microsoft has real competition and not a monopoly. Others posit some murky plan to divert the energy of the open-source community into fulminating about Microsoft and away from improving Linux.

I don't believe either theory. These documents are way too dangerous to Microsoft to have been leaked deliberately. The material about "de-commoditizing protocols & services" and "deny[ing] OSS products into the market" could constitute evidence of practices which violate the Sherman Act. There is just no way that any lawyer working for Microsoft would ever let language like that be leaked, especially not while the DOJ is actively pursuing an antitrust case!

Furthermore, one of my sources is a man personally known to me who assured me he had been sitting on his copy of Halloween II for months not knowing who to give it to until Halloween I came out.

Finally, Microsoft appears not to have had a story put together until hours after the Halloween I release. I have an account of this from the first reporter to brace Microsoft on the matter. When first contacted, the author of the memoranda "refused to confirm or deny" and directed the reporter to his boss, Ed Muth. Ed Muth, when contacted, refused to talk about it and hung up on the reporter. Only after two calls to Microsoft's P.R. firm was that reporter able to get a statement.

More than one journalist has described Microsoft's initial reaction to me as "utter panic ... comical to watch."

Do these documents represent Microsoft company policy?

Microsoft says not; it dismisses Halloween I and II as low-level engineering studies.

Yes, "Halloween I" was written by a staff engineer – with contributions, endorsements, and reviews by two Program Managers, the Senior Vice President in charge of NT development, and two members of the eight-person Executive Committee (Microsoft's Politburo, answering only to Bill Gates). I originally noted `The only way this group could be any more "official" is if BillG himself had been in [the group]'. He was; it came out in early 2007 during the Comes vs. MS antitrust trial that BillG chose a distribution list for this memo. So Microsoft, unsurprisingly, is lying.

Ironically, if we were to take Microsoft at its word, the memos are far more damning – because that would imply a milieu in which FUD and monopolistic dirty tricks are not merely the province of a few top executives, but a pervasive part of the culture clear down to the level of staff engineers.

Eric S. Raymond <esr@thyrsus.com>