Computer giant Microsoft has emerged triumphant in its battle against a major source of internet spam.
A US court ruled that Microsoft can shut down the Waledac botnet, a network of hacker-controlled computers.
The firm say this botnet can send out up to 1.5 billion unwanted emails a day.
But is the court ruling a victory for all internet users?
Hugh Thompson is a New York-based internet security expert and ProgramCommittee Chair of the RSA Conference, the world's biggest gathering of security professionals.
It's Not Just Microsoft Against Google
PARIS — After a 30-year career in the law, Dominique Barella left his job as president of the main union for French judges in 2006 and started a Web site, Ejustice.fr, that lets users search for legal resources in France.
Mr. Barella developed the site, including the search technology, with an investment of about €20,000, or $27,000, and help from a friend who is an engineer. Aside from a video interview in which an unsmiling Mr. Barella explains how Ejustice.fr works, the site is short on bells and whistles. Nonetheless, within a few months, it was attracting up to 20,000 visitors a day and selling a modest amount of advertising.
That, Mr. Barella says, is when the trouble with Google began.
Overnight, traffic plunged — because, Mr. Barella says, the company stopped indexing pages from Ejustice.fr for inclusion in Google’s search engine.
“We asked Google, ‘Why are you doing this? We have no more money,”’ Mr. Barella said. “They didn’t want to work with us, they didn’t want to help us, they didn’t want us to exist.”
More than three years later, with traffic to Ejustice.fr stuck at about 700 users a day, Mr. Barella has taken his grievances to the European Commission in Brussels. Google disclosed last week that the commission had begun a preliminary investigation of antitrust complaints from Ejustice.fr and two companies, called Ciao and Foundem, that offer online price comparisons.
In its initial comments on the investigation, Google suggested that Microsoft, its archrival, lay behind its troubles in Brussels. Google noted that Foundem was a member of a Microsoft-financed lobbying group, and said Google’s relationship with Ciao had gone downhill only after that company was acquired by Microsoft in 2008.
Mr. Barella, 54, says he is no Microsoft lackey. “They want to say they are fighting Microsoft,” he said of Google. “But I have no connection to Microsoft. Perhaps on my computer I have Microsoft Windows — that’s my only connection.”
Yet Mr. Barella’s complaints do echo those of Foundem, which says it, too, was penalized by Google because it offered competing services.
Both Foundem and Ejustice.fr are so-called vertical search engines, which provide searches focused on a particular subject, rather than the broader, Webwide sweep that Google offers. Foundem says it was downgraded by Google several years ago, which pushed it into Web obscurity, though it says it has since managed to persuade Google to restore its previous search status.
Google declined to comment on Mr. Barella’s specific allegations. The company has said that it penalizes some, but not all, vertical search engines because they are essentially spam, gathering content and links from other sites to generate traffic and ad revenue.
“In order to maintain the high quality of Google search, we flag or remove sites that we detect have malware and viruses or don’t comply with Google’s quality guidelines,” it said in a statement. “The guidelines under which we will take action are publicly documented, and this is standard industry practice among search engines.”
Mr. Barella insists that he did not set up Ejustice.fr to make a fast euro. Even on its best days, he says, the site was barely generating enough revenue to cover the cost of his computers.
He is especially bitter because he says that after meeting with Google, he took the company’s advice and replaced his own search technology with custom software provided by Google. But he says Ejustice.fr’s woes only deepened.
Mr. Barella portrayed his fight with the search giant as an effort to defend free speech — borrowing a theme that Google itself has sounded in its standoff with the Chinese government over censorship, and in an adverse court ruling in Italy, where three Google executives last week were convicted of violating privacy laws.
“How could we be a problem for Google? It’s a joke,” Mr. Barella said. “I think we were an example among other examples that Google wanted to make.”