My recent blog entries were about Skype and about how companies might eventually abuse the power they have over some of our technology. Many of my arguments against Skype also apply to Microsoft’s instant messenger. Now Microsoft gave one more example that this abuse actually happens. Ars technica writes:
Microsoft this week decided to turn off its Windows Live Messenger service for five countries: Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan, and North Korea. […] The user is not informed as to the actual reason for the block. Currently, it’s not clear how broad the block is or how long it will last.
Although there are already workarounds that the affected users can use to regain access to the communication network, it is unclear how long they will work and whether Microsoft will use more advanced techniques to lock out certain users in the future. If the people in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan, and North Korea would have used decentralized and open communication networks such as Jabber, Microsoft would not have been able to disable their access. Hopefully, the people that actually did use the Live Messenger don’t make the same mistake again and don’t fall for ICQ, AIM or Yahoo Messenger. Switching to one of those services might solve the problem in the short term, but still leaves them vulnerable to lock-out, censorship and spying. Jabber on the other hand allows them to chose a service provider for instant messaging that they can trust. If they don’t trust anybody they can even deploy their own Jabber server that only they control and still be able to talk to any other Jabber user. This works quite like Email that is from a time when information technology was still made to serve the people instead of enslaving them.