Predatory Behavior

When one company can control the interfaces to other company's appliances, various sorts of predatory behaviors are possible. The 4 main kinds of  predatory behaviors are Monkey wrenching, Bundling, Dumping, and Slamming.

Monkey wrenching

A monkey wrench is an introduced incompatibility which ruins the market for someone else's product. Similar to the "tree spiking" tactics renounced by earth first, this kind of monkey wrenching can be difficult to prove, if the incompatibility has another reason for existing. 

There are numerous cases of interface changes in the operating system which has destroyed compatibility or market for innovative products. 

Hercules Graphic's standard video format, which arose between EGA and VGA,was not supported by Windows and died.

The Stacker case revealed that Microsoft had placed secret interfaces inside DOS which enabled their competitive disk-compression software to work faster than Stacker. Stac Technologies had to reverse engineer the system to find out how they had been had. Technical details were revealed by expert witness Andrew Schulman in Dr Dobbs, May 1994.

Windows 3.1 was a GUI application which ran on top of MSDOS, and other DOS clones, but it included an "authenticity test" which would make an error message if it wasn't running on msdos.

While Netscape engaged in the same interface shifting to the public domain Mosaic Browser when it introduced its 1.1.S release with improvements to HTML, it has been the recipient of several interface shakeoffs, from truetype scrolling, to directx extensions..


Bundling is the focus of the current antitrust lawsuit, and involves integrating products together in order  to deny the market for competitors to  the individual parts. By claiming that Internet Explorer is part of Windows, the market for netscape's "free browser" gets dried up. Elsewhere, I point out that it is not the browser which is at stake, but the "right" to define new standard features in public interface standards, like HTML,

Windows 95 came "bundled" with a DOS "inside", and claimed to not be compatible with the other OSs. This is the basis for Caldera's antitrust case - that  these integration actions specifically excluded DRDOS, when functionally W95 could run on DRDOS.


When one company gives away a product below cost to establish market share it is called "dumping." In international trade, we have accused Japan at various times of dumping metal and semiconductors. But because software  is free to manufacture, it is hard to claim "below cost"! Nevertheless, free giveaways of a utility like disk-doubling, backup, personal information management (PIM), or web-browsing tend to hurt companies selling those utilities independently. The register has a story on the pricing of MSDOS.


This is discussed mostly in telecom, where long-distance services trick people into switching from their preferred carrier. In software, it happens when a product includes an "import" or "converter" feature for a competitor's file format, but no way to "export" the file back.

Slamming is also done through the "competitive upgrade". This makes a lie out of the idea that "upgrades" are rewards for loyal customers. Here, a company offers a substantial discount to customers to switch to their equivalent product by destroying the competitor's product. These 4 tactics are often used in combination! The creation of the Microsoft office monopoly actually involved 3 kinds of predatory action. The combining of Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint into a single product called "office"  (bundling) at drastically reduced prices than the individual applications (dumping), including it for free with  Dell and Gateway's commodity PC machines (bundling), such that it would suck in all your old Wordperfect and Lotus 123 files (slamming). 

How would PURL Markets Help?

Monkey-wrenching by creating incompatibilities might remain a nuisance, but the value of the appliances would only be impacted until a free patch was prepared. Customers wouldnt have to throw their equpment away. Under this proposal, an oligarchy would likely arise, where the same file-format is editably by different editors like word wordperfect, wordstar, etc, and people choose by feature and taste, rather than by being forced.

Bundling ceases to make economic sense. It would be better to have PURL markets for a lot of parts (OS, GUI, EDITOR, ETC) which work together rather than one single PeRL for everything.

Dumping ceases to make economic sense. Because there is real value in each limited edition, giving them away is like giving away money, not confetti.

Slamming simply can't happen under the proposed licensing plan, because the serial numbered securities would continue to exist and appreciate, even if removed from circulation.

 Copyright © 1999 J. B. Pollack