A Dutch Web site claimed victory in a David and Goliath battle against Microsoft Corp. this week after the software giant’s AntiSpyware program flagged the Dutch company’s home page as malicious content.
Microsoft has agreed to compensate and apologize to the operator of Dutch directory site Startpagina.nl for designating the site as a “browser hijacker” in the beta version of its free AntiSpyware software, said Startpagina.nl Director Bert Wiggers. The amount of the compensation is not being disclosed but the apology is public, as Microsoft has agreed to keep an acknowledgement of the error on its Dutch Web property for four weeks, he said.
“The apology is what matters the most to me because, as far as I know, Microsoft has never done that before,” Wiggers said on Wednesday. The apology is what matters the most to me because, as far as I know, Microsoft has never done that before.Bert Wiggers>Text
Microsoft said on Thursday that the flagging of Startpagina.nl was due to a technical glitch in the initial AntiSpyware beta that has been fixed in an update. The software did not block users from viewing the Dutch site, but would not allow them to set it as their default home page in Internet Explorer, according to Microsoft.
The row began shortly after Microsoft first launched its AntiSpyware beta in early January. The free program is intended to block malicious programs that secretly snoop on people as they surf the Web. Soon after the software was launched, Startpagina began receiving complaints from a handful of users who said that the new Microsoft program was blocking the site as malicious content and directing them to go to a Microsoft start page, according to Wiggers.
Startpagina.nl is a popular directory site in the Netherlands with around four million daily users and competes with Microsoft’s MSN.nl site, Wiggers said.
Startpagina.nl, which is owned by Isle Media BV, began calling and sending letters to Microsoft to make the U.S. software vendor aware of the problem but received no response, according to Wiggers. After threatening court action, the Dutch company received notice on Friday that Microsoft had agreed to settle the dispute. The agreement was finalized Monday, according to Wiggers.
Microsoft would not reveal the exact terms of the agreement but categorized the glitch as part of the beta software testing process.
Wiggers believes Startpagina.nl was targeted on purpose, however. “I think they did it just to strengthen their own position,” Wiggers said.
The software maker stressed that the problem occurred in an early beta.
“It is much better for beta software to identify these issues rather than have them be part of final shipping software,” Microsoft said in a statement.
It has posted messages on its Dutch and Belgian Web sites asking users to download the updated version of AntiSpyware and apologizing for the difficulties it caused the Dutch site, it said.
Microsoft has an online dispute form for vendors who want to notify it of issues concerning its AntiSpyware library and tagging. It can be found at: Text.