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Embrace, extend, and extinguish

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"Embrace, extend, and extinguish" (EEE),[1] also known as "embrace, extend, and exterminate",[2] is a phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found[3] was used internally by Microsoft[4] to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used open standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and using the differences to strongly disadvantage its competitors.


The strategy and phrase "embrace and extend" were first described outside Microsoft in a 1996 article in The New York Times titled "Tomorrow, the World Wide Web! Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet",[5] in which writer John Markoff said, "Rather than merely embrace and extend the Internet, the company's critics now fear, Microsoft intends to engulf it." The phrase "embrace and extend" also appears in a facetious motivational song by an anonymous Microsoft employee,[6] and in an interview of Steve Ballmer by The New York Times.[7]

A variant of the phrase, "embrace, extend then innovate", is used in J Allard's 1994 memo "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet"[8] to Paul Maritz and other executives at Microsoft. The memo starts with a background on the Internet in general, and then proposes a strategy on how to turn Windows into the next "killer app" for the Internet:

In order to build the necessary respect and win the mindshare of the Internet community, I recommend a recipe not unlike the one we've used with our TCP/IP efforts: embrace, extend, then innovate. Phase 1 (Embrace): all participants need to establish a solid understanding of the infostructure and the community—determine the needs and the trends of the user base. Only then can we effectively enable Microsoft system products to be great Internet systems. Phase 2 (Extend): establish relationships with the appropriate organizations and corporations with goals similar to ours. Offer well-integrated tools and services compatible with established and popular standards that have been developed in the Internet community. Phase 3 (Innovate): move into a leadership role with new Internet standards as appropriate, enable standard off-the-shelf titles with Internet awareness. Change the rules: Windows become the next-generation Internet tool of the future.

The addition "extinguish" was introduced in the United States v. Microsoft Corp. antitrust trial when then vice president of Intel, Steven McGeady, used the phrase[9] to explain Maritz's statement in a 1995 meeting with Intel that described Microsoft's strategy to "kill HTML by extending it".[10][11]


The strategy's three phases are:[12][13]

  1. Embrace: Development of software substantially compatible with an Open Standard.
  2. Extend: Addition of features not supported by the Open Standard, creating interoperability problems.
  3. Extinguish: When extensions become a de facto standard because of their dominant market share, they marginalize competitors who are unable to support the new extensions.

Microsoft claims the original strategy is not anti-competitive, but rather an exercise to implement features it believes customers want.[14]

Examples by Microsoft[edit]

  • Browser incompatibilities:
    • The plaintiffs in an antitrust case claimed Microsoft had added support for ActiveX controls in the Internet Explorer Web browser to break compatibility with Netscape Navigator, which used components based on Java and Netscape's own plugin system.
    • On CSS, data:, etc.: A decade after the original Netscape-related antitrust suit, the Web browser company Opera Software filed an antitrust complaint against Microsoft with the European Union, saying it "calls on Microsoft to adhere to its own public pronouncements to support these standards, instead of stifling them with its notorious 'Embrace, Extend and Extinguish' strategy".[15]
  • Office documents: In a memo to the Office product group in 1998, Bill Gates stated: "One thing we have got to change in our strategy – allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other people's browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company. We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities. Anything else is suicide for our platform. This is a case where Office has to avoid doing something to destory [sic] Windows."[16]
  • Breaking Java's portability: The antitrust case's plaintiffs also accused Microsoft of using an "embrace and extend" strategy with regard to the Java platform, which was designed explicitly with the goal of developing programs that could run on any operating system, be it Windows, Mac, or Linux. They claimed that, by omitting the Java Native Interface (JNI) from its implementation and providing J/Direct for a similar purpose, Microsoft deliberately tied Windows Java programs to its platform, making them unusable on Linux and Mac systems. According to an internal communication, Microsoft sought to downplay Java's cross-platform capability and make it "just the latest, best way to write Windows applications".[17] Microsoft paid Sun Microsystems US$20 million in January 2001 (equivalent to $34.41 million in 2023[18]) to settle the resulting legal implications of their breach of contract.[19]
  • More Java issues: Sun sued Microsoft over Java again in 2002 and Microsoft agreed to settle out of court for US$2 billion[20][21] (equivalent to US$3.23 billion in 2023[18]).
  • Instant messaging: In 2001, CNET described an instance concerning Microsoft's instant messaging program.[22] "Embrace" AOL's IM protocol, the de facto standard of the 1990s and early 2000s. "Extend" the standard with proprietary Microsoft addons which added new features, but broke compatibility with AOL's software. Gain dominance, since Microsoft had 95% OS share and their MSN Messenger was provided for free. Finally, "extinguish" and lock out AOL's IM software, since AOL was unable to use the modified MS-patented protocol.
  • Email protocols: Microsoft supported POP3, IMAP, and SMTP email protocols in their Microsoft Outlook email client. At the same time, they developed their own email protocol, MAPI, which has since been documented but is largely unused by third parties. Microsoft has announced that they would end support for the less secure basic authentication, which lacks support for multi-factor authentication, access to Exchange Online APIs for Office 365 customers, which disables most use of IMAP or POP3 and requires significant upgrades to support the more secure OAuth2 based authentication in applications in order to continue to use those protocols;[23] some customers have responded by simply shutting off older protocols.[24]

Web browsers[edit]


During the browser wars, Netscape implemented the "font" tag, among other HTML extensions, without seeking review from a standards body. With the rise of Internet Explorer, the two companies became locked in a dead heat to out-implement each other with non-standards-compliant features. In 2004, to prevent a repeat of the "browser wars", and the resulting morass of conflicting standards, the browser vendors Apple Inc. (Safari), Mozilla Foundation (Firefox), and Opera Software (Opera browser) formed the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) to create open standards to complement those of the World Wide Web Consortium.[25] Microsoft refused to join, citing the group's lack of a patent policy as the reason.[26]

Google Chrome[edit]

With its dominance in the web browser market, Google has been accused of using Google Chrome and Blink development to push new web standards that are proposed in-house by Google and subsequently implemented by its services first and foremost. These have led to performance disadvantages and compatibility issues with competing browsers, and in some cases, developers intentionally refusing to test their websites on any other browser than Chrome.[27] Tom Warren of The Verge went as far as comparing Chrome to Internet Explorer 6, the default browser of Windows XP that was often targeted by competitors due to its similar ubiquity in the early 2000s.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Deadly embrace". The Economist. 2000-03-30. Archived from the original on 2018-05-23.
  2. ^ "Microsoft limits XML in Office 2003". Archived from the original on September 22, 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-31.
  3. ^ "US Department of Justice Proposed Findings of Fact—Revised" (PDF). Usdoj.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  4. ^ "US Department of Justice Proposed Findings of Fact". Usdoj.gov. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  5. ^ John Markoff (July 16, 1996). "Tomorrow, the World Wide Web! Microsoft, the PC King, Wants to Reign Over the Internet". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
  6. ^ Rebello, Kathy (1996-07-15). "Inside Microsoft (Part 1)". Business Week. Archived from the original on 1996-10-19. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  7. ^ Lohr, Steve (28 January 2007). "Preaching From the Ballmer Pulpit (Published 2007)". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2020.
  8. ^ "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet". Microsoft.com. Archived from the original (RTF) on 2016-04-21. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  9. ^ "Steven McGeady court testimony". Cyber.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2006-03-31. (DOC format)
  10. ^ "United States v. Microsoft: Trial Summaries (page 2)". Cyber.law.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2006-03-31.
  11. ^ "In Microsoft We Trust". Archived from the original on 2005-04-19. Retrieved 2006-03-31.
  12. ^ "Embrace, Extend, Extinguish (IT Vendor Strategies)". Hr.com. Retrieved 2007-10-14.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ Expert Testimony of Ronald Alepin in Comes v. Microsoft — Embrace, Extend, Extinguish, Groklaw, January 8, 2007.
  14. ^ "U.S. v. Microsoft: We're Defending Our Right to Innovate". Openacademy.mindef.gov.sg. Archived from the original on March 29, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  15. ^ "Opera files antitrust complaint with the EU". Opera. 2007-12-13. Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  16. ^ "Plaintiff's Exhibit : 2991 : Comes v Microsoft" (PDF). Antitrust.slated.org. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-30. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  17. ^ Matt Richtel (1998-10-22). "Memos Released in Sun-Microsoft Suit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-22. The court documents state that in April 1997, Ben Slivka, the Microsoft manager responsible for executing the Java strategy, sent an E-mail to Microsoft's chairman, William H. Gates, noting 'When I met with you last, you had a lot of pretty pointed questions about Java, so I want to make sure I understand your issues and concerns.' Mr. Slivka goes on to ask if Mr. Gates' concerns included 'How do we wrest control of Java away from Sun?' and 'How we turn Java into just the latest, best way to write Windows applications?'
  18. ^ a b 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved February 29, 2024.
  19. ^ "Sun, Microsoft settle Java suit". News.cnet.com. Retrieved 2001-01-23.
  20. ^ "Microsoft's lawsuit payouts amount to around $9 billion". The Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. Retrieved 2010-03-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ "Microsoft and Sun Microsystems Enter Broad Cooperation Agreement; Settle Outstanding Litigation". Microsoft.com. April 2004. Archived from the original on 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2010-03-04.
  22. ^ Hu, Jim (2001-06-07). "Microsoft messaging tactics recall browser wars". CNET. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  23. ^ Saripalli, Sivaprakash (September 20, 2019). "End of support for Basic Authentication access to Exchange Online API's for Office 365 customers". Microsoft. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  24. ^ "UW-Madison IT dept. help page". University of Wisconsin. Retrieved 2020-07-01. Enabling password security for an Office 365 forces modern authentication to be used for all protocols. SMTP Auth is deprecated and is no longer supported.
  25. ^ "What is the WHATWG and why did it form?". Blog.whatwg.org. Archived from the original on 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2007-08-25.
  26. ^ "MSConversations". Archived from the original on 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  27. ^ "Google's Chrome Becomes Web 'Gatekeeper' and Rivals Complain". Bloomberg. May 28, 2019. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  28. ^ Warren, Tom (January 4, 2018). "Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6". The Verge. Retrieved May 28, 2019.

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