1996-11-09 - Re: WebTV a “munition”

Header Data

From: “Jon Leonard” <jleonard@divcom.umop-ap.com>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Message Hash: 264d46ed05993c1fde3e3d3d91d15445c46731057c5749a498944253ea5a2304
Message ID: <9611092152.AA02019@divcom.umop-ap.com>
Reply To: <199611091806.KAA00144@slack.lne.com>
UTC Datetime: 1996-11-09 21:57:16 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 9 Nov 1996 13:57:16 -0800 (PST)

Raw message

From: "Jon Leonard" <jleonard@divcom.umop-ap.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 1996 13:57:16 -0800 (PST)
To: cypherpunks@toad.com
Subject: Re: WebTV a "munition"
In-Reply-To: <199611091806.KAA00144@slack.lne.com>
Message-ID: <9611092152.AA02019@divcom.umop-ap.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text

Eric Murray wrote:
> Jon Leonard writes:
> > Eric Murray wrote:
[more stuff about WebTv/crypto/export problems trimmed]
> So if their point is to fight against ITAR (one interpretation of
> the facts as I know them) why haven't they announced that they're doing so?
> It would be good PR.

I'm not sure that it would be good PR for the general public.  That's their
target market, after all.  If you've got a computer, you probably don't need
a WebTv for websurfing.

> > Given that they've tried to do everything else right (and, in my opinion,
> > succeeded), that may be all there is to it.
> > 
> > I'll ask for more details next time I talk to them.
> That'd be cool.  I think that there's a lot that we don't know about this.

One of my friends at WebTv called, and I asked him about it.
What I got from him was:

1) They wanted to do it right.  (And electronic commerce needs strong crypto)
2) They wanted to be stronger than Netscape's default.  (Triple-DES, I think)
3) They didn't necessarily expect this to be a problem.
4) They expect to win the export control fight.

He seemed almost gleeful that they'd be classified as a munition.
I was suprised that he knew the issue and had an opinion, as he isn't
particularly crypto-aware usually.  I'd guess that it's a big deal
at WebTv.

Keep in mind that this is only one employee, and non-management at that.

It sounded like they might be vulnerable to a government deal, and
were mostly relying on the implausibility of export controlling WebTv
helping national security in any detectable way.

It seems to me that this has the potential to be a cypherpunk victory.
There's the potential for their market (and publicity) to be even wider
than Netscape's, and for the export controls to look even sillier.

Any ideas for helping their export case, or avoiding them making a deal?

> The web site doesn't have much hard info, just a lot of
> buzzword-compliant marketing bullstuff and the highest ratio of
> (TM)s to words that I have ever seen.

That seems to be the new advertising style in high tech.  Unfortunate.

Jon Leonard