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Microsoft Wants Netscape Complaints

August 31, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Providing an early glimpse at Microsoft’s legal strategy in its antitrust fight with the government, the company demanded copies of about 4,000 e-mails that Netscape employees wrote over the past two years.

Netscape’s own lawyers on Monday were reviewing the messages, which Microsoft hopes might include embarrassing comments about Netscape’s own executives or its products, or possibly inflammatory messages about Microsoft.

Netscape employees posted the messages to two private forums for informal complaints. They fired off e-mails, for example, to gripe about cafeteria food and about the company’s policy prohibiting workers from bringing their dogs to the office.

Kent Walker, Netscape’s attorney, told employees Aug. 20 that Microsoft had subpoenaed the contents of the forums, called ``bad attitude″ and ``really bad attitude.″ The latter existed as a private e-mail discussion list run by Netscape engineer Jamie Zawinski, who wrote about the subpoena on his personal Web site.

``Microsoft is going to pay some ... lawyer $200 an hour to find out that we hate cafeteria food, don’t like the security posters, had a (bad) newsfeed and think ‘Navigator’ was a cooler name than ‘Communicator.’ And I smile,″ one Netscape software engineer wrote to Zawinski in an e-mail about the situation.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the subpoena in Monday’s editions.

Microsoft suggested some of the Netscape messages might describe superior features of Microsoft’s own browser.

``It would be ironic if Netscape’s own internal e-mail indicated that consumers are choosing our technology because it’s simply better than Netscape’s,″ Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said.

The demand by Microsoft clearly worried Walker, who wrote to employees in his Aug. 20 message: ``I’m hoping that we’ve followed the document-retention policy and deleted materials older than 90 days, but I fear we haven’t.″

Netscape acknowledged the subpoena but declined further comment.

``We received the subpoena from Microsoft and are reviewing it and responding appropriately,″ Netscape spokeswoman Chris Holten said Monday.

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