When a “Grass Roots Movement” Goes Horribly Wrong

3 minute read

Apple news lately has been dominated by recent interactions with Real and in particular, concerning their new Harmony technology (note: that link won’t work on a Mac) which threatens to penetrate the “closed” iPod (one can read more at Daring Fireball as to why calling the iPod closed is silly).

Up until this point, Apple and Real have sounded like two playground kids arguing over who is the “doody-head”.

  • Real: I’m going to play on the iPod.
  • Apple: No, you’re not.
  • Real: Yes, I am. You’re a jerk.
  • Apple: Am not.
  • Real: Are too.
  • Apple: Not.
  • Real: Too.
  • Repeat as necessary.

Up until this point, this has just been a lot of posturing done through press releases.

Real finally acted… foolishly. In order to tap into the “fight the power” segment of the population, it announced and set up its Freedom of Music Choice website. They’ve even gone as far as to give it a “blog” feel by running the server with PostNuke.

Apparently, they’re even into the open source movement as the make clear through the footer:

This web site was made with PostNuke, a web portal system written in PHP. PostNuke is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL license. My hero. Next they’ll say that wasn’t intentional.

Although they mention the website is “sponsored” by Real, they try to avoid showing that in fact, the website is hosted and maintained by Real. It’s entirely their site. It’s not some third-party that they are simply helping financially. Again, they’re trying to keep the corporate glow away from the website in order to tap into a market that they believe is susceptible to transparent manipulation. They’re trying to look like the little guy.

My favorite part? Well, the part of the site that strokes the ego of Real’s CEO of course:

Rock o­n Rob! Rob Glaser, CEO and founder of RealNetworks, pioneered music and video to the web. Starting Thursday, he’ll answer your questions about music choice and why consumers must be heard. Submit your questions here… As part of this new tact, they also published an online petition asking Apple to not “Break My iPod!” Again, they’ve tried to hide their corporate identity to make it seem as if they can’t afford to make and run their own petition software. Instead, they have to rely on Petition Online.

Their first attempt at a petition failed with the majority of respondents telling Real the story of the pot that called the kettle black. I’m referring of course to the fact that their music store has 0 Mac support. As others have said, apparently choice means using Windows and only Windows.

Real apparently learned its lesson very quickly, pulling the link to the original petition, posting a new petition, this time without comments. Take a look at the address for the second petition (“4real2”). Again, while the petition text is completely devoid of any reference to Real, it’s blatantly obvious that they posted it. Smooth.

Now the original site’s comment system is overridden with comments to the effect of “take a flying leap.” I suppose that’s what happens when a corporation tries to engineer a grass roots movement. It’s too bad we’ll never get to see the entire plan come to fruition. I’m sure the rest of the plan went like this:

  • Countless suckers fall for Real’s scam.
  • Apple is swayed by these countless suckers into backing down in order to avoid any more negative press.
  • Real’s music store takes off.
  • In later interviews following the media’s proclamation of Real as the DRM King, Real executives credit the grass roots movement that started it all without any prodding by them. They then credit consumers with being able to make decisions for themselves.

It’s too bad that we won’t get to see this because I think it would be yet another milestone in our society, just showing how gullible people are. Alas, the Internet population is just a little more skeptical.