Hooooo, mama-- we'd have broadcast this a lot earlier if we'd had half a chance in Hades of being able to stop laughing for more than three seconds straight. You know this whole thing with RealNetworks whining incessantly for months that Apple "won't let us sell music that plays on the iPod, boo hoo hoo"? Well, did you think it had all come to a dramatic climax with the company's recent revelation that it had essentially hacked its way onto the iPod all by its lonesome? Yeah, so did we-- and boy howdy, were we ever wrong, because Real just unleashed a true sinkhole of hypocrisy and greedy cynicism upon the world and actually believed people would see it as a selfless endeavor to protect consumer choice. Ladies and gentlemen, may we introduce Real's latest contribution to our plot line: FreedomOfMusicChoice.org. Like we said, it's only the laughter than keeps us from retching.
What's so funny, you ask? Well, see, the Freedom of Music Choice site purports to be "an invitation for your dialogue and thoughts, whether it's about us or any other player on the field." To that end, it invites visitors to register for membership so that they can post their own comments on the various anti-Apple articles to which the site links. It also links to a laughable online petition that aims to overwhelm Apple with an outpouring of public support for Real's iPod-hacking "Harmony" software, in hopes that Apple will keep its lawyers chained up and also refrain from breaking the software in future iPod firmware updates. Gee, does the scope of this site seem slightly limited to anyone, or is it just us?
See, Freedom of Music Choice links to five articles, and each and every one is about how Apple should stop hogging the iPod; we wonder why there aren't any articles about how Microsoft should make DRMed WMA files Mac-compatible? Or better yet, an article or two about why Real's own music store isn't accessible to those who choose to use a Macintosh? Why is Apple seemingly the sole target, here? Oh, that's right-- because Freedom of Music Choice (the site) has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of music choice (the concept); it's nothing more than a thinly-veiled propaganda machine launched by an increasingly desperate company hoping to high heaven that the unwashed masses are dumb enough to fall for its act. We keep forgetting.
Honestly, what's this "freedom" of which they speak? Our freedom to stop buying songs from the iTunes Music Store's million-song catalog so we can instead choose from Real's selection, which is far smaller? Our freedom to stop using our Macs and switch to Wintels for the privilege, since Real's store isn't even Mac-compatible? Or just Real's freedom to try to blackmail Apple with public sentiment, in hopes that the company will cut it a completely undeserved break? Because last we checked, Real does have the freedom to build its own music player that's better than the iPod and plays Real's chosen format just fine. Funny how instead of getting to work on that it's just trying to get customers hating Apple, huh?
Well, as it turns out, the public apparently isn't as stupid as Real CEO Rob Glaser assumed it was, because this is where the real laughs come in: remember those user comments we mentioned that site members could post? Well, people did post. A lot of them. And they were all so pro-Apple, anti-Real that the site eventually decided to pull all the comments down and remove the ability to add more. Freedom of music choice is one thing, but heaven forbid we also get freedom of expression. So much for our "dialogue and thoughts" on the subject, hmmmm?
The poll was even better. Plenty of people were signing it; unfortunately for Real, they were signing in protest of the petition itself, since what appeared to be at least nineteen of every twenty entries included a pro-Apple, anti-Real comment. (It's still up and growing; flipping through the comments should give you days of entertainment.) Evidently a substantial subset of netizens see through Real's cheap stunt and understand that if Apple invests a lot of time and money creating a seamless hardware-and-software-and-service experience, it should be allowed to maintain the integrity of that user experience without having to worry about fielding tech support calls from people whose iPods are acting screwy because they've been putting Harmony'd-up songs on it. (Seriously, you've used RealPlayer; do you have any confidence that the company's programmers wouldn't screw something up?)
Needless to say, Real pulled the link to the petition just like it pulled all the user comments. If you check now, however, the comments are back-- now that Real appears to have hired some lackeys to post "rebuttals" to the rampant pro-Apple sentiment. A link to the petition is back, too-- or should we say, another petition? It seems that Real went out and created a second version, and this one doesn't allow comments. Gee, that'll show those pro-Apple zagnuts.
Except that people just started putting their anti-Real comments in the name field instead. (You just gotta love the adaptability.)
So now the petition doesn't let you view the signatures at all; there's no way around that, right?
Well, except that someone created a competing petition that asks Real to just can the whole "Freedom of Music Choice" thing completely, since it's clearly "an entirely self-centered move to keep themselves in the Music Download business rather than (as it purports to be) an act of Consumer-driven expression." And when last we checked, despite the media blitz driving traffic to Real's petition and the fact that several of its signatures were protest votes that shouldn't be counted toward the total, the far more obscure anti-Real petition was winning 989 to 741.