A Windows Developer's Brutal Explanation As To Why Microsoft Is Falling Behind

Right now, somewhere on the internet, there is a flame war occurring between devotees of Linux and Windows. It's just the nature of passionate software evangelism. A much rarer event, however, is one of Redmond's own unloading publicly on the faults of not only Windows, but Microsoft's company culture.

Recently, a post was made on Y Combinator by an anonymous Windows developer; a rant breaking down why Windows is not keeping pace with the likes of Linux. It appears, however, the author thought better of his actions and deleted the post.

Unfortunately for the anonymous dev, Marc Bevand uploaded a copy of the content to his blog Zorinaq. To say it's enlightening would be an understatement.

The developer starts by admitting that Windows is "indeed slower than other operating systems in many scenarios", though the cause is not so much technical as it is social:

There's almost none of the improvement for its own sake, for the sake of glory, that you see in the Linux world ... There's also little incentive to create changes in the first place. On linux-kernel, if you improve the performance of directory traversal by a consistent 5%, you're praised and thanked. Here, if you do that and you're not on the object manager team ... your own management doesn't care ... Incremental improvements just annoy people and are, at best, neutral for your career.

It's also mentioned that the company is "having trouble" holding onto talent, with the likes of Google "poaching [its] best, most experience developers" with replacements being "youths straight from college".

There's even a bullet-point list of Microsoft's less glamorous decisions and software achievements, with the ones standing out being:

• XNA. Need I say more?


• Oh god, the NTFS code is a purple opium-fuelled Victorian horror novel that uses global recursive locks and SEH for flow control.

The post, in its entirety, does not paint a happy picture of Microsoft or Windows and after some consideration, it seems the developer felt a great deal of regret for dumping it all online. After Bevand reposted the rant, its author got in touch with him to clarify his points and apologise to his colleagues:

All this has gotten out of control. I was much too harsh, and I didn't intend this as some kind of massive exposé. This is just grumbling. I didn't appreciate the appetite people outside Microsoft have for Kremlinology. I should have thought through my post much more thoroughly. I want to apologize for presenting a misleading impression of what it's like on the inside.

He goes on to mention that his description of NTFS was "over the top" -- despite its quirks, it is a "very solid and well-tested" file system.

Here's the post, including the update, if you're keen on reading the finer details.

[Zorinaq, via Reddit]



    not brutal at all. In fact, i'm surprised why there isn't a daily post on Windows kernels, OS and other Mic. products. The amount of stagnation since 2008 is especially ridiculous, considering how many other companies have ramped up innovation and services exponentially.

      Really? When was the last time OS X or Linux halved the amount of system resources required to run? Because that's how Win8 compares to XP.

      In my own experience, it is mostly swings and roundabouts. When I worked for Autodesk as a product specialist, the product I specialised in was initially offered for Windows and Linux and had an Oracle database plugged into it's back-end. I had my laptop partitioned down the middle so that I could demo it on whichever OS the client I was showing it to used (although my choice of WindowMaker for my window manager confused the majority of Linux users). Performance on each was, as you'd expect, pretty close but overall it probably ran just a tad better on Windows. It was certainly several orders of magnitude easier to get up and running on Windows and the PC ran a lot cooler under Windows, too. But there wasn't really enough in it that I would have cared which OS I had to run it on for a big job. OTOH, every other application I rely on to do my work and for my hobbies definitely runs better on Windows. In fact, every other application I need will only run on Windows so it is a choice that makes itself, really.

        Your talking linux application support, whereas the original post is talking more low level kernel stuff i think. Just because your applications dont run on Linux doesn't make Windows any better.

        I switched off Windows onto OSX/Linux about 3 years ago just because I was sick of how unstable Windows can be. Windows updates seem to make things even worse, and then Windows eventually rots overtime to becoming even more unstable and sluggish. Not to mention how easy it is on OSX to migrate your old install to a fresh copy. Its brilliant.

          "Windows eventually rots overtime to becoming even more unstable and sluggish"

          Many Windows users refuse to admit this, but that has also been my experience. After about 12-18 months, every version of Windows that I have used is slower to load, less stable to use and slower to shut down. I also went to OS X about 3 years ago. My iMac starts just as fast, shuts down just as fast and it has never been unstable.

          What? Windows NT is the most stable OS I have ever used. I have more problems with OS X at work in a week than I have with my Windows PCs in a year. We have engineering up in our area several times a day, every day, sorting out stupid problems with the 6 MacPros we have to put up with. Some of the Mac diehards like to blame the network but there are 12 PC based edit suites across the way, in use 24/7, and I never see engineering over there.

            That might be your experience, but I have mine and it is exactly the opposite to yours.

            Yes Macs have their problems, so do Windows computers. As it sounds, your a Windows power user so your most experienced with Windows computers. But when it comes to reinstalling Mac OSX and retaining basically 90% of your settings and applications, OSX has Windows beat everytime!

              Maybe once but not with Win8, from my understanding. But I've never understood why, if you were going to reinstall your OS, you wouldn't want to return it to a default state. Retaining your settings seems like retaining your problems to me. The only thing I ever kept was my visual theme. But my days of OS reinstalls are long gone. I updated my laptop to Win8 the day I bought it home and that's the install it will have when I sell it later this year.

              As for being a power Windows user, I've been using Macs since the days of the blue and white plastic G3s and OS 9.x so I know it pretty well, too.

      Surely the Linux vs Windows debate will be more measurable some time this year when Valve releases their Linux gaming platform? I am certainly looking-forward to seeing the results.

    Honestly if it were a MSFT employee then I expect his name and position on it. Unless I see that than I call BS. Could he get fired, yes. Is it easy to right an argument and pretend to "know" the internals of a company anonymously, yes. So why do we believe he works for MSFT again? Oh right, because he said so, ahhh yes, because NO ONE EVER LIES ON THE INTERNET...

      The other aspect is that everyone likes to vent about the place they work from time to time. I think it should all be taken with a grain of salt.

      It is not a lie until you prove it to be so . . . and you haven't done that! If you have proof that anything that was said is wrong, I'd certainly like to hear about it.

    almost reads as if he got caught typing this out.

    NTFS does suck. I would said most of its faults were due to it proprietary nature limiting its support beyond windows devices. Makes me think now that the reason no one else implements it is because it's also a pain up the ass to implement?

      Er.. What? This isn't 2002.. Every major OS has full read/write support for this for.. a long time now..

        OSX doesnt, i can be turned on. Same with some linux distros. I think the reason is because its proprietary and not a well documented file system.

          OSX is based on FreeBSD - which definitely does have a full NTFS driver, you'd just need to compile it yourself.

          Plus, there are several paid options which offer full support - which would just be these compiled versions of the free software together with some interface integration i'd imagine.. That's what you get as a mac user, free software (even the basis of the OS was free for apple) that is then sold to you.

          Mac users made their bed, now it's time to sleep in it.

            Yep, i knew all that. I can understand why Apple doesnt include NTFS writing capabilities. NTFS is pretty dodgy (read about rootkits being hidden in alternate data streams in NTFS). Its a competing file system thats poorly documented and closed source.

        Linux has ntfs-3g which is a steaming pile of crap. Slow and uses a ton of CPU for file operations.

        Further to what @gusbricker said Playstation's won't read NTFS devices, nor any Sony or Panasonic TV I have encountered. Samsung's do, they must have paid licensing fees or something.

          There's a lot of factors involved with that. TV's for example it's largely a price point thing, while many will only allow you to record to specially formatted drives (to "prevent piracy") etc etc.. With PS3 it's probably more that it has less overhead than NTFS (because it has less features, it's unavoidable), and why would they integrate a complete seperate filesytem driver that 80% of users would probably never use into what is supposed to be a lean mean gaming machine?

          There's no licencing "fee" i'm aware of, but I do believe there is licencing.

            Errrmmm I'd love to plug an NTFS USB into a PS3, with only FAT it's impossible to get HD content onto the device unless you stream to it (due to FAT32 4 gig file size limit). I'm sure I'm not the only one to be disappointed by this.

            Going back to the original point though, there's not a whole lot of things out there with out of the box NTFS support and NTFS has been around since 1993. That year is probably an indicator to that if Microsoft were to sit down with a blank canvas and design a new filesystem format with todays knowledge it would probably be ridiculously better.

              You aren't wrong - a lot of people want that.. But the device was never intended to be a HD media server.. Especially when the games themselves are BARELY basic HD (720p or below in most cases). A 720p movie generally speaking compressed is 2-3gb, which FAT32 is more than capable of.

              It's kind of like asking why your old PS1 can't play DVD's many years ago heh.

                NTFS has been around for years and existed well before the PS3 was created, how is it like asking your PS1 to play DVD's... I see no analogy there?

                  ... I must have missed the part where my argument was that NTFS was just invented or something, because I miss your point entirely.

    Worked for Microsoft huh ?......pictures please, or it never happened. This could have been anyone.

    Oh, by the way Logan, I'm really the Batman.

    Last edited 13/05/13 5:15 am

    XNA, enough said? XNA was a very successful product and made MS a LOT of money.. So yes, say more..

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