RealNames and their MS "contract"
I skimmed the essay Joel linked to, regarding RealNames and MS terminating their contract. It seemed to me that the "contract" RealNames had with MS was to pay MS large sums of money and in return, MS would let RealNames write code for them.
This seems akin to a store paying to set up shop in the mall. RealNames payed for a primo location, at which they could make enough money to cover their "rent."
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