Send Me Your Antifeatures, Win a Flessenlikker

At OSCON this year, I’m going to be giving a talk about "antifeatures." Antifeatures are a way to describe a particular practice made possible by locked down technologies. Antifeatures, as I describe them, are functionality (i.e., "features) that a technology developer will charge users not to include. You can read my short article on the topic published in the FSF bulletin in 2007 for a series of examples and a more in-depth description.

One thing I want to do is put together as large a collection of these antifeatures as possible before the talk. Please read the article if you haven’t already and send me examples of other antifeatures either as a comment or in email to mako@atdot.cc. Credit and my deep gratitude will be given to anybody who sends me something. A prize in the form of a real Dutch flessenlikker will given to the best example I get.

10 thoughts on “Send Me Your Antifeatures, Win a Flessenlikker”

  1. My Car is has an Anti-feature.  I have a Hyundai Amica. Because it is the cheapest version of the Amica, it has central locking, but only if you put the key in the driver’s door. Other versions have central locking with the key in the passenger door as well. I cannot work out a way in which central locking mechanism could in any way be cheaper with locking from one door disabled.  The only reason is to downgrade the car, so I wish I had brought the more expensive one.

  2. Related to Dan’s suggestion about unlisted numbers: you have to pay the phone company to “block” (not transmit) your caller ID information.

  3. Websites which check User-Agent and refuse to work when it doesn’t match a known whitelist, even though if you fake your User-Agent the site works just fine, demonstrating that nothing except their arbitrary check itself stops you from using the site.

  4. Windows Vista often turns into an antifeature: for $$ more, you can upgrade to Windows XP.

    Windows itself occasionally becomes an antifeature, when a system without it costs more than a system with it.  However, vendors have gotten somewhat better about this of late, though somewhat more sneaky: instead of offering a system more cheaply with Linux, they’ll offer a system with (for instance) Windows and a 40GB drive or Linux and an 80GB drive, both for the same price.

  5. A “one time use” video camera is just a USB device with a non-standard connector and some  http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2005/08/how_to_cvs_video_camera_h.html

    You have to special-order a MSFT Windows machine to get it without “craplets” — annoying preinstalled trial software: http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20070412/new-pc-junk-programs/

    First-generation computer DVD drives did not have region coding in hardware.  Later on, the DVD CCA imposed a limit inside the drive on the number of region changes that the user could make.

    (My guess is that proprietary software, except for uniformly high-budget customers, is not possible without price discrimination.  Without price discrimination, a vendor has to charge a price that’s unaffordable for the low end, which drives them to an in-progress Free alternative, which then gets good enough to work for the profitable midrange.)

  6. You have to pay the phone company several dollars a month to get them to NOT list your number in the phone book.

  7. A nice one: non-free apps prepared to delete user files if they think something is messing with their copy protection schemes.

    http://developers.slashdot.org/story/07/02/24/1332224/Software-Deletes-Files-to-Defend-Against-Piracy

    The case of reversecode is one of anti-feature triumph; in the end it was just a hoax (no antifeature implemented) but the project banished for good.
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070225000608/http://reversecode.com/index.html

  8. Ironically enough this is on a GPL licensed (by letter of the law if not in spirit) piece of software.

    Namely Magento the online ecommerce software.
    Their software includes pop up messages to tell you when there is a new version you need to upgrade to and a 1-click button to then automatically upgrade. Recently they introduced an “Enterprise” version. The “community” (read free) version had rather nice coupon functionality. Unfortunately, as one of the sales “features” of the “enterprise” version is coupons, they’ve now basically implemented a “pay of get downgraded ‘feature'” in the community version. If you bought the “Enterprise” edition you got to keep coupons in your store. If at any time you didn’t choose to ignore the automatic warnings prompting you to 1-click upgrade, and you chose to stay with the open source community edition, then that functionality was stripped away from you.

    Theoretically the whole thing could be forked, but Magento has done a superb job in making the codebase difficult to understand with very little feedback to public questions, so there really isn’t anyone who understands it well enough to fork it.

    Thanks Magento! The Spirit of Open Source at it’s finest (ahem!)

    We have rather large clients we were 90% finished moving to Magento when this happens. They’re now happily on Virtuemart.

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