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There was an era before Microsoft Word's dominance when a variety of radically different paradigms for text preparation and formatting competed in an open marketplace of ideas.

Microsoft Word grew by acquiring new subsystems: mail merge, spelling checkers, grammar checkers, outline processing.

All of these were once successful cottage industries with a thriving community of rival product vendors striving to produce better products that would capture each others' market share.

One of its tactics became known (and feared) throughout the industry: embrace and extend.

If confronted with a successful new type of software, Microsoft would purchase one of the leading companies in the sector and then throw resources at integrating their product into Microsoft's own ecosystem, if necessary dumping it at below cost in order to drive rivals out of business.

Each new version of Word defaulted to writing a new format of file which could not be parsed by older copies of the program.

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