Fear, uncertainty and doubt

From HandWiki

Fear, uncertainty and doubt (often shortened to FUD) is a disinformation strategy used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics, cults, and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategy to influence perception by disseminating negative and dubious or false information and a manifestation of the appeal to fear.

While the phrase dates to at least the early 20th century, the present common usage of disinformation related to software, hardware and technology industries generally appeared in the 1970s to describe disinformation in the computer hardware industry, and has since been used more broadly.


The term appeared as far back as the 1920s.[1][2] A similar formulation "doubts fears and uncertainties" reaches back to 1965.[3] By 1975, the term was appearing abbreviated as FUD in marketing and sales contexts:[4] and in public relations.[5] The term FUD is also alternatively rendered as "Fear Uncertainty and Disinformation".[6]

One of the messages dealt with is FUD—the fear, uncertainty and doubt on the part of customer and sales person alike that stifles the approach and greeting.

FUD was first used with its common current technology-related meaning by Gene Amdahl in 1975, after he left IBM to found his own company, Amdahl Corp.: "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering Amdahl products."[7] The term has also been attributed to veteran Morgan Stanley computer analyst Ulrich Weil. This usage of FUD to describe disinformation in the computer hardware industry is said to have led to subsequent popularization of the term.[8]

As Eric S. Raymond wrote:[7]

The idea, of course, was to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment. This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software. After 1991, the term has become generalized to refer to any kind of disinformation used as a competitive weapon.

By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its own, regardless of the relative technical merits. This is a recognized phenomenon, epitomized by the traditional axiom of purchasing agents that "nobody ever got fired for buying IBM equipment". The aim is to have IT departments buy software they know to be technically inferior because upper management is more likely to recognize the brand.


Software producers


From the 1990s onward the term became most often associated with software industry giant Microsoft. Roger Irwin said:[9]

Microsoft soon picked up the art of FUD from IBM, and throughout the '80s used FUD as a primary marketing tool, much as IBM had in the previous decade. They ended up out FUD-ing IBM themselves during the OS/2 vs Win3.1 years.

In 1996, Caldera, Inc. accused Microsoft of several anti-competitive practices, including issuing vaporware announcements, creating FUD, and excluding competitors from participating in beta-test programs in order to destroy competition in the DOS market.[10][11] One of the claims was related to having modified Windows 3.1 so that it would not run on DR DOS 6.0 although there were no technical reasons for it not to work.[10][12] This was caused by the so called AARD code, some encrypted piece of code, which had been found in a number of Microsoft programs. The code would fake nonsensical error messages if run on DR DOS, like:[13][14][15]

Non-Fatal error detected: error #2726
Please contact Windows 3.1 beta support
Press ENTER to exit or C to continue[13][14][15]

If the user chose to press , Windows would continue to run on DR DOS without problems. While it had been already speculated in the industry that the purpose of this code was to create doubts about DR DOS's compatibility and thereby destroy the product's reputation,[13][14] internal Microsoft memos published as part of the United States v. Microsoft antitrust case later revealed that the specific focus of these tests was in fact DR DOS.[16] At one point, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates sent a memo to a number of employees, reading

You never sent me a response on the question of what things an app would do that would make it run with MSDOS and not run with DR-DOS. Is there feature [sic] they have that might get in our way?[10][17]

Microsoft Senior Vice President Brad Silverberg later sent another memo, stating

What the [user] is supposed to do is feel uncomfortable, and when he has bugs, suspect that the problem is DR-DOS and then go out to buy MS-DOS.[10][17]

In 2000, Microsoft settled the lawsuit out-of-court for an undisclosed sum, which in 2009 was revealed to be US$280m.[18][19][20]

At around the same time, the leaked internal Microsoft "Halloween documents" stated "OSS [Open Source Software] is long-term credible... [therefore] FUD tactics cannot be used to combat it."[21] Open source software, and the Linux community in particular, are widely perceived as frequent targets of Microsoft FUD:

  • Statements about the "viral nature"[22] of the GNU General Public License (GPL).
  • Statements that "...FOSS [Free and open source software] infringes on no fewer than 235 Microsoft patents," before software patent law precedents were even established.[23]
  • Statements that Windows Server 2003 has lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than Linux, in Microsoft's "Get-The-Facts" campaign. It turned out that they were comparing Linux on a very expensive IBM Mainframe to Windows Server 2003 on an Intel Xeon-based server.[24][25]
  • A 2010 video claimed that OpenOffice.org had a higher long-term cost of ownership, as well as poor interoperability with Microsoft's own office suite. The video featured statements such as "If an open source freeware solution breaks, who's gonna fix it?"[26][27]


The SCO Group's 2003 lawsuit against IBM, funded by Microsoft, claiming $5 billion in intellectual property infringements by the free software community, is an example of FUD, according to IBM, which argued in its counterclaim that SCO was spreading "fear, uncertainty, and doubt".[28]

Magistrate Judge Wells wrote (and Judge Kimball concurred) in her order limiting SCO's claims: "The court finds SCO’s arguments unpersuasive. SCO’s arguments are akin to SCO telling IBM, 'sorry we are not going to tell you what you did wrong because you already know...' SCO was required to disclose in detail what it feels IBM misappropriated... the court finds it inexcusable that SCO is... not placing all the details on the table. Certainly if an individual were stopped and accused of shoplifting after walking out of Neiman Marcus they would expect to be eventually told what they allegedly stole. It would be absurd for an officer to tell the accused that 'you know what you stole I’m not telling.' Or, to simply hand the accused individual a catalog of Neiman Marcus' entire inventory and say 'it's in there somewhere, you figure it out.'"[29]

Regarding the matter, Darl McBride, President and CEO of SCO, made the following statements:

  1. "IBM has taken our valuable trade secrets and given them away to Linux,"
  2. "We're finding... cases where there is line-by-line code in the Linux kernel that is matching up to our UnixWare code"
  3. "...unless more companies start licensing SCO's property... [SCO] may also sue Linus Torvalds... for patent infringement."
  4. "Both companies [IBM and Red Hat] have shifted liability to the customer and then taunted us to sue them."
  5. "We have the ability to go to users with lawsuits and we will if we have to, 'It would be within SCO Group's rights to order every copy of AIX [IBM's proprietary UNIX] destroyed',"
  6. "As of Friday, June 13 [2003], we will be done trying to talk to IBM, and we will be talking directly to its customers and going in and auditing them. IBM no longer has the authority to sell or distribute IBM AIX and customers no longer have the right to use AIX software"
  7. "If you just drag this out in a typical litigation path, where it takes years and years to settle anything, and in the meantime you have all this uncertainty clouding over the market..."
  8. "Users are running systems that have basically pirated software inside, or stolen software inside of their systems, they have liability."[30]

SCO stock skyrocketed from under $3 a share to over $20 in a matter of weeks in 2003. (It later dropped to around[31] $1.20—then crashed to under 50 cents on 13 August 2007, in the aftermath of a ruling that Novell owns the UNIX copyrights.)[32]


Apple's claim that iPhone jailbreaking could potentially allow hackers to crash cell phone towers was described by von Lohmann, a representative of the EFF, as a "kind of theoretical threat...more FUD than truth”.[33]

Security industry

Main page: Social:Appeal to fear

FUD is widely recognized as a tactic to promote the sale or implementation of security products and measures. It is possible to find pages describing purely artificial problems. Such pages frequently contain links to the demonstrating source code that does not point to any valid location and sometimes even links that "will execute malicious code on your machine regardless of current security software", leading to pages without any executable code.[citation needed]

The drawback to the FUD tactic in this context is that, when the stated or implied threats fail to materialize over time, the customer or decision-maker frequently reacts by withdrawing budgeting or support from future security initiatives.[34]


The FUD tactic was used by Caltex Australia in 2003. According to an internal memo, which was subsequently leaked, they wished to use FUD to destabilise franchisee confidence, and thus get a better deal for Caltex. This memo was used as an example of unconscionable behaviour in a Senate inquiry. Senior management claimed that it was contrary to and did not reflect company principles.[35][36][37]


In 2008, Clorox was the subject of both consumer and industry criticism for advertising its Green Works line of allegedly environmentally friendly cleaning products using the slogan, "Finally, Green Works."[38] The slogan implied both that "green" products manufactured by other companies which had been available to consumers prior to the introduction of Clorox's GreenWorks line had all been ineffective, and also that the new GreenWorks line was at least as effective as Clorox's existing product lines. The intention of this slogan and the associated advertising campaign has been interpreted as appealing to consumers' fears that products from companies with less brand recognition are less trustworthy or effective. Critics also pointed out that, despite its representation of GreenWorks products as "green" in the sense of being less harmful to the environment and/or consumers using them, the products contain a number of ingredients advocates of natural products have long campaigned against the use of in household products due to toxicity to humans or their environment.[39] All three implicit claims have been disputed, and some of their elements disproven, by environmental groups, consumer-protection groups, and the industry self-regulatory Better Business Bureau.[40]

Further reading

While common usage of the term "FUD" is relatively recent and somewhat limited, the practice of casting unwarranted aspersions upon other persons, products or circumstances to further one's own goals may be as old as humanity; examples in classic literature include Iago in Shakespeare's Othello, and the terms in the "See also" section below offer many further examples.

See also

Books about "fear, uncertainty and doubt"


  1. "Suspicion has no place in our interchanges; it is a shield for ignorance, a sign of fear, uncertainty, and doubt." Caesar Augustus Yarbrough, The Roman Catholic Church Challenged, p. 75. The Patriotic Societies of Macon, 1920.
  2. "Again he was caught in a tempest of fear, uncertainty, and doubt." Monica Mary Gardner, The Patriot Novelist of Poland, Henryk Sienkiewicz, p. 71. J. M. Dent; E. P. Dutton & Co, 1926.
  3. "This will give unspeakable comfort peace and satisfaction to his Mind, and set him not only out of danger and free him from an ill state, but out of all doubts fears and uncertainties in his thoughts about it; ..." William Payne, A practical discourse of repentance, rectifying the mistakes about it, especially such as lead either to despair or presumption: ..., p. 557. S. Smith, 1965.
  4. "Clothes, Volume 10, Issues 14-24", Clothes (PRADS, Inc.) 10 (14-24): 19, https://books.google.com/books?id=B8XxAAAAMAAJ&q=FUD, retrieved 2011-06-10 
  5. The Complete Sales Letter Book. Armonk: Sharpe Professional. 1998. ISBN 0-7656-0083-8. 
  6. Netlingo. Ojai: NetLingo. 2002. p. 179. ISBN 0-9706396-7-8. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Raymond, Eric S., ed (2003-12-29). "FUD". The Jargon File. http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/F/FUD.html. 
  8. For example, FUD has been used to describe social dynamics in contexts where sales, lobbying or commercial promotion is not involved. School Mobbing and Emotional Abuse. Philadelphia: Brunner–Routledge. 2003. ISBN 0-415-94551-8. 
  9. "What is FUD". 1998. http://www.cavcomp.demon.co.uk/halloween/fuddef.html. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "In the United States District Court - District of Utah, Central Division - Caldera, Inc. vs. Microsoft Corporation - Consolidated statement of facts in support of its responses to motions for summary judgement by Microsoft Corporation - Case No. 2:96CV 0645B". Caldera, Inc.. April 1999. http://www.maxframe.com/DR/Info/fullstory/factstat.html. 
  11. "In the United States District Court - District of Utah, Central Division - Caldera, Inc. vs. Microsoft Corporation - Case No. 2:96CV 0645B - Caldera, Inc.'s Memorandum in opposition to defendant's motion for partial Summary Judgment on plaintiff's "Technological Tying" claim". Caldera, Inc.. May 1999. http://www.maxframe.com/DR/Info/fullstory/tech.html. 
  12. "Caldera submits evidence to counter Microsoft's motions for partial summary judgment". Caldera, Inc.. 1999-04-28. http://www.maxframe.com/DR/Info/fullstory/factrel.html. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 "Examining the Windows AARD Detection Code - A serious message--and the code that produced it". Dr. Dobb's Journal. September 1993. http://www.ddj.com/documents/s=1030/ddj9309d/9309d.htm. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Undocumented DOS - A programmer's guide to reserved MS-DOS functions and data structures - expanded to include MS-DOS 6, Novell DOS and Windows 3.1 (2 ed.). Addison-Wesley. 1994. pp. 11. ISBN:978-0-201-63287-3. ISBN 0-201-63287-X. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "msdos detection - hot job for you". 1993-02-24. http://antitrust.slated.org/www.iowaconsumercase.org/011607/1000/PX01133.pdf.  (NB. This court document is a copy of a mail by Aaron Reynolds written in 1991 and forwarded by one of its recipients, Phil Barrett, in 1993.)
  16. "How MS played the incompatibility card against DR-DOS - Real bear-traps, and spurious errors". The Register. 1999-11-05. https://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/11/05/how_ms_played_the_incompatibility/. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Microsoft emails focus on DR-DOS threat". CNET News. 1999-04-28. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1001-225129.html. 
  18. "Exhibits to Microsoft's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment in Novell WordPerfect Case". Groklaw. 2009-11-23. http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20091120165256836. 
  19. "Settlement agreement - Microsoft Corporation and Caldera, Inc. reach agreement to settle antitrust lawsuit". 2000-01-07. http://www.groklaw.net/pdf2/NovvMS-104-8.pdf. "[…] Microsoft will pay to Caldera, by wire transfer in accordance with written instructions provided by Caldera, the amount of two hundred eighty million dollars ($280,000,000), as full settlement of all claims or potential claims covered by this agreement […]"  (NB. This document of the Caldera v. Microsoft case was an exhibit in the later Comes v. Microsoft case.)
  20. "Microsoft's memorandum in opposition to Novell's renewed motion for summary judgement on Microsoft's affirmative defenses and in support of Microsoft's cross-motion for summary judgement". United States District Court, District of Maryland. 2009-11-13. p. 16. http://www.groklaw.net/pdf2/NovvMS-104-2.pdf. "[…] Microsoft paid $280 million to Caldera to settle the case […]" 
  21. Open Source Initiative. "Halloween I: Open Source Software (New?) Development Methodology"
  22. Press release from Microsoft which has viral nature of open-source quote
  23. "Microsoft takes on the free world". Fortune. 2007-05-14. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/05/28/100033867/. . Microsoft's licensing chief claimed that specific examples have been given in private, in: "Legal Pad, MSFT: Linux, free software, infringe 235 of our patents". http://legalpad.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2007/05/13/msft-linux-free-software-infringe-235-of-our-patents/. 
  24. "Microsoft's Linux ad 'misleading'". BBC News. 2004-08-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3600724.stm. 
  25. "Linux 10 times more expensive? Get the facts, watchdog tells Microsoft". CNet. 2004-08-26. http://news.cnet.com/Ad+watchdog+warns+Microsoft+to+'Get+the+Facts'/2100-1016_3-5323672.html. 
  26. "Microsoft posts video of customers criticizing OpenOffice". 2010. https://arstechnica.com/microsoft/news/2010/10/microsoft-posts-video-of-customers-criticizing-openoffice.ars. 
  27. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoZv6Gb_mYo
  28. The SCO Group v IBM – answer to amended complaint and counterclaims (Undecided, U.S. District Court – Utah, Kimball J., filed 6 August 2004) Section E, paragraph 22, groklaw.net
  29. The SCO Group v IBM – ORDER GRANTING IN PART IBM'S MOTION TO LIMIT SCO's CLAIMS (Undecided, U.S. District Court – Utah, Kimball J., filed 6 August 2004) Section IV, paragraphs 33,34
  30. "Show Person". http://www.groklaw.net/quotes/showperson.phtml?pid=1. 
  31. "SCOX: Historical Prices for SCO GRP INC (THE)". Yahoo! Finance. https://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=SCOX&a=03&b=21&c=2002&d=11&e=01&f=2006&g=m. 
  32. "Investors bailing on SCO stock, SCOX plummets". arstechnica. https://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070813-investors-bailing-on-sco-stock-scox-plummets.html. 
  33. "iPhone Jailbreaking Could Crash Cellphone Towers, Apple Claims". Wired. 2009-07-28. https://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2009/07/jailbreak/. 
  34. "The FUD Factor". csoonline.com. CXO Media, Inc. a subsidiary of IDG Enterprise. 2003-04-01. http://www.csoonline.com/article/217983/The_FUD_Factor. 
  35. "New deal helps to heal Caltex wounds". EnergyNewsPremium. 2004-04-28. http://www.energynewspremium.net/storyview.asp?storyid=24662&sectionsource=s0. 
  36. "Caltex 'bully' memo breached policy". ABC. 2004-04-23. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2004-04-23/caltex-bully-memo-breached-policy/174892. 
  37. "Caltex in court over Woolies deal". Sydney Morning Herald. 2004-01-04. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/01/03/1072908952947.html. 
  38. "Clorox introduces green line of cleaning products". SFGate. 2008-01-14. http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-01-14/news/17149716_1_natural-cleaning-cleaning-products-green-works/3. [yes|permanent dead link|dead link}}]
  39. "4 'green' claims to be wary of". MSN. 2009-04-22. http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/Extra/4-green-claims-to-be-wary-of.aspx. 
  40. "NAD Tells Clorox to Clean Up Ads". Environmental Leader. 2008-08-17. http://www.environmentalleader.com/2008/08/17/nad-tells-clorox-to-clean-up-ads/. 

External links

This article is based in part on the Jargon File, which is in the public domain.