Re: color: NCSA Mosaic, Netscape, and HTML3

Michael Johnson (michaelj@relay.relay.com)
Tue, 18 Jul 95 14:03:16 EDT


Subject: Re: color: NCSA Mosaic, Netscape, and HTML3
Message-Id: <MICHAELJ.950718140316@relay.relay.com>
From: michaelj@relay.relay.com (Michael Johnson)
To: www-html@www10.w3.org
Date:    Tue, 18 Jul 95 14:03:16 EDT

>with a 60% market share. Most of the Web page designers that I work with, and I
>work with many, include Netscape extensions without thinking twice about it.

Which just goes to show that there are a lot of damned idiots out there
designing web pages, but we knew that already.

The problem with the Netscape "extensions" is that they are poorly designed,
and very shortsighted. In the long run, Netscape has done the web a great
disservice by trying to turn what started out as a great tool into their
private commercial enterprise. Building a better browser or server is a fine
and noble goal, but it should be done while paying attention to standards.

The standards that are being designed (HTML 3.0, style sheets, sHTTP and so
on) are without exception better solutions than what Netscape came up with.
So now, on top of getting these standards finished and implemented by the
larger web community, we have the problem of controlling the damage done by
Netscape.

Netscape didn't have to do this; for example, their addition of JPEG image
support was perfectly reasonable, given that HTML does not specify what
format images are to be in and that JPEG is the industry standard for photo-
graphic image encoding. Their bookmarks, their highly configurable preferences
view, their Postscript printing support, and other features, should have been
enough to get them the market they wanted. They could then participate (and I
do mean participate, not attempt to dictate) in the development of standards
such as HTML 3.0 and sHTTP, implement these early, and still have an edge over
their competitors.

If they wanted to do something really useful for web page authors, they'd have
made Netscape Navigator with an authoring mode that would help authors to write
syntactically correct HTML. Instead, they marketed a browser that ignores
blatant syntax errors and thus encourages people to write bad HTML. The
problem was bad enough with just Mosaic to worry about, but at least the
Mosaic team didn't go hog wild adding new tags. They just neglected to put in
any kind of syntax checking, which still led to lots of bad pages.

Netscape has been operating in a very myopic mode that can't see past the end
of their profit margin, and has done great damage to the web thereby.

Just because they (apparently) have 60% of the market share is not a
recommendation for the Netscape "extensions". Rather, the fact that they
have this large a share and continue to operate in such an irresponsible mode
is a condemnation of Netscape as a member of the web community. If your web
authoring buddies are serious about ensuring the future of the web, they
should avoid using Netscape "extensions" and instead try to encourage Netscape
to drop their "extensions" in favor of adherence to standards.

Yes, I'm being an idealist here. Right now, the web needs idealists, and it
needs them in large, highly vocal, numbers if we're to get the web back on
the track that it ought to be on.

Michael Johnson
Relay Technology, Inc.