Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Scott E. Preece (
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 10:18:24 -0500

Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 10:18:24 -0500
Message-Id: <>
From: "Scott E. Preece" <>
In-reply-to: Sunil Mishra's message of Fri, 18 Oct 1996 10:48:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

   From: Sunil Mishra <>

| \\ I have to disagree.  The "looks best in..." and the "download ... now"
| \\ buttons are useful...
| As someone who uses neither and does not want to, trust me, it's an
| annoyance. It's as though some content provider as decided for me that my
| needs would be best met by some other browser, even though I might have
| tried them and decided I like my current browser better.
| Worse, it tells me *I* cannot get the best I could out of the page because
| my needs and preferences are somewhat different from others, sometimes
| going as far as obscuring content. Sometimes though I'm thankful that I
| don't get the silly scrolling messages at the bottom of the screen.

It's a constant reminder that your choice has limited your access to
some provider's data.  At some point the weight of those reminders may
convince you to change or may convince you to beat your vendor browser
into supporting the same features as the heavies.

| \\ And people *will* switch when they start seeing a lot of pages
| \\ suggesting a different browser - especially if the suggested changes are
| \\ simply to later versions of the browser they're already using.  Or,
| \\ possibly more important, they'll start pushing the vendor of their
| \\ preferred browser to incorporate the same new features as the ones
| \\ suggested by the pages they use.
| Provided they are willing to spare enormous resources to run something that
| is as "mundane" as a web browser. Or at least should be mundane.

I don't think browsers are or should be mundane - I'm inclined to think
they should become our primary user interfaces, with a little more

| \\ I think it's a very useful mechanism for the continuing development of
| \\ the Web.
| Towards what end? Making the web a tool for delivering multi-media? That
| will just make content that much harder for people to get to. An orthogonal
| (or somewhat orthogonal) structural markup from presentation is a good idea
| for exactly these reasons - that it would provide for a relatively simple
| content representation while allowing the display to become arbitrarily
| complex. If multi-media is part of your content, you would simply have to
| mark it up to show precisely what it is, so that an automated search
| mechanism would be able to locate it. And I'm not talking about the
| simplistic text search engines that exist now.

The Web is a major step forward in platform-independent integration of
data and process.  It's not mature, yet, and some of its infrastructure
may change radically over the next few years to improve efficiency and
capability, but the directions are good.  Toward that end it's important
that users keep upgrading so that there's a sufficient base to drive
content providers and infrastructure developers to keep the maturation
process going.

I absolutely agree about the need for better meta-data for non-textual
information, though I'm not sure it belongs in HTML markup.  I'm still
inclined to think meta-data should be handled in the infrastructure
(bound to the data) rather than in the data, so you can cut out a level
of indirection (e.g., getting meta-data directly from http rather than
from HTML surrogates, when the data isn't naturally text-like).  This is
an area where a lot is happening (e.g., OpenDoc, IIOP, ActiveX) and
maturity is a long way off.

Something else I expect, by the way, is browsers that maintain their
currency automatically by fetching new components from their vendor's
server as needed; this requires a shift to a much more modular
architecture for browsers (to keep upgrade downloading cheap and fast),
but I think it's sure to turn up in a year or so.

The Web is much to young for anyone to be saying "I've found my browser,
I'm going to stick to it, and I don't want to know what I'm missing."


scott preece
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