Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Sunil Mishra (smishra@cc.gatech.edu)
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 14:28:50 -0400 (EDT)


Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 14:28:50 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <199610181828.OAA08868@cleon.cc.gatech.edu>
From: Sunil Mishra <smishra@cc.gatech.edu>
To: preece@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com
CC: snowhare@netimages.com, jaobrien@fttnet.com, www-html@w3.org
In-reply-to: <199610181518.KAA03504@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com>
Subject: Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire


\\ | \\ 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.

Why in the world would I *want* shockwave (or Java or whatever) support? So
that I am not able to run anything else on my machine while I download some
large bit of data off the net, for fear of crashing the machine in the
middle of the download? I am here intentionally avoiding talking about the
ideal scenario, because the way the browser products are appearing make
talking about it quite meaningless. Try running netscape on a
macintosh. You are guaranteed a crash within a half hour or so. So you
would expect me to upgrade to netscape and have my macintosh crash? Why
would I want to shoot myself in the foot?


\\ | 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
\\ evolution.

All software should in the end be mundane, as far as I am concerned. It
should be transparent. It should not get in the way of you getting your
work done. That is the ideal world scenario. I don't have bouncing balls on
my background while I work. At best I have a nice little pattern to provide
a little variety. The patten in no way interferes with any of the actual
text or such. That, in my opinion, is quite mundane, useful and functional.

That is what I would want from a web browser or any piece of software that
does not aim to provide entertainment.

\\ 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.

It would have been a major step forward had it not been for all the
platform specific hacks that started appearing on web pages. As I have said
before, I have no inherent problem with platform specific content on a
page. Often that may well be necessary. However, I would *never* want these
hacks getting in the way of obtaining information that does not need to be,
and indeed is not, platform or browser dependent.

\\ 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.

You then don't understand what uses of the meta-data I am referring
to. The uses I have in mind would require the meta-data to be inextricably
bound to the content of the page. Having an automated agent to gather
information is the most easily visualized scenario. A page is made up of
content parts - a title, a logo, a copyright, some text, some footnotes, a
search form, a navigation bar etc. We recognize these elements, usually
without any effort, because of the visual layout. For a program to
recognize them, there has to be meta-data available. The 101 hacks on the
net are quickly obliterating all this meta-data. Frames completely hide
relationships between pieces of content. Eventually, the most mundane of
pages in terms of structural markup shall be the easiest to follow.

\\ 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.

Yech! Imagine doing that every week over a phone line...

\\ 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."

No, which is exactly what you should think about before you fall into the
netscape/msie trap. I have looked at both products on the macintosh, and
have made a decision after seeing how badly written they are.

I know what I want from a browser, and nothing out there seems to make any
effort at providing it. For starters, neither of these products (or any
other I have seen) make any use of the fact that the pages are in
hypertext. At best, we are given a page of text with some links to some
other pages. It is a shame really.

Sunil