Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Matthew James Marnell (marnellm@portia.portia.com)
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 19:07:17 -0400


Message-Id: <199610182307.TAA10195@portia.portia.com>
To: "Scott E. Preece" <preece@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com>
cc: www-html@w3.org
Subject: Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire 
In-reply-to: Your message of "Fri, 18 Oct 1996 11:36:44 CDT."
             <199610181636.LAA12135@predator.urbana.mcd.mot.com> 
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 19:07:17 -0400
From: Matthew James Marnell <marnellm@portia.portia.com>

:>Well, exactly.  If you discover you're missing something significant
:>because you're using Netscape, you should at least be thinking about
:>whether to switch to MSIE or whatever.  That's the point.

Yeah, but you missed mine.  There are some people that don't have
the option of switching browsers, and just as many reasons as to
why, including, but not limited to corporate licensing, installed
bases that school boards take forever to aprove funding for upgrades
for, installed base of people that are more than happy with what
they've got and are not happy about being told that they simply
must throw more money at something to make it work properly, or
that the nice shiny computer they just bought doesn't do this
or that and they should have bought a Win95 machine, etc.

The point is that if the content isn't truly independant, than
the "cross platform independant" mantra is no more than hype.
It's sorta like Sun saying that no matter what platform you
run, you can run Java, when Sun's own Java products like JWS,
and Mirimba's new products aren't even available for the same
platforms that Sun's own JDK is available, not to mention not
supporting any of the JDK ports.

:>If your
:>vendor isn't getting the job done, you need to think about changing
:>vendors.  In the CSS case, I'm sure that if enough providers use CSS,
:>and it really does look better on MSIE, then Netscape will be forced to
:>support it, too.

You use the word vendor only in the sense of the browser makers,
but the browser makers aren't the "only" or even most important
people in this discussion.  The content vendors are the ones driving
one browser over another.  If the web were cross platform independant,
would the thousands of schools and Universities have a problem not
stressing their budget for a couple years, and leaving the installed
base of 386's and Apples and Macs alone for a while?  Would anyone
be getting the message "Where you'd like to go today, you can't
get to without tossing what you got and getting something else"?

The point really isn't the browsers, because the browsers don't make
the content, especially if you use something like NCC Gold.  It's
the person who takes a nice platform independant page and says, "nope,
sorry, bow to Redmond every time you boot your computer, or don't
come here."

:>Your claim that they haven't responded to pressure so
:>far is based on the fallacy that the readers of this mailing list are
:>either enough people or the right people to produce an amount of
:>pressure that Netscape will notice.  We're not.

And we're not the only people discussing this, nor has the situation
come to a head.  When the people that are getting on daily aren't
happy that they got a custom version of Netscape with their connection
to AT&T have been on long enough to start seeing "This page best
viewed with ["MSIE", "NN", "CyberDog", "Grail", "Anything but what-
ever you're using."] that people are going to get rather pissy.  And
especially in situations where ATT or MCI have a several week to month
turnaround from when NN 4.0 comes out to when they start shipping to
their customers, are the new gadgets and gimicks more infuriating.

No, this is not the only place where this is being discussed, and the
volume of it here is only a small percentage.  There are the Inet
Marketers who have heard much about CSS and who have been waiting
for it with baited breath, and the fact that the major browser said
they'd support it.  Oops lied to again, and CSS, at least for them
is a good idea who has failed in the face of Netscape, one of many,
and how about the Corporate webmasters who are somewhat irked by the
prospect that they'd like to use feature X, but they need their content
to be accessed by all users, and they'd like to be able to write
one set of pages and have them look good.  Oops, to bad, so sad,
but there are more important things here than cross-platform, or
even same platform independance.

:>What you say is what I meant.  It's irrelevant (except maybe to
:>Netscape) whether you view it as the browser beccoming the shell or the
:>shell becoming the browser - th point is that the architecture of the
:>Web will be the architecture of the user interface.

Yes and no, depending on whether the results end up looking like
Television a la F 451, or whether we're actually going to be doing
anything besides watching and buying.  Netscape my be a half nice
browser, but I wouldn't want the code heads over there getting down
to running the memory management for my entire computer (I have
a feeling it would be only slightly worse than W95).  There are
still quite a few things that I could care less if HTML or a
web browser ever did, such as a CLI.

:>I'd like to think we're moving towards browser capabilities that will be
:>downloadable on demand and will be largely browser-independent.

Dream on, we're actually moving away from that if MS has anything
to do with it.  ActiveX for those places that have MS OS's, Javascript
that doesn't run anywhere completely reliably and is controlled by
a single company with, what some might call interest in seeing other
people's implementations fail slightly (sorta like those undocumented
system calls in W 3.1 that nobody but MS knew about and hence programmers
not within MS had to use slower less optimal, and yet documented features)
and Java, which despite hype, still isn't there yet.  Then we have the
unending, ever backwards extensions to HTML.

:>I agree the bugs should indicate browser capabilities or versions,
:>rather than brands.  On the other hand, when you say "it does what you
:>need" is you are missing the point that if the page looks like shit the
:>browser arguably *isn't* doing what you need.

But would be if content providers where actually more interested in
content then having a site that looks nice on the same LAN, functions
somewhat for just about everyone, and looks good, even though it
takes some time to load for the percentage it looks really nifty for.
Of course, the point isn't that because it looks good for X
people, and everyone else is missing the boat because they have
the wrong browser, the point is that an ever growing percent of
people are missing the point of the Web, which isn't that "You
should capitulate to my wishes, I am web author, read my multicolored
font heading, if you have half a clue to be running the same
browser I am, and the same color depth, and same screen size,
that is." but rather that you can share info with people, not
matter what platform they're running on.

If that's what really interests you, I think you might want to
call MS's personnel dept, because platform doesn't matter, as
long as it's a MS OS, whether you're running IE or Nav.  Obviously,
MS has more installed computers with Win* and that the denominator
we'll all have to cater to.

:>The key is to modularize the browsers so that only the pieces you need
:>get loaded and so that upgrades can be done piecemeal.  Similarly,
:>platform-indpendent implementations of functionality have a big
:>advantage, once the technology gets to the point that the performance
:>hit is manageable.  Java's not there yet, but it's getting better fast.

There's still other problems with this paradigm for the time
being.  Of course this would play in well with the proposal from
NCC, et al, regarding their particular brand of streaming broad-
casting.  Just leave you browser pointed to the Netscape channel
to get all the keen updates.

:>Part of my response is "real OSs have virtual memory..."

And real memory is still faster.  Real OS's also have true
multitasking as well, but that has nothing to do with W95.
I can throw tons of virt mem at any OS that supports it,
that doesn't mean that I'm going to get more for my money,
it just means I get to watch the light on the disk drive
more often.

:>But, seriously, the point is to be able to upgrade small, independent
:>pieces of functionality rather than the whole browser.  This is still
:>really hard, because the architecture for the pieces isn't clear yet
:>(e.g., until you've thought about frames you may not have thought about
:>your browser needing to have a layout module).  My hypothesis is that
:>large areas of the browser will become relatively static and modular and
:>that the locus of innovation will be progressively less global.  It's an
:>unproven hypothesis.

First, when have you heard of Windows programmers thinking small
and modular?  Second, there are several API's both in and out
of the Java market that function with the small and modular
idea in mind (although none of them currently load the modules
over the 'Net, nor would most people I know want that kind of
interaction without some thought and preview first.  And with
people like Netscape coming out with new "innovations" WRT
HTML, Live(Whatever), JScript and whatever else, nothing will
become static and modular in time.

:>On the other hand, look at the UNIX experience - the architecture
:>evolved so that it became possible to innovate in independent,
:>modularized pieces of the system that *could* be released independent of
:>the whole.  For instance, filesystems can be replaced without changing
:>the rest of the OS.  So there's at least some hope for modularity.

Pity that these aren't the people currently "paving the one true
way."  

:>They should - ISPs should be transparent and trivially swapped.

If this were true, or if you even wanted it to be true, then AT&T
or MSN would own the market.  Heck, the same should be true of
telephone service, especially by now, and yet it's rarely the
case.  ISPs actually have more ways to differentiate their service
then the Telcos do.  Saying that ISPs should be transparent and
trivially swapped is like saying all computers should be the
same and easily switched.  You can't even say that about browsers,
why should ISPs be any different?

With thoughts like that, MS's marketing dept would love you.  Call
'em up, I'm sure they'd pay you better for your arguements on why
you should switch to whatever browser a web page tells you to, and
why all ISPs should be similar to the point of being indestiguishable,
and how that plays into the MSN.

Matt