Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

Scott E. Preece (
Tue, 22 Oct 1996 09:21:04 -0500

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 09:21:04 -0500
Message-Id: <>
From: "Scott E. Preece" <>
In-reply-to: Richard Levitte - VMS Whacker's message of Tue, 22 Oct 1996
Subject: Re: The Netscape / Microsoft / Future Quagmire

  From: Richard Levitte - VMS Whacker <>

|    a well-designed map may be much more useful than textual instructions
| In that specific case, why have either or?  Why not have both?  For heavens
| sake, that can't be too hard (heard of ALT=).

By all means - people should provide alternative forms whenever

|    for getting there).  Other sites are meant to provide information that
|    has no reasonable text analog (when I go to a software vendor's site, I
|    want to see screen shots, not descriptions of features).
| I want a description of features.  I'm not interested in how that package
| of the software I might want to buy looks like, I'm interested in how it
| works.  Ok, screenshots could be usefull, I'll admit that, but they are
| far from the most interesting thing.  And again, *why not have both?*  Is
| so darn hard?
| Your way of chosing your software surprises me...

I'm interface-oriented - I think how you use software is critical and
there's no way to get a feel for that without seeing it.  Screenshots
often also convey more information about the scope of the data the
interface manipulates than is likely to be apparent in an overview
presentation. And, fit-and-finish is important to me - if the interface
looks clunky, it's not a good sign that the software is well thought out
and well designed and built.  Would you buy a car based on a text
description of its features?

|    ---
|    | Why is it that some people assume that their content is so important that
|    | they think a viewer is willing TO BUY A NEW COMPUTER TO READ IT? Simply
|    | amazing.
|    ---
|    I doubt many providers would say they expected anyone to buy a new
|    machine to access their site.
| If a page needs MSIE to be "best viewed" (or in some cases, viewed at all),
| I must buy a PC to view it.  In that case, they implicitelly tell me to buy
| a new computer.  Or if their viewer is such that I need a faster processor,
| or a lot more memory, they implicitelly tell me to buy a new computer.

No, they're telling you what features your browser needs to support to
handle the page.  You could hack on w3-emacs or on one of the browsers
that is available in source form or you could beat on your browser
vendor to add the features or you could find another browser that does
run on your platform and that has the features.  In fact, though,
Microsoft has committed to making MSIE available on other platforms, so
the issue doesn't arise.

|    particular site.  Providers can, however, reasonably expect that the
|    average capability of the machines accessing their sites will increase
|    with time.
| Providers can also take the care (yes, gentlemen, it's care, and nothing
| else, that we're talking about here) to make their pages in such a way
| that they are viewable with machines that are below the "average".

Again, alternative content should be a given.  And they should evaluate
the expected level of browser capability in their target audience and
prepare as many variant presentations as they need to get the best
payback on their effort.

|    They can also expect that people buying new machines will
|    want to see the benefits of the power they have paid for, making
|    advanced features a selling point for some potential customers.
| Of course they will want their new machine to be able to perform better.
| Does a flashy page on the web tell me that?  No.  Does the fact that I
| can have 20 programs running simultaneously at full speed instead of
| just 5 prove it?  Yes, that would prove it.  Does the fact that my heavy
| numbercrunching program performs at 10 times the speed compared to how it
| performed on the old computer (and that I can still edit a C program and
| compile it at the same time) prove it?  Yes, it does.

Yes, the ability to see a flashy Web page does tell most people that.
If your new machine sees graphics and animations and sound where your
old machine saw text, that represents better performance to most
people.  People's buying decisions are shaped by a huge collection of
factors, but this utilitarian model you suggest simply doesn't match the
way people really behave.  People buy Porsches even though they will
never drive them at even half of their top speed; people pay to have CD
players in their cars when their average trip is shorter than the length
of a single song and air conditioners though they live in places where
the average summer high is 25C.  We are only partially rational


scott preece
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