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Why Netscape is the real "Microsoft" bogey
[forwarded with permission. subject line mine. no endorsement implied.
The following article appeared in a recent issue of CompuNotes.
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The Search for Intelligent Life on the Internet, Part II
Is Netscape really the Anti-Microsoft?
Commentary By Doug Reed, Associate Editor, mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
I have to laugh. People who hate Microsoft with a passion have in
recent times supported Netscape as "The Company Most Likely to Defeat
Microsoft". This despite the fact that Netscape acts more like Microsoft
is accused of than Microsoft itself does.
Netscape at times seems to be coasting sheerly on its reputation, earned
back when it was practically the only browser manufacturer on the Web.
Coupled with that is the sheer arrogance that Netscape can ignore the
standards and recommendations proposed by the W3c, and that Netscape's
own proprietary standards will rule the day. No where is this more
accessible style sheets in Navigator 4.0. On the other hand, Microsoft's
web browser has continually improved and Microsoft has made numerous
commitments to following recommendations (or at least, proposed
recommendations) to follow the W3c. Now, before you start your flame
mail, let me say that Microsoft has not been perfect, and they have also
done their dead-level best to introduce their own proprietary standards.
After all, how many browsers other than Internet Explorer natively use
VBScript and ActiveX? (the answer is none, although a plug-in does exist
for Navigator). The point is this - Netscape is acting at least as
arrogantly as Microsoft, if not more so, and the result is simple:
Netscape is losing.
Study history long enough, and you begin to see where it repeats itself.
Nowhere is this clearer than Microsoft's battles with Apple, IBM, and
now Netscape. All three have fallen flat on their faces facing off
against Bill & Co.; the ultimate humiliation for Apple was having to be
saved by none other than Bill & Co. But the big loser in that deal was
neither Apple nor Microsoft; no, the loser was Netscape. Why? Because
now all Apple computers will ship with Microsoft's Internet Explorer
pre-installed. And we all know how this works - if it's already on
there, that is what people will use. But why did Apple & IBM fail?
Sheer arrogance; by assuming that their product was superior, they seemed
to think that would be enough to carry the day. While Microsoft was out
recruiting vendors to develop for Windows, Apple was shooing them away.
IBM is even worse; they developed a perfectly good operating system (OS/2
Warp), then abandoned it to it's fate. They even failed to port a
version of OS/2 for the PowerPC, a chip they developed with Apple and
Motorola! So it is hardly surprising that very few companies have
released native OS/2 software.
Netscape seems to be heading much the same way. Version 4 of Navigator,
bundled together into a huge package called "Communicator" is by far the
buggiest version yet of Netscape's browser. Two bug patches have already
been released to fix serious security flaws, and rumors are that yet
another security problem has been found and will need to be patched. But
beyond the issue of security is the browser itself and its ability to get
around on the web. Sure, the interface has been significantly improved.
Yes, it is easier to use than ever before. But many new features seem to
have been tossed in haphazardly, like Netscape decided "Well, gee, maybe
it should also do this." A prime example, and one that is the lament of
Webmasters such as myself, is Navigator's support of Cascading Style
Sheets. Netscape finally caught up with Microsoft, which released CSS
support in IE 3.0, but the implementation is even less complete than
Microsoft's was in IE 3.0, which came out a year ago! Further, numerous
bugs exist. For example, I had several pages where the margins were
defined for the body of the page (the body tag controls the overall
layout of the page). These pages work perfectly fine in IE 3.0 and
4.0b2; however, when I went to load the page in NN 4.0 - crash. I tried
again and again, but got the same result. At first I didn't know what
was going on, but when I loaded the page into NN 4.0 with the linked
style sheet missing - taa daa - the page loaded fine (although it didn't
look right). So CSS support in NN 4.0 is only partial, and what's worse,
These aren't problems confined to webmasters. If the webmaster doesn't
do a good job of insuring that a page will display well in all versions
of Navigator, IE, and Mosaic, he/she runs the risk of a page that won't
load at all. While it seems to be less of a problem with Mosaic and IE
3.0, there have been far too many times when I've tried to go to sites
using Navigator and been unable to access the site because the browser
crashes on that page. Yes, it is true that it is the fault of the
webmaster for creating such a bad design, but then why do Mosaic and IE
fail so gracefully and still display the page while Navigator simply
crashes? Because Navigator doesn't fail as gracefully, Netscape's
customers are restricted in what they can see on the web.
As it stands right now, the future does not look particularly good for
Netscape. From a stance of total dominance, Netscape has been
continuously losing market share to Microsoft since the release of IE 3.0
last year. Further, Netscape has lost a number of prominent ISPs,
including most notably AT&T's Worldnet. Based on downloads of the beta
versions of IE 4.0, Netscape may stand to lose considerably more people
try IE 4.0.
In my mind, the closest company to being a real anti-Microsoft is
Intuit. Why? Because year after year, Intuit's award-winning Quicken
continues to outsell Microsoft's Money. Quicken's dominance of Money is
so complete that a few years ago Microsoft offered to buy Intuit rather
than continue to try to compete with Quicken, a move that was only
blocked when the Justice Dept. intervened. If Netscape wants to continue
to dominate and outsell Microsoft, it needs to do it the same way: build
a better mousetrap. I don't really care if my browser has dynamic HTML
the information I want on the web and get there quickly and easily with
as little fuss/crashing as possible. When Netscape gets back to
designing a web browser that does that, then they might truly be able to
become the anti-Microsoft.
forwarded by --
Michael E. Etchison
[opinions mine, not the PUCT's]