The Browser Hand-Over

by Rael Dornfest

Related link: http://www.business2.com/b2/web/articles/0,17863,714129,00.html



What if someone threw a browser war and nobody showed up? Om Malik's "Microsoft's Worst Nightmare" in Business 2.0 is a nicely written chronicle of the current odd chapter in the now-outmoded "browser wars." This feels more like a browser hand-over, with Internet Explorer offering no resistance as home and business users download the Mozilla-based Firefox browser and (to borrow the Firefox slogan) "take back the Web."

6 Comments

dscotson
2004-10-20 09:18:08
MSFT lost the browser war long ago
I get the feeling that people have the wrong idea about the so-called "browser war". Netscape were developing an alternative platform to *Windows*, decentralised and based on standards which MSFT needed to crush to protect their core business. The quote in that article:


"Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, boldly predicted in 1995 that his browser would make Windows obsolete."


And the fact that I can log-in to 99% of websites, including banks etc. from my Linux box with Firefox or my iMac with Safari or phone with Opera and that the coolest application of the moment is the cross-browser web-app GMail means that MSFT lost.


Browser comparisons are therefore missing the point. Even if MSFT release the best browser ever, they can't "win" anything unless it ties people to Windows, Office or one of the other monopolies they've got cooking and creates marketshare, income or barriers to entry for competitors.


All Mozilla/Apple needs to do is get enough mind/marketshare and make it easier and more effective for people to develop with standards and it simply won't matter if 80% of the plebs still use spyware ridden IE installs.

darobin
2004-10-20 10:07:46
Re: MSFT lost the browser war long ago


That's an excellent point indeed. If in doubt, look at XAML/Longhorn/Avalon/etc in the light of it, and realize that it's the exact same analysis that Microsoft made.



It's not a browser war, it's a platform war. And we've barely seen the start of it.


raiph
2004-10-20 13:18:05
Re: MSFT lost the browser war long ago
Yes.


Microsoft may appear to be putting a weak fight at the moment, but that's because they can't be everywhere at once.


They are, quite rightly, committed to XAML/Avalon as their route for co-opting the XUL/Webapps paradigm, and attempting to finally fully assert their usual proprietary/monopoly dominance strategy of something they haven't quite conquered, namely the planet earth's digital commons.


In the meantime, mozilla, quite rightly, is focused on getting enough gecko user agent string growth momentum that a secondary trend kicks in which web developers change their ways and web pages.


This is going to take a few years to pan out, but it is very much going to be a big war. It's one of the four major battle fronts for free software vs microsoft. (The others being patents, linux and open office.)


raiph

jwenting
2004-10-20 23:47:18
MSFT lost the browser war long ago
In fact there never was a war.
Netscape gave up the field of battle virtually uncontested when they released the worst browser ever to see the light of day: Netscape 4.


Microsoft couldn't help but take over the majority of users as the competition was so bad noone with any sanity would want to use it given a choice.


Remember that before Netscape 4 Netscape had over 80% market share.
After Netscape 4 they had under 10%.


The crux here is standards.
Microsoft works closely with the W3 and other standards bodies, incorporating the latest proposals into their product.
Netscape decided to go their own way and ignore the standards bodies, hoping to rely on their massive marketshare to force the world to standardise on their version of how things should be.
But due to the abysmal quality of NS 4 people abandoned it in droves for IE4 which was more stable, faster, easier to use, and used a lot less screen real estate for fancy buttons and stuff.


While many complain that IE doesn't follow standards this is actually not true.
IE follows the latest W3 proposals as they are when the codebase for a version is fixed. Sometimes those proposals change to the final release of the standard in which case IE looks to be differing. That's the price of innovation.


And as to spyware, get a life.
I've not had anything come in through my IE ever despite being online constantly.
If people elect to install software from 3rd parties you can't blame Microsoft if some of that software is mallicious.

dscotson
2004-10-21 03:46:07
MSFT lost the browser war long ago
Some points you may have missed:


* Just because Netscape lost doesn't mean MSFT won. People who think this of the "browser war" as a competition between two bits of software competing to be the best browser are missing the bigger picture.


* The quality of MSFT's browser is only really relevant to this discussion in that the better it implements standards, the less vendor lock-in MSFT has. This is a "win" for everyone but MSFT.


* spyware (as I'm sure you'll agree) is targeted at popular systems with lots of dumb users like Windows and IE. As long as a minimum level of standards are respected by website builders, Firefox and Safari users can use the entire web perfectly well without having to gain enough marketshare to become attractive to spyware writers.


raiph
2004-10-21 18:42:03
MSFT lost the browser war long ago
> Netscape gave up the field of battle


Right. In 1998. A for-profit corporation. Selling proprietary software. It's now 2004. We're talking about Mozilla. A non-profit foundation. Supporting open source software. It's a different ball-game.



> Microsoft works closely with the W3 and other
> standards bodies, incorporating the latest
> proposals into their product.


Careful with the language there. They incorporate some parts of some standards. Just like Netscape did.



> IE follows the latest W3 proposals as they are
> when the codebase for a version is fixed.
> Sometimes those proposals change to the final
> release of the standard in which case IE looks
> to be differing. That's the price of innovation.


IE6, released in 2001, failed to completely or correctly follow CSS1, including parts that were finalized in 1996. There are plenty of other examples of this ilk. IE6 was a good attempt at standards, as far as it went, but your characterization of "innovation" is not remotely credible.



> And as to spyware, get a life. I've not had
> anything come in through my IE ever despite
> being online constantly. If people elect to
> install software from 3rd parties you can't
> blame Microsoft if some of that software is
> mallicious.


"Bill Gates, in a speech to Silicon Valley technologists this month, said that ... he's been surprised to find many spyware and adware programs that he never authorized on [his computer]."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20665-2004Oct9_2.html


Perhaps he should he get a life, but I don't see how that would have saved him from spyware.