Re: [Jeff Covey @ Freshmeat] We Are Losing the Browser War

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Tue Mar 27 2001 - 12:24:36 PST

Josh Cohen wrote:
> >I'm still hopeful that AOL will some day throw the switch and all of
> >their users will be using Netscape instead of IE. For the
> >longest time,
> >AOL users were a significant portion of IE usage, without
> >which Netscape
> >would have been ahead far longer.
> Quite true. The AOL deal was a turning point for IE.
> It instantly gave IE a huge number of users.
> The clincher for AOL choosing IE was componentization...
> NSCP didnt get it and Mozilla doesn't really
> seem to either.

While componetization of IE was a factor as opposed to Netscape's
lackluster interest in duplicating it at the time, the real reason the
deal was done was to get space on the Win95/98 desktop in installation
CD's. I happened to be present when a client developer first demoed IE
running in the AOL client and I also knew of a bunch of other promises
by MS that didn't seem to ever amount to much. AOL was scared that MSN
was going to wipe it out because it would ship with every copy of
Windows, ready to go. (They have become terribly bold in forcing users
to both MSN and MSN Messenger in Win98SE as per an earlier
conversation.) The notable quote from a MS underling at the time was:
"Bill will do anything for 5 million users.".

My personal opinion is that if the Justice department wasn't still after
MS, AOL would have already switched to Netscape. To do it now would
reduce standing which was already injured by the Netscape/Sun/AOL
musical chairs.

> > How ironic, and incredibly
> >strategic,
> >that AOL now owns Netscape.
> >
> Ironic yes, but still pathetic. Even though they own netscape
> it will cost more to switch from IE. Netscape (and Mozilla)
> still does not have a componentized architecture, which allows

I believe you are wrong about that. The specific intent for Gecko was
that it was componentized. I've heard nothing to dispute this, although
I haven't seen it used this way.

> AOL to run a web browser, in their own app frame with all their
> own branding, without changing IE at all.

This would be trivial at this point. In fact, I'm pretty sure you could
do it by just rewriting the XML that configures Netscape6/Mozilla's GUI.

> To switch to Netscape is out of the question, to switch to Mozilla
> would still require a bunch of work to modify it and create, at least,
> appropriate wrappers, since it is not a reusable COM component/control
> like IE.
> If people really wanted aol to switch, the advocates would do the
> (unpleasant) work of making mozilla/netscape truly componentized
> so that AOL could really just flip a switch and use it.
> Maybe an interesting challenge would be to try and build
> a set of components based on the mozilla code that
> implement the same COM interfaces as the IE components.

What COM interfaces are really used beyond telling it what pages to go
to, etc.? Netscape has always supported a way to do that, even on Unix.

> If that is done, you could simply replace them on a given
> customers machine (and you can even make it so only
> the AOL application would use them, so as not to fuck up
> the system because you probably cant implement EVERYTHING)
> and then, have the zero-work task for AOL of switching...
> While Im at it... Why is it that everyone wants this switch
> to happen ? Aside from the fact that "IE doesnt run on Linux"
> what is the fucking problem? Every review on the planet

Illegal, anti-competitive, annoying business practices

> pretty much agrees that IE5 ended the broswer wars,
> due to MSFT's hard work (or for those that cant credit MSFT
> with anything) NSCP's failure to do *any* work...
> Besides, the AOL shell hides so much of the "browser application"
> that it really doesnt matter anyway as far as the user it concerned.
> There's just as much work getting that application shell that AOL
> has ported to linux anyway. Maybe if AOL really gave a shit
> about the linux users, they would port AOL to Linux.. Have they ?
> I really dont know.

Supposedly there is a version of the AOL client running on Linux. AOL's
set top box runs Linux. Etc. The browser wrapper is the least
complicated part of the AOL client to port.

> Even IE has done a better job, Windows, Mac, Solaris, HPUX.
> While Linux may be a competitor in spirit, Solaris and HPUX
> are far more realistic competitors *today* in that they
> directly take away NT sales, especially in the server room.

And Linux doesn't? You need to check around more. Linux eats NT's
lunch for a lot of small shops out there and a number of large ones.

> However, despite this, customers told MS they wanted
> IE for the platforms they have in their shops, hence
> the solaris and HPUX versions. Linux just doesn't exist
> in the same numbers in big business at this point...

I disagree but I won't produce hard numbers at this point. Linux has
quite a number of notable endorsements (Mexico and China's 'official
OS', quickly growing use in schools, etc.) but desktop usage is hard to
measure. I'll point out the obvious: Any comparison to licenses shipped
or bought is extremely misleading. These overrepresent MS Windows by a
fair margin (my guess is at least 25%) and don't take into account
upgrades, replacements, etc. Linux sales numbers are a small fraction
of what actually gets used, minus a similar replacement problem.

Old stories like this make it clear that NT's not being excepted blindly
everywhere (although it gets an easy by too often):

The last percentage numbers I heard more than a year ago put Linux at 6%
of the desktop market. Mac only had 5% or so.

Although weighted strongly by buying power, I doubt if the HPUX and
Solaris desktops are nearly as numerous as Linux now. If you subtract
government, finance, and heavy engineering they would be dwarfed.

Certain product numbers, if they were public, would shed some useful
light on this. Some reliable, but small, percentage of Linux desktops
will have things like: Star Office, VMWare (who can barely keep up with
their sales), AIM, Corel Draw/Paint/WordPerfect8, Acrobat, RealPlayer,
Macromedia/Flash, etc.

> Anyway, maybe when good old AOL which owns sweet netscape
> ports their applications to Linux, and decides those
> customers are worth catering to on the desktop...

See all the press releases about AOL+Linux, especially the recent
description of the AOL Set Top box.

> >Netscape will never go away completely and at some point should start
> >making a comeback.
> Why do you assume it *should* make a comeback?

MONOPOLY, open source control of a crucial platform, etc.

> Based on what? No one seems
> to really be maintaining it with any gusto. As the comments on
> this thread have said, the web site developers and the user
> demand such eye candy, random proprietary plugin support,
> flash, "extra" stuff like toolbars, favorites, e-mail, etc..
> Who is working on those for Netscape/Mozilla???
> Sure, there are some people at mozilla chugging along, but
> frankly, they cant keep up with Microsoft, or opera, which both actually
> has a much smaller team than the "huge open source community at mozilla".

Mozilla was big and complicated. That's what abated a lot of
enthusiasm. With Netscape 6, it's back in the ball game as it mainly
needs optimization now.

Also, it's actually possible to run a number of those plugins in
Intel/Linux with a little work. Linux can be made to load Win32 DLL's
in some cases. Someone may decide to pull this off.

> People will switch to Mozilla when it gives real customers
> (not standards purist ) what they really want.
> It also has to give more of that they want, by a nontrivial
> amount, to warrant a consumers effort to switch.
> (move bookmarks, shortcut links, email if they use it,
> download it, get familiar with the UI)
> Im a business moron, but I know that
> for a product to displace an existing one, it needs to offer
> a *lot* more, it cant be just equal and it cant 'just keep up'.
> At this point, Mozilla isnt even keeping up...
> They've got a long way to go before they are actually
> even doing that, much less leading in hopes of displacing IE..
> So, with the possible exception of disabled web viewers,
> all these religious zealots, standards wonks (I've been one too),
> IE is evil, anti-DHTML, keep the web simple whiners, and
> especially the Web Standards Project people, can
> take their noise somewhere else and fuck off.


Stephen D. Williams
43392 Wayside Cir,Ashburn,VA 20147-4622 703-724-0118W 703-995-0407Fax 

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Fri Apr 27 2001 - 23:14:58 PDT