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

From: Stephen D. Williams (
Date: Wed Mar 28 2001 - 08:03:29 PST

The bottom line is that MS has pissed me off in many ways for more than
15 years; back to the CP/M80, MBasic days. I know that if I swallow a
few of their bright spots here and there I'll be sucked into the whole
MS world, which is mostly cruft, inefficiency, headache, frustration,
constant fees, etc. The reason I advocate alteratives is that I want to
use those alternatives, or something better, in the long run.

Of course I'm also a realist and know that when I work on things like
Mpeg4 video framing, one of my current projects, I have little choice in
certain cases.

Additionally, I have no problem paying for commercial software as long
as I'm not being abused. I have something like $7000+ worth of
software, paid for out of my pocket, including high dollar packages like
Lightwave 3D, Together Control Center, Corel Draw (5, 6, 8, 9, 10),
Macromedia Dreamweaver/Fireworks/Flash, etc. Those companies strive to
provide best practices in very useful packages in competitive markets.
They use standard formats when possible, interoperate freely, and are
easily extendable.

MS frequently doesn't live up to my standards, regardless of how many
billion they could spend to get it right. The problem is that their
motives are always suspect.

> Josh Cohen wrote:
> Its a lot more than just having a separate browser window
> that navigates to an URL. THink about how the AOL UI
> buttons control back/forward, favorites, stop,etc..
> Basically, (Im not a COM expert), AOL creates
> a window which hosts the IE component, which exports a
> bunch of interaces/methods/etc. That lets the "chrome"
> be AOLs not MSFT.
> IE also allows AOL to create its own URL schemes that can be
> used anywhere in the windows system. These are things
> like buddy functions, keywords, and some other stuff.

IE has nothing to do with this at certain points such as the URL 'bar',
but does allow some kind of plugin handling for embedded URL's. All
browsers should support configurable support for URL filtering,
including plugins. SGI's Cosmo did this for VRML.

> >> 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
> >
> >M O N O P O L Y
> >Illegal, anti-competitive, annoying business practices
> >
> Um, thats not the definition of a monopoly and
> a monopoly isnt illegal (or necessarily bad) in itself.

I should have said: 'Illegal Monopoly' or 'Counterproductive monopoly'.

We've been through the kind of monopoly that MS would tend to become,
IMHO, with the old ATT and IBM. Competition has been a huge boon to
consumers since those monopolies or near monopolies, respectively, were

> When one of the two major browser makers stops
> making a good or competitive browser, the likely
> case is that the market will consolidate around
> the superior product.
> If millions of people can sit for hours and
> download MP3s they can sit and download NSCP
> if it was actually better.
> It isnt.

IE is not that much better for most purposes. I hardly ever use it
myself and I actually find the way it works irritating. Irrigardless,
it's mainly a pain for web developers and designers, not users. Only
when a site caters to IE only, Flash only, etc., which is a total copout
by the web developers, does it become an issue.

You could just as easily be arguing for MS media formats over MP3,
Mpeg4, etc. Do you really want to place yourself under MS's thumb
because their format is slightly better? In the case of MP3, it's
pretty obvious it's too late. With streaming video, MS is doing pretty
well. With video standards, Mpeg4 will probably win out in the long

In a sense, choosing IE over Netscape/Mozilla is akin to choosing a
controlled audio format over MP3. For me, even if it were an option for
Linux, IE would have to offer some extreme advantages over
Netscape/Mozilla. Currently, the only thing I miss is IFrames and I'm
pretty sure that they're usually a bad idea anyway. You're not going to
find me lamenting about VBScript. The differences are still well within
the 'marginal' category and are easily overcome.

> >> 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.
> >
> Yeah well, lets say supposedly your right. It really doesn't
> matter. The vertical embedded AOL box isnt supporting
> the 'legions of Linux users', its just a convenient
> way for AOL to deliver a turnkey product.
> Its actually quite shameful if you are right. AOL has
> a Linux version built, yet they wont even let a beta out
> for linux users to try? And we all know that linux
> users are far more likely to be technically savvy
> and deal with beta issues. Yet still AOL is mum?
> Maybe this doesnt actually exist yet .. Maybe
> it does. Either way, it says nothing positive
> about AOL's support for linux users or the community.

Hopefully they will release a full Linux version soon. I know it's
difficult for them, but I believe it will happen. They don't say "AOL
Everywhere" for nothing.

> >> 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.
> >
> The little small shops and basement ISPs werent
> gonne buy either solaris or NT anyway..

Solaris is free and NT would have been pushed on them, just as it is for
many shops. Even whole school systems have purchased NT for purposes
where Linux is better anyway.

> >> 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'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.
> >
> This argument about sales vs installs is getting old.
> THe days of most Linux being installed from downloading
> are clearly over. Most people I know (and I know lots
> of linux users) buy a redhat CD.

I've bought several, but I also download new versions. I've installed a
couple dozen different machines.

> Yes, they share it among their friends or burn it and share
> it around, but this is not different than Windows...
> Those same people have pirated copies of win2k on their
> 'other' machines just as well.

Companies don't pirate Windows. They do copy Linux of course.

> I would imagine that in a "real corporation" where Linux
> is supposedly "taking NT sales", those installs are
> bought copies, either via OEM, or redhat. Big companies
> like support, its what redhat/oem provides and it is what
> lets Linux make the inroads that it has.

One copy per area usually. The support issue depends on the sysadmins,
as always. With enough experience, you can fix just about anything
faster than calling someone. A quick web search will usually bring you
up to date in a couple minutes. RedHat's new upgrade network is a cool
idea though. Definitely will provide numbers for actual supported
> I will agree that Linux server is growing. However,
> win2k server share is growing as well.
> Most importantly, though it is growing, NT loses more
> sales to HPUX and solaris *TODAY* than to Linux.

How do you know that?

> >I disagree but I won't produce hard numbers at this point. Linux has
> The march 24th edition of The Economist, in "Digital Baroque"
> puts Linux desktop usage at a mere 1%.
> Take a seat, blind faith.

Could be, I think I have that floating around, I'll have to look at
their methodology.

> >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.
> Oh yeah, puhleeez. Lets talk about China's motivations. Here's
> a country that brazenly ignores software copyrights and patents.
> Im sure they still pirate more MS software then they have Linux.
> >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.
> care to cite a reference ?

Slightly more conservative numbers, from MacWorld, based on an IDC
report about current and future OS shipments:

A new report by market research firm International Data Corp. predicts
shipments of Linux server
operating systems will beat out the growth of all other rivals by 2004
and that it will pass the Mac
OS as a client operating environment possibly by the end of 2001.

In the next four years, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows family of products
will rise 21.5 percent; while
Linux shipments will increase 28 percent, IDC said. The Mac OS, which
possess such a small...

Overall, operating system shipments for server computers will increase
23 percent a year until
2004. By that time, Linux will account for 4.7 million shipments,
compared to roughly 5.7 for
According to IDC, in 1999 there were 5.7 million shipments of operating
systems for computers
used as servers. Windows held the lead in the market with a 38 percent
share, while Linux
captured a 24 percent share. Mac OS, together with other smaller
operating systems, made up
less than five percent.
As far as the client environment, IDC is projecting that Linux will
overtake Mac OS to take the
number two spot behind Windows by 2004. In 1999, the Windows OS
controlled 87.5 percent of
the OS market with 98.5 million units shipped. The Mac OS controlled
five percent while Linux
captured just under 4 percent.
The problem of getting vendors to support the Mac OS has always been a
difficult nut to crack and
is made no better by current numbers that show Windows having 87 percent
share of a 98.5 million
shipment market, Mac OS having just about five percent and Linux paid
copies having just under
four percent.

That said "PAID COPIES".

This guy has the right, long term view attitude:

> >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.
> >
> I was comparing server usage.
> >
> >See all the press releases about AOL+Linux, especially the recent
> >description of the AOL Set Top box.
> >
> You dont get it. None of that contributes to linux's bottom line
> or viability. What has Tivo done for the Linux community at large?

You don't get it. Linux is a threat that MS hasn't found a way to
neutralize. Its growth is increasing and expanding. MS is facing
revenue stagnation so they go after new markets: Servers, Solaris/Linux
are already there and strong competition; Embedded: WinCE made a bit of
headway and Linux shows up strong, immediately winning numerous
converts, etc. In at least some of these areas, especially embedded,
we're already into a Beta vs. VHS situation.

I sent a mail message to McNealy@Sun 5+ years ago pointing out that Sun
should have fostered free office file/print servers with Samba and Linux
or stripped down Solaris on Intel. They could have put together pay
support and built a VAR channel. All of this would have stemmed the
tide of NT servers that got in the door being expensive file/print
servers and then were upsold to SQL Server, etc. He sort of half
listened, but missed a great window. StarOffice is exactly in that vein
however. Brilliant move, especially now that it's open source.

> Did it ever occur that maybe people like tivo or even big aol
> are using linux as its convenient for them? If people

Of course, that's the idea.

> are stupid enough to do AOLs work for free, it will not
> reject it....
> I can only imagine the outrage if Microsoft shipped a new
> product runnin on linux. Aside from the jokes
> about MS's own OS not being good enough, people
> would be incensed that MSFT was allowed to get away
> with "using" or taking advantage of the sweat of
> the open source developers...
> Such hypocrisy...

If it happened, which it hasn't yet with all the current releases of
commercial software and use, it would be from clueless observers. I
would welcome MS supporting Linux.

> >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.
> >
> All these "mays" and "shoulds" thats not enough. You cant
> build an almost browser and expect that the wind will just
> carry it to success. This is why microsoft eats people's
> lunch. They dont stop, they work hard and finish that
> last 10% that makes stuff go.

True. AOL will bring Netscape to parity when it suits them. For now
they're on cruise mode. Maybe an open source version will get traction,
but it'll happen when a small set of individuals find the energy to dig
in and do it right. It may very well have nothing to do with Netscape.
Opera, one of the HTML modes in QT, Gnome, etc., could all become
competitors conceivably. We'll see.


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

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