Skip

Hydra buys zombie
April 9, 2012 5:47 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft has agreed to purchase a big chunk of AOL's intellectual property for a big chunk of cash. Left unremarked in most business news coverage is a little matter of history: A closure of sorts for the fiercest -- and possibly the most expensive -- tech rivalry of the dotcom era. Microsoft will own Netscape.

That was then, of course: In 1995, Microsoft was effectively blindsided by the web and Netscape's rapid dominance as a web browser. Which led to Microsoft bundling Internet Explorer into its operating system. Which led to (among other things) investigations and an epic court battle regarding Microsoft's status as a monopoly. Time passed, the dust settled, Netscape was obsoleted by its open-source spinoff Mozilla (later Firefox), and eventually Microsoft's lethargy regarding improving its own browser led to Internet Explorer's own decline in popularity.

AOL will still own the Netscape name, as well as whatever media properties it's decided to attach to that name lately, as well as a freshly-minted billion dollars to use in staunching some wounds. Microsoft will have a slightly larger patent portfolio.
posted by ardgedee (59 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Microsoft will own Netscape.

*HEAD EXPLODES*
posted by loquacious at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2012 [13 favorites]


Microsoft will own Netscape.
Microsoft will all but own Netscape. It gets the IP but not the brand.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:57 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone still involved with Netscape at AOL just thought to themselves, ‘ well, for fucks sake.’
posted by netbros at 5:59 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Both Netscape and IE evolved from the original Mosaic, and both carried license notices for years. So it all comes full circle.
posted by caclwmr4 at 6:00 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


They can have lynx when they pry it from my cold dead teletype.
posted by delfin at 6:00 PM on April 9, 2012 [9 favorites]


I can't wait to see what jwz has to say about this.
posted by asterix at 6:01 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Everyone still involved with Netscape at AOL just thought to themselves, ‘ well, for fucks sake.’

AFAIK, it's a dead project.

Now it's just one more clip in the patent gun for the war on google.
posted by empath at 6:01 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


What does Netcraft say about this?
posted by Dark Messiah at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I believe jwz's comments included the word "necrophilia".
posted by GuyZero at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2012


I'm really curious what of that is actually valuable. The navigator 4 source code clearly isn't. Are there patents that MS could use to attack (or defend against attacks from )other browsers?

I guess I'm a little astonished that there could possibly be any way at all in which Netscape is still relevant today.
posted by aubilenon at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is weirdly poignant. Just as IE is the most reviled browser out there, they buy the only browser that made IE look good about 10 years ago.
posted by flippant at 6:08 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kind of hoping they will dig up the corpse of Netacape 4, try it for it's many crimes and mount it's head on a pike as a warning to future browser developers.
posted by Artw at 6:08 PM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


*bill gates lights a cigar with a 100 dollar bill and chortles - "finally, finally, the day has come - i have crushed my enemies, they have fallen at my feet, and i have taken their source code and patents and heard the lamentations of their fanboys"*
posted by pyramid termite at 6:12 PM on April 9, 2012 [12 favorites]


> I'm really curious what of that is actually valuable.

The patents.

I suspect Microsoft's less concerned about Google specifically and more about building its patent arsenal to use both as a defense against patent trollery but also as tools for negotiations with or against other corporations to the extent they may be useful.
posted by ardgedee at 6:14 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yup. It's all patent war all the time in tech these days...
posted by Artw at 6:15 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


This has nothing to do with browsers.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


This reminds me somewhat of Lotus buying Software Arts (maker of Visicalc).
posted by Slothrup at 6:17 PM on April 9, 2012


So we can stop supporting IE 6 *AND* Netscape? Finally. Gawd.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:18 PM on April 9, 2012




Just as IE is the most reviled browser out there

Is that actually the case for IE9? Or is it just an example of people saying they don't like it because they think they should say that?
posted by Dasein at 6:19 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dasein: Apparently IE9 is quite good. IE6 is bound to linger long enough to frustrate, though.
posted by flippant at 6:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apparently IE9 is quite good

That's certainly been my experience. And I've had rare problems with both Firefox and Chrome, so I don't think any browser is perfect. I wonder if other people have used IE9 and disliked it, or if the IE hatred is just down to the older versions.
posted by Dasein at 6:28 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


<blink></blink>
<blink></blink>
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:29 PM on April 9, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think the correct way of saying it is: "Microsoft will pwn Netscape".
posted by dobie at 6:37 PM on April 9, 2012


Microsoft shows up on the first day to sign some paperwork, and on the back page of one of the huge stacks of contracts there's a rider that says they own several new assets: real-estate properties in the middle of Arizona. But, it doesn't say *what* AOL is doing with real-estate in Arizona, so they send a team to investigate.

They arrive to the location, in the middle of the Arizona desert, to a very large and fenced off warehouse. It's dusty, no one's been there for years. There's a front door, locked. They bust open the lock and the door swings open from the force of....AOL TRIAL CDs! They just pour out, like a river. Everyone's stunned. They look inside the warehouse, and it's completely full. of AOL trial CDs. To the rafters.

The End.
posted by hellojed at 6:44 PM on April 9, 2012 [54 favorites]


Microsoft and Netscape sharing a groovy dinner in New Orleans, after tripping balls on acid in the graveyard.

Microsoft said, "We made it man!"

Netscape says, "No, man. We failed. We failed."

They both die of gunshot wounds on an anonymous Louisiana highway.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [18 favorites]


Is that actually the case for IE9?

There was a time when earlier versions of Internet Explorer weren't so bad, relative to what else was available. But as soon as Microsoft got a commanding lead in the browser wars they all but abandoned it, and because of that (and because it continues to be a big hack target) I am loathe to recommend it to anyone.
posted by JHarris at 6:52 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dat disk!
posted by Splunge at 7:07 PM on April 9, 2012


IE6 is bound to linger long enough to frustrate, though.

Almost completely dead, from stats I've seen lately. IE7 hovers on the verge of irrelevance, but IE8 is likely to be a real problem for as long as XP is in use, as IE9 is only available for Vista and up, and IE10 only for win7 and up.

I think IE9 is pretty good, but those decisions by MS annoy me, as I really did not need another reason for a last fen browser to be hanging on.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on April 9, 2012


What's a browser? I just tippetty-tappetty on my iGlass these days and bump around data flows that are seemingly congruent in a never ending stream.
posted by roboton666 at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I suspect that the tag web developers dream of would be something like:

<meta http-equiv="upgrade" refresh-after="you've upgraded, you dumb fucker" />
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


(yah yah, I keed, I keed!)
posted by roboton666 at 7:36 PM on April 9, 2012


roboton666 What's a browser? I just tippetty-tappetty on my iGlass these days and bump around data flows that are seemingly congruent in a never ending stream.

That thing that suddenly closes back to desktop halfway through a long MeFi comment with links? Or when opening a page with embedded video? Or for just no damn reason at all?

That's a browser. iPad Safari. Worst of the lot, for stability anyway.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:58 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Splunge: "Dat disk!"

DAT tape (ok, ok, I know I did it wrong).
posted by symbioid at 8:12 PM on April 9, 2012


Microsoft will all but own Netscape. It gets the IP but not the brand.

Means they will probably get around to figuring out how to make a fucking browser.

Sorry I know Netscape was terrible - but I've spent too many late nights with impossible to debug insane Microsoft implementation of CSS and javascript to ever get over this. I've had rage.
posted by mattoxic at 8:17 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a browser. iPad Safari. Worst of the lot, for stability anyway.

It's Safari, at best. Nowadays when you visit a site you'll get a popup that says "[site] has an app! Click to download it!" and if you're silly to install and use it, they can do activity tracking of a degree and detail most mere websites can only dream of. And there go all your standardized controls like back buttons and history and font preferences... in many ways, this is not a positive development. Fortunately I don't see the web as such being deprecated any time soon.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:21 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hmm... I assume Mozilla has some kind of license for these patents, otherwise there could be some serious problems if Microsoft decided to become a patent troll themselves.

Anyway, software patents are completely inane. They do far more to inhibit the creation of new software then promote it. They are used primarily by huge corporations to prevent competitors from coming after them, and they are only useful to small developers if they never actually try to ship their code.

If they come up with some idea, file a patent, and then let it sit in a drawer until someone else comes up with the same idea, then maybe that guy can make some money patent trolling.

On the other hand, if someone comes up with a product idea, gets it fully polished, and then starts selling it (or giving it away open source) they open themselves up to lawsuits by patent trolls who did nothing with their ideas beyond waiting for other people to implement them.
posted by delmoi at 8:25 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


.
posted by germdisco at 8:32 PM on April 9, 2012


Bill Gates hadn't typed a DOS command for many years as a matter of principle, but today was an exception. He sat down and slowly tapped out a simple command, reveling in delight with each keystroke:

RD /S /Q C:\Projects\Netscape4\src

He stared at the command with an evil smile, then pressed the enter key.

He picked up the phone and said, "There's an old PC on my desk. I want it destroyed and the hard drive melted with a torch before the sun sets tonight." and then hung up.

A shiver came over him. It was finally done. It was finally dead.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:52 PM on April 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


"[site] has an app! Click to download it!"

That's an automatic "no" from me, with a possible additional "fuck you" and a never coming back.
posted by Artw at 9:26 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whatever the last version of Netscape was, the team that built it (on contract) was based in my hometown. When AOL killed the project, the company went bankrupt, and the same team was hired by Flock to build the Flock browser. They ditched Gecko or whatever for Chromium for the last build of Flock, and just after that Flock was bought by Zynga. So the entire team (who worked on the last Netscape build) was moved from Canada to SF to work for Zynga. And now Zynga is moving the team back to Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Apparently IE9 is quite good

>>That's certainly been my experience.


And mine, from a designing-stuff perspective. Fucking Opera, though: I am not fond of that thing. Never fails to crap out on things that look just fine in every other browser I test with.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:13 PM on April 9, 2012


As Artw said, IE8 is the new IE6. However, China still has a huge IE6 browsershare and that problem will be there for a while.

Then there are the poor souls who have to code for HTML e-mail, where Outlook uses Word as the HTML renderer (which defies all reason). Microsoft should continue this trend and buy what's left of Eudora to acquire some more patents there...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:13 PM on April 9, 2012


I find it sad when something with such an awesome name as "Netscape" bytes the dust. Even if it was so conveniently mophed into 'nutscrape', when the time came, or perhaps additionally because it morphed so nicely.

"Internet Explorer" isn't a bad name. But there is absolutely nothing clever or original about it. I've never seen it morph into anything fun.
posted by Goofyy at 12:36 AM on April 10, 2012


IE9 is better than IE6 and 7. But it's still a pain in the neck to support. There is so much legacy crap to be sure not to break that it's almost impossible to maintain IE anymore. IE10 is barely on par, but is already being outpaced by the rapid release cycles of Firefox and Chrome.

Which makes me wonder if they're planning to put some of that old Netscape code to use. It really would make sense for MS to start working on a new browser, one that isn't built on the foundations of a broken box model and endless patches... For all the failings of Netscape, it had good bones, as Firefox can attest to today.
posted by brenton at 12:42 AM on April 10, 2012


Internet Exploder?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:12 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Firefox and it's fucking release cycle... Gah.
posted by Artw at 2:03 AM on April 10, 2012


IE9 still leaks memory. I spent months last year creating an online game, and it worked on every other common browser, but IE9 would leak and leak. Not obviously, but try changing the DOM 10 times a second for 20 minutes (not unusual in a game), and watch memory use. Ugh. Sure, I could have worked round it eventually, but I was utterly sick of working round IE problems, so finally cut my losses and made something different. IE doubles the time needed to make anything. It must have cost the world economy countless billions in lost developer productivity and cool programs that were never made.

IE is well named. Whenever I see it feel like a native in some old horror flick, when the monster is about to kill them all: "AIEEE! the gods are angry!"
posted by EnterTheStory at 2:36 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


IE6 through IE8 combined makes up about 36.8% of the total share, which is horrendous. IE9 is really the first version that has support for anything even remotely resembling modern features, like the new HTML5 semantic and audio/video tags, canvas, CSS3, WOFF @font-face support. But even IE9 lacks a lot of the things needed for modern high performance web stuff: Web workers, Typed arrays, WebGL, WebSockets, requestAnimationFrame, etc. There are of course polyfills for a lot of that, but my point is that despite the latest version being a refreshing change, there is still a large boat anchor weighing down more than a third of all users.
posted by Rhomboid at 3:21 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"As Artw said, IE8 is the new IE6. However, China still has a huge IE6 browsershare and that problem will be there for a while."

First-world corporations and schools also have a huge IE6 share, and there are still major multinational corporations for which IE 6 continues to be the default-and-only browser; if you want anything else on your desktop, you need executive clearance. This is drastically underrepresented in Netstats and similar services partly because this demographic only exists for a part of the day in any specific timezone, and primarily because institutional security firewalls prevent the browsers from visiting many sites, or block the 3rd party Javascript as a rule, preventing the trackers from being able to track.

Ironically, if you're Facebook, Ebay, or Reddit, you know you're on the A-list of blocked sites, so you don't have to care, unless you've got so many developers on hand you can casually throw a few dozen of them on legacy browser support.

If you're a smaller site, especially if you provide technical support, business-to-business sales or corporate services, have to care. A lot. Even if stats say IE 6 represents only a trickle of your traffic.
posted by at by at 4:03 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just when you thought there was no possibly worse way of spending $1,000,000,000* than buying instagram...

(*in monopoly money)
posted by 3mendo at 4:03 AM on April 10, 2012


This American Life's show "When Patents Attack!" is an interesting (if depressing) investigation of intellectual property issues and the weird virtual gold rush that was unleashed when the awarding of patents for software was established in the 90s.
posted by aught at 5:19 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Internet Explorer" isn't a bad name. But there is absolutely nothing clever or original about it. I've never seen it morph into anything fun.

Internet Exploiter, best nickname ever, works on a couple levels.
posted by intermod at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


the IE hatred is just down to the older versions.

I don't give a damn about IE. I give a damn when web site "designers" who decide IE is the only way to access because MIcrosoft doesn't make IE for the platforms I use.

Same way I don't enjoy the court system putting out their forms in .doc format and, once again, Mircosoft opts to not support my platform.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:52 AM on April 10, 2012


IE9 caused one of my customers a lot of confusion and grief after it arrived as an Automatic Update. She rang me in a panic saying she couldn't get on the Internet because her screen just went blank every time she tried.

Took a while to work out that IE9 has this shiny new accelerated rendering engine, enabled by default, that totally failed to work on her particular GPU.
posted by flabdablet at 8:54 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


IE was loosely based on Spyglass that was loosely based on Mosaic, so it's a bit more complicated than people make out. I saw no sign of the Mosaic code when I worked on IE, but bits of Spyglass code were still around here and there.
posted by w0mbat at 9:06 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't give a damn about IE. I give a damn when web site "designers" who decide IE is the only way to access because MIcrosoft doesn't make IE for the platforms I use.

Heh. Haven't see that since the early 2000s, though I don't doubt it lurks on some corners of the webs and at the dark heart of corporate intranets. These days you're more likely to see "LOL, you are using IE, you LOSER, which I am too super cool to support."
posted by Artw at 9:26 AM on April 10, 2012


Haven't see that since the early 2000s, though I don't doubt it lurks on some corners of the webs and at the dark heart of corporate intranets.
Corporate compliance-training webinars. HR portals. And other necessary bullshit.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:04 PM on April 10, 2012




« Older That's my Cheese Monster talking   |   The Ultimate Warrior Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post