WaSP! blasts Netscape.
July 21, 2000 12:21 PM   Subscribe

WaSP! blasts Netscape. Good, good, good... about f**king time. All of my Netscape cronies are now using I.E. because of exactly what this letter says.
posted by Dean_Paxton (25 comments total)
It looks like some in the Mozilla Development community are instinctively throwing up defense shields.
posted by alan at 12:27 PM on July 21, 2000

I'm glad the WaSP printed this article. I'm a longtime M$-hater, but the fact of the matter is that while the mozilla team was building gecko from the ground up (YAY!) and building in an email client and skins for it (WTF?!?!), Redmond caught up. I'm not happy about it, but that's the way it is.

Way back around M8 or M9 I think it was, there was a discussion about whether or not to push a stable browser, then add the frills later. It was decided to integrate the whole package together. And now they're paying the price.

Who knew chrome could be so expensive?

I like mozilla. the latest versions are fairly stable, and I like the interface. I think that placing such a high priority on skins, email clients, and all the extraneous crap is a Less Than Wise decision. I also realize that I'm not a typical web user, so the browser I'd like to see may or may not be commercially viable.
posted by katchomko at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2000

Netcape rocked in the 3.0 days... but have gone downhill since. Most people I know chose Netscape because the pages loaded lightning fast. That's long gone....

Now if AOL doesnt kill them completely, hopefully the Mozilla project can give them a hell of a comeback.

For now? I can't think of a damn reason to use Netscape Navigator, except for testing purposes, or just being plain ol' anti-Micro$oft.
posted by CyberPal at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2000

Great frustration on both sides: WSP and developers everywhere want to stop coding for non-compliant browsers; Netscape wants to release a product so complete and correct that it will bring them back from the brink of irrelevancy.

If the final product is good enough, if the developer community adopts it, if users take the time to install it... maybe there will be competition in the browser market again.
posted by Tubes at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2000

So, you don't like Netscape because it's not standards compliant, but you use a browser by a company that wants to change the internet to suit their needs and not even give a flying $%#@ about standards? Did I get that?
posted by y0bhgu0d at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2000

Yep, you got it.

Netscape sucks, coming from my two perspectives as a web surfer, and webdesigner / developer. It is such a pain in ass to work with.

Microsoft may suck, but they make the best web browser around at the moment. It's very easy to use, and to design / develop for. Unlike Mozilla.

It's interesting to note how Mozilla quickly chose to start taking swipes at Microsoft.

And this bit - "What has Microsoft delivered in those two years, I wonder? "

In answer, they've produced a browser that functions better than Mozilla, and for the most part, supports standards. Have Mozilla ever heard of CSS? You could be forgiven for thinking they hadn't.

"When IE supports CSS and the DOM, then Netscape should chuck NN4." For the most part, IE does. They certainly, as far as I know, do a better job than Mozilla.

"Microsoft is wholly to blame for the possibility of a single company dominating the browser industry and the standards process."

Maybe so, and it sucks - but it happened. Deal with it!
posted by tomcosgrave at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2000

No - I use the better browser. Period.

Netscape is a horrible piece of software. Never mind standards-compliant or not; let's talk speed, ease of use, etc. Something horrifying happened when 3.0 became 4.0. It just degenerated.

I love the shrillness of Mozilla's reply, but they keep repeating the same tired point: "Microsoft illegally beat us!" Sorry, but no - Microsoft made the better product. Microsoft may have owned the desktop, but hey, guess what? Somehow, other programs that compete with Microsoft products still manage to find a home on Windows machines. Last I checked, there were plenty of third-party software vendors who still manage to find users for their software.

Netscape fucked up. Pure and simple. While I agree that MS is a problem for an open Internet, I also recognize that the main impetus of the anti-trust action against them was Netscape getting its ass kicked. In that regard, I think there was an error.

No company with a clue loses an 85% market share in three years. No one. People will say that MS killed Netscape when they gave IE away for free. I say that if Netscape was depending on browser sales for all their revenue, then they completely fucked up. They should have had a plan. They should have made NS even better. They didn't.

MS could come up with a super graphics and image manipulation program tomorrow, and I guarantee that Adobe will not fold. Why? Brand loyalty. People know that Adobe makes an outstanding product. And MS might make a good program, it might even make a better program, but as long as Adobe is smart and stays ahead of the game, they won't have any problem.

Netscape took it personally. Somehow, this entire company decided to try and go head-to-head with MS. Instead of concentrating on making great software that could more than hold its own against MS, they decided to spread themselves so thin that all they could release was junk.

And let's not argue about this. NS 4.x is a worthless piece of crap. I'd rather use Lynx than NS.

Netscape had its day. Now it's a broken shell of a company with no support from its new owners.

I hope Mozilla works. But I'm not counting on it. And I certainly won't believe it till I see it.

I'm sad that Netscape is dead. Sad, but not angry. Because they did it to themselves.
posted by solistrato at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2000

Uhh, CSS in Mozilla is perfect. 100% standards compliant.
posted by y0bhgu0d at 6:32 PM on July 21, 2000

I'm afraid that from a pragmatic point of view, if any single product has 85% of the market, it is the standard, no matter how much posturing any ad hoc group might do.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that what "The Web Standards Project" wants really doesn't matter a great deal. They can write all the pretty specifications they want, for all the good it does them. They can bitch when they get ignored by the vendors, which they seem to do a great deal of. But they're basically marginalized at this point. (The dirty little secret is that they've always been marginalized.)

posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:02 PM on July 21, 2000

y0bhgu0d, are we talking about the same Netscape????

I have NN4.7 on my PC, and simple CSS things like "hover" on a link is non-existent, and the "font-family" in the "body" line doesn't work on the entire page.

I think you're a tad mistaken, my friend.

If you look at this chart, Netscape 4 has the same (lack of) support of CSS as IE3.... and that was pretty bad, as I recall.
posted by CyberPal at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2000

Eric - y0bhgu0d was refering to mozilla, not NN 4.x.

Mozilla is in fact more CSS compliant than IE, but then so is Opera, but like Opera, Mozilla breaks on so many other basic things that it's not the same as using IE or NN.

Great, I just started another browser holy war!

Use whatever works, that's all. I'm platform and browser agnostic, whatever works, I use. Right now that's Win2k pro for my OS and IE 5.5 (which doesn't exactly work) as my browser, but three months from now that could be different.

I think that's all the WaSP is saying "make something that works quickly please!"

Think about this for a second - the 4.0 browsers came out in early 1997 - that's nineteen ninety SEVEN! In internet time, that's eons ago, but we're still stuck with the same browser, and worse yet - we have to ask "will our audience be using a 4.0 browser? Can we ditch the font tags on this e-commerce site?"

Netscape/AOL/Time-Warner-MegaEmpire should really dump some resources into finishing the damn thing.
posted by mathowie at 7:54 PM on July 21, 2000

Problem is, once they do finish it, what are they going to do with it?
posted by Dean_Paxton at 8:51 PM on July 21, 2000

::: It's becoming increasingly apparent that what "The Web Standards Project" wants really doesn't matter a great deal. They can write all the pretty specifications they want, for all the good it does them. They can bitch when they get ignored by the vendors, which they seem to do a great deal of. But they're basically marginalized at this point. (The dirty little secret is that they've always been marginalized.) :::

hey, that's not positive blogging!

okay: these are not the WaSP's "pretty specifications," they are specs cooperatively created by netscape, microsoft, and other mfrs., along with invited experts, at collective bargaining tables under the aegis of the W3C. heading the W3C are the people who gave us the web in the first place.

by 1997 it was harder and harder to develop sites that worked, because the browser makers were not in full compliance with these cooperatively-developed specs.

again, just so you understand: microsoft, netscape, et. al, created these specs together, but frequently ignored them (or implemented them partially, or selectively, or incompletely) when it came time to make a browser.

the W3C is not a police group; it cannot force vendors to cooperate.

so a group of frustrated developers, designers and web users banded together to raise public awareness of the issue, and to try to persuade browser makers to support the standards they had helped to create.

the idea being that the web would begin working better, instead of falling apart due to browser incompatibilities.

if you didn't realize where the standards actually came from, or why lack of compliance with those standards was a problem, now you do.

if you didn't understand the simple mission of the WaSP, now you do. somebody had to do it. nobody else volunteered.

certainly, from a "pragmatic" POV, there is a danger that standards could become meaningless if one browser maker "owns" the market.

nevertheless, Opera, IE, and Netscape are all implementing more and more web standards. ask yourself why.

netscape didn't have to do this to survive. they took a huge risk.

microsoft didn't have to do it and doesn't have to do it, yet they are doing it.

opera has always done it - that is their company policy.

are standards irrelevant to these companies? not so far.

are standards irrelevant to the future of the web? if there was only one browser company, then some of these standards could be deemed irrelevant as far as the desktop space is concerned.

but the web is expanding beyond the desktop, so these standards will always matter.

netscape is not dead. far from it. saying netscape is dead is just silly. netscape has lost market share, and its old browser causes problems for anyone who actually has to work with code. we expressed our views on that subject as we've expressed our views on other standards-related subjects. our goal is not to hurt or promote any browser maker, but to encourage them to continue on the path toward interoperability which is necessary for the web to fulfill its purpose.

i talk with developers from microsoft and netscape, as do other WaSP members, who also talk with opera folks. we don't always agree and it isn't always pretty but everyone involved is intelligent, honest, and concerned with the good of the web. again, this is so that one day interoperability will be guaranteed on the web, just as it is in ANY OTHER INDUSTRY. then we can all go home.

if it gives you pleasure to describe our activities as marginalized "bitching," knock yourself out. writing that column hurt like hell - doing a lot of what we do is unpleasant and painful - but our feelings do not matter any more than your lack of understanding matters. all that matters is that the damage done by the browser wars gets undone. all that matters is that eventually, all browsers (and internet devices) must support common standards LIKE IN EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY.

along the way, engineers and management from netscape, microsoft, opera, and other companies may be angered by things we feel need to be said. along the way, we will get our share of grief, and more than our share of less-than-informed comments. but we're all grownups, and we can all deal. it's a small price to pay.
posted by Zeldman at 9:06 PM on July 21, 2000

Well, gents, this is my opinion:

IE *still* sucks.

I'm not concerned with how "good" a browser it is.

What *I* am concerned with is whether it's *manageable*. NN still does some things I don't like, but I know about all of them, and can disable most of them. IE, on the other hand, is, as best I can discern, designed to further MS' agenda, not to get my work done.

NN 4.72 has been pretty stable for me, right along. 4.73 did give me some problems, and I backed off. I'm going to skip 4.74 and wait for 6.

But, you know, the *only* sites on which using NN gives me any trouble more than the occasional cosmetic bobble have microsoft.com in their URL's.

Oh, and BTW (elitist comments ahead): if you're designing pages that don't work in (at least) both of the major browers, and degrade gracefully for *at least* one major release back -- and you have *any* other excuse then "my pages follow the independent published standard"... then you're fooling yourself.

posted by baylink at 9:15 PM on July 21, 2000

I upgraded to IE 5.5, but it made imarkup stop working correctly, and that wasn't acceptable. (I can't live without imarkup.) So I retreated back to IE 5.01 again.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:14 PM on July 21, 2000

Zeldman, I don't really care who agreed to what, when in what meetings, or which contracts where signed nor what fluid was used in the signatures.

I say again: if a single product has 85% market share, it is the standard. And if you're a web designer, that better be what you design to, irrespective of whether it complies or doesn't comply with some academic specification left over from some meeting in the distant past, no matter who agreed to what in that meeting. If you design your web page to the academic spec and it doesn't work with IE 5.5, no-one's going to give you any sympathy. (And if it's a commercial site, no-one's going to give you any business.)

This has happened several times in the past, and interestingly enough, sometimes the company whose market share established the standard later dies and vanishes. We speak of "Hayes compatible modems", but Hayes got out of the modem business years ago. However, before they did so, they established a standard for control communications between computers and smart modems, which survives to this day ("ATDT"). Equally, the printer interface on the PC was designed by Centronix, which I believe is long since out of business. BUT FOR A WHILE those companies dominated their businesses, and as 600 pound canaries they imposed standards on the industry, standards we still live with.

This is similar. IE is the 600 pound canary, and it no longer matters whether it does or does not comply with all those specifications you hold so dear. What IE does is what the web designers will design to; it is the standard in actual practice and those written specifications do not matter. (And if the Opera people are smart, they'll kiss off the specs and do their best to emulate IE.)

And I consider the efforts of WaSP to be pointless kvetching. The war's over, my man; and the specs lost. You have the best of intentions, but your efforts are pointless. Do you really think that Microsoft gives a tinker's damn what WaSP think of them? Do you think WaSP's occasionally public tirades alter MS's plans by one iota? (Do you believe in the tooth fairy?)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 11:35 PM on July 21, 2000

Thanks for the tips. We worked with Netscape, and they committed to delivering real-world standards like XML and the DOM in their upcoming browser. If you know anything about development and the way the web is going, XML and the DOM are not "academic standards," they are the future. The delays in releasing that browser are our only problem with Netscape.

We also worked with Microsoft and the result was IE5/Mac, the most standards-compliant browser on the market in its support for HTML and CSS: two more non-academic standards for your consideration. And we spent most of last week talking with the IE Windows team. The tooth fairy did not participate in these discussions. I don't care if you understand us or respect us, but you are wrong to think nobody cares, and you are wrong to believe that no one at these companies is listening.

But, you know, "my man," we don't have to argue. This isn't the place, and our disagreement does not matter.
posted by Zeldman at 1:09 AM on July 22, 2000

The point of the article came through clearly to me, and I thought it was an excellent point as well, one that too many forget.

Hundreds, thousands of businesses fail because the owners or other decision makers wait and wait and wait to make, and implement, the perfect decision. It happens in personal life as well - people hem and haw about the perfect choice... when what's important is that a choice is made, period. That the company, or person, commit.

Anyone who has been in business knows this deeply. It's not about perfect choices, about perfect products. It's about followthrough on something - often, anything. When things go for too long, it often barely matters what that something is - anything decent will do. I've been in dozens of situations in which even the worst option was better than nothing at all - and I think that was the main point of this piece - that warts and all, Netscape has to get it done, and release it in useable form.
posted by mikel at 1:37 AM on July 22, 2000

I have a pretty simple question about this - why doesn't the W3C put some resources into actually creating testbeds of some of their specs? It took an outsider (at the time) to make a CSS testbed, and I would really like to see the same done for other specs. Getting all of these specs working together at once is awfully difficult if you have people (smart people!) still arguing over aspects of the CSS2 spec that are worded vaguely.

As for DOM level1 - well at this point it appears to be useless politics. It's probably the most important thing we could standardize on and it just looks like it's never going to happen.

I'm afraid Mozilla will be a niche play, it's going to be the art house film of the browser set. Critics (and web developers) will love it. My mom will never even know about it. It's just too late.

WASP is fighting the good fight, and it's an important sign of our industry that we're beginning to get advocacy groups like them. But it's also all in the maturing stages (these things take time!) - but one day we can hope that an open letter from WASP will actually cause concern and discussion among the sr. management of these companies.

And to Steven's "point" that WASP is pointless kvetching - you must enjoy getting steamrolled. There have been a number of times in several industries where advocacy groups have changed the way things were done. If you were on the standards list (sorry, don't have the URL handy) you'd see several IE product managers discussing features with WASP members and others. The difficulty seems to be in convincing the IE team that your typical internet user is an important customer base that would benefit from standards. They (meaning the MS guys, nice guys and all) are primarily concerned with the large corporate intranets, etc. that standardize 2000+ systems on a browser. As soon as they take web consumers as seriously as that group, we could have a kickin browser on our hands.

I wish I could even comment on Mozilla - I still don't understand how they plan on growing marketshare with it. My mom could care less that it's technically better, and with her cable modem will not notice any quicker rendering. It's time for that group to think outside the browser (as cliched as it sounds).
posted by jbeaumont at 6:12 AM on July 22, 2000

I use communicator 4. For the things I do, it works (mostly). I tried the preview version of 6 and was appalled at the performance of Chrome.

Really now, was there any good reason why a browser UI on a 300MHz G3 should look slower than NN 3 on a 25MHz 68040?

I've written complete UI tookits before and frankly, they should be ashamed.

posted by plinth at 6:53 AM on July 22, 2000

I don't think that I.E. should be a part of this discussion at all. Whatever they've done, they've done with the interests of their products in mind, delivering applications and data from their servers to their browsers. They have historically adopted the parts of standards that they liked across all M$ products, from networking to building compilers. They never, ever follow the rules and haven't with I.E. Throwing about percentages, statistics, and declaring "winners" will accomplish nothing, nor enhance one particular persons viewpoint. Enough said about that.

As for Mozilla and NN6, they are not the same, and shouldn't be considered the same at all. From Netscape/AOL proper you'll get a browser that will adopt standards as well as I.E. did in the face of enhancing other Netscape/Sun/AOL products. But, from Mozilla, you'll get a perfectly compliant browser code base from which literally dozens of browsers should arise. You think there was a browser war before? And once and for all, please stop complaining about a product that isn't even in beta yet. All of that chrome nonsense, buttons, and speed? Who cares for an Alpha release?

The whole point of all of this was to let Netscape/Sun/AOL/Mozilla know we are tired, very tired, of waiting for a stable, compliant, and useful browser. It's been more than two years for gods sake! Hurry up! I loved the letter because the WSP could do what I, nor any one person could. I've been a Netscape proponent from day one. I'm trained on their server products, I've made my company a Netscape partner since 1996, and I've used and advocated both the browser and server products since day one.. I could never have sent enough e-mails, talked to enough district managers, product managers, etc. and accomplished what this letter did...

What's more, is the letter could have not come at a better time. With the realease of I.E. 5.5 and the commotion that it caused with XSL/XML implementation, Mozilla is on the brink of beta, Netscape Corporate inexplicably released 4.74 obviously as a reaction to M$ (which we are all very weary of)… In my eyes, this letter just might push them over the top.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2000

Here's a question that will prove once and for all I know absolutely *nothing* about what I'm talking about... :0)

But for the sake of other equally-clueless folks, I hope you guys can answer this here...

I thought Mozilla and Gecko were part of making the new Netscape, rebuilding it from the ground up? Any links and documentation to get me and others back up to speed would be greatly appreciated.

Then I'll gladly offer y0bhgu0d an apology for my previous remark...
posted by CyberPal at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2000

Mozilla is a group working to create a new generation web platform. For the past two years, their efforts have been based on the Gecko rendering engine (which was originally called "NGLayout"). Gecko, or NGLayout, was a brand-new rendering engine designed to fully support key web standards such as HTML, CSS-1, XML, ECMAScript (formerly "JavaScript") and the DOM. These standards were jointly developed by by browser makers and invited experts under the aegis of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C was created by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and has members around the world.

Mozilla is an Open Source project, and the browser being developed by Mozilla will eventually be branded by Netscape Communications and released as Netscape 6. (No Netscape "5" was ever released.)

So - in order to fully comply with W3C standards, which the Web Standards Project (along with others) was urging them to do, Netscape boldly agreed in 1998 that the next generation of its browser would be built around the NGLayout/Gecko rendering engine. (*Boldly* because they knew that it would take longer to build a new browser from scratch, than to simply slap another patch on Navigator 4.) The work is being done by Mozilla, but many of the people doing the work are employees of Netscape.

It's a bit complicated. I hope I explained that correctly and I hope it helps.
posted by Zeldman at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2000

It certainly did... thank you, your Apartness. :0)

I've been scouring the web all day on this, starting at Mozilla.Org, reading message boards, and apparently, there's a lot of confusion out there.

And yes, I feel WaSP is making a big difference in the way the browsers are paying attention to quality and W3C standards.
posted by CyberPal at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2000

As for the article, I offer a resounding "Amen". I can only hope that Netscape gets its act together. Yesterday.

I originally started with Netscape, but tried IE (1.0) out of curiosity. It was bad. Really bad. So I stuck with Netscape. Roundabout the time IE4 came out, it started winning me over. By the time I cared about CSS, the DOM, and other Fairly Important Stuff, I didn't even consider Netscape.

My personal sites are designed solely for IE5. It's the better browser right now. That said, I hope whatever comes out of Mozilla kicks IE5's rear.
posted by hijinx at 6:53 PM on July 22, 2000

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