Mozilla Savaged By Suck.
July 31, 2000 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Mozilla Savaged By Suck. Yet another high-profile site calling for the open-source quagmire that might be Netscape 6 one day to put up or shut up. No word whether some crank from Mozilla has called Greg Knauss a Microsoft-loving son of a whore yet.
posted by solistrato (50 comments total)
Actualy, they have.

What I find really disappointing is the way that the Mozilla Developers just ignore any criticism thrown their way. Everyone gets an undeserved slam now and then, but sometimes a thick skin does more harm than good . . .

posted by alan at 1:46 PM on July 31, 2000

Not only does Greg get it spot on, he earned big credibility points with me by linking to Joel Spolsky's article on why one should never do a from-the-ground-up re-write.

Of course, this is nothing new to anyone long in the field -- Xanadu being the most obvious example, although Apple's wandering though the wilderness of Taligent, Pink, Copeland, Rhapsody, and still no OS X for the desktop after umpty-ump years should tell you something...

Like Xanadu and OS X, I think Mozilla will be "six months away" for the next decade or so...

posted by aurelian at 3:09 PM on July 31, 2000

The tempests in teacups over criticism of Mozilla seems kind of quaint to me. I gave up on Mozilla about a year ago, and I suspect I'm not alone. I've also almost totally given up on supporting Netscape 4's bizarre quirks, much as I hate to leave its users high and dry.

I was once a Netscape-or-nothing fan, but I quit using Netscape soon after the release of 4. The betas of Mozilla were slow and crashy so I went to IE. It's not great, but the alternative is worse. (I know, I know, Opera. But I find Opera awkward to work with.)

As a web designer I can honestly say that the delays of Mozilla, and the use in the meantime of NS4, have frustrated me to the degree that I've almost completely backed away from coding HTML. I used to be proud of going over my markups meticulously, experimenting with DHTML, etc. etc. Now I do much simpler, less ambitious pages and I usually design them in Photoshop, break them down in ImageReady, and lay them out in Dreamweaver. I can't stand the thought of making pages that will have to be coded twice or else they'll break for ~30% of users. I salute the brave designers who continue to create great envelope-pushing sites in the current environment, because I just wouldn't be able to cope with the frustration.

This is another reason I'm so excited about the new features of Flash 5. Now that it has HTML text, conceivably you could build a whole site in Flash without sacrificing searchability. Then the problem of Netscape and Mozilla becomes practically irrelevant, which IMO is definitely for the best.
posted by wiremommy at 3:10 PM on July 31, 2000


Ok, all y'all. Have fun.

NS6 will live, and it *will* take over from IE for the simple reason that BG will hang himself before he'll let them release IE/Linux.

And Larry Ellison will help tie the knots.

Oh yeah, and it will be a better browser, too; did I mention that?
posted by baylink at 4:02 PM on July 31, 2000

I would like nothing better than to agree with you, baylink. However, there is absolutely nothing to show to consumers. Maybe it's the best browser a group of developers have ever made for other developers. If that's the case, kudos to them. Way to go.

The people I make web pages for haven't upgraded since NN 4.7 or IE 5, and from the looks of it, are very slow to upgrade to 5.5. Which is too bad. Some of this stuff looks interesting, others not so much. (I deal with two instant messangers, when I'd rather use zero.)

Of all the haranging I hear over Mr. Gates and Crew he's got the browser that's released, and it works.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:28 PM on July 31, 2000

And wiremommy, as much as I hate flash, a simple solution that is cross-platform, would be equally welcome in my world.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 4:31 PM on July 31, 2000

I'm with the wired-mother on this one, too... I tried - valiantly, I believe - to use Netscape's products after switching back to the Mac OS for personal computing. I didn't want to "contaminate" my shiny lime child with anything Redmondian - but nothing after 4.07 actually works for any length of time and 4.07 is ssssooo ssslllooowww - well, I just couldn't take it any more. I'm using IE5 for Mac OS now and I couldn't possibly care less about "Netscape features" any more. I code for what I know people are using; it may not be exactly 80/20 yet, but heck, it's close enough for me. Wake me if they ever ship anything you don't have to compile yourself to take full advantage of...
posted by m.polo at 5:31 PM on July 31, 2000

I'd like a standards compliant browser as much as the next developer and designer. I'd like to lop off about 30% of my workload as much as anyone else.

And we're going to get one. It takes time.

Everyone who's criticised the Mozilla project has commented on market share, and how Netscape's pretty much lost the Browser Wars.

Yup, they have.

Right now they're in the process of beating a strategic retreat. They're fortifying, laying in for the real battle. It's no big secret.

But what every article I've read doesn't seem to take into consideration is the fact that when Mozilla's finally released, there'll be a flood of downloads. I'd be suprised if Netscape's servers can handle the flood of traffic.

Who's going to get it? Developers, designers, unix-alike users, the people that basically create the foundation of the web.

That alone is going to cause a stir. There'll be postings all over the place. Here, /., CNN, ZDNet, Wired, every major news source is going to have it. There'll be "public interest" stories on the news, national and local, because many news stations have started paying attention to the websites.

AOL, which caused a massive influx of web users and had a huge hand in causing the popularity of the web, will take this product they've invested time and money in and their users will use it.

No, we don't have it now, and that completely blows. But we will.

Another point I want to address is the seeming conviction that many have that designers are going to say "screw this, I'm going for my 86% market share" or be forced into it by management.

So, to a community of people who develop, I'd like to ask a question. How many of you are NOT making sure your sites run in Netscape. How many of you use pure CSS to display your pages, saying "Fuck the browsers, I want to do this the way I think it should be done?"

Very few, I'm guessing, and those who do probably don't get much repeat business.

Everyone who makes the Web their life knows how important it is to not leave ANYONE out. Microsoft isn't going to set the standards in this any more than they set the standards for TCP/IP.
posted by cCranium at 5:38 PM on July 31, 2000

There's only one problem with your scenario, cC: AOL's contractual obligation with Microsoft that ensures the MSIE HTML renderer will be included as the default in the AOL for Windows client until something like the Twelfth of Never... The largest single block of Internet users (can't live with 'em, can't shoot 'em, as my Grandad used to say) - and they'll still be using the IE technologies.

And besides, exactly what is it that this "NS6-that-isn't-Mozilla" is going to do that will differentiate it? OK, so it's more standards compliant, as if Joe Six Pack gave a rat's ass about that, but after that... what? Why should Joe download it? What incentive do we have to even encourage Joe to switch?

(FWIW, the only thing I check in Netscape is to make sure the text is at least legible (there are some pretty strange bugs in their implementation of the color attributes); if it doesn't look "right," I just keep going because I know from experience that I could spend twenty minutes or I could spend a hundred hours, and it still wouldn't render consistently, so why bother?)
posted by m.polo at 5:56 PM on July 31, 2000

cC brings up a good point: since AOL owns Netscape, AOL users will probably start getting Mozilla in large numbers when it's released, and it will be bundled in their AOL software too, I expect. That used to excite me, because I was sure the standards-compliant Netscape would become huge due to AOL. And it's possible that Mozilla will become the AOL browser.

But most users have been burned by the last few Netscape releases. Netscape 6 beta was a big deal. There were news stories and links and attention. How many people downloaded it? How many downloaded it, dismissed it, and went back to IE because ( beta 6 looked weird | beta 6 was slow | beta 6 crashed )? How many people have downloaded all the iterations of Netscape 4, every one of them substandard? How many no longer trust Netscape to deliver a product worth downloading?

This is why WaSP and Knauss are speaking up. Because Netscape has dicked around with users enough that at this point, there's no guarantee that any amount of compliance or press attention will compel the majority to download the new standards-compliant browser. I look to my dad as a gauge of this sort of thing-- he's been using the Web since '94. He actually bought Navigator Gold. But at this point, my dad has zero interest in Netscape. I mentioned the beta of v.6 to him and he could hardly understand why I was even interested in it. His perception of Netscape comes from two years of experience of their products as slow and unreliable, and I can't imagine what it would take to convince him to try a Netscape browser again. I hope they succeed, I really do, but like WaSP, like Greg, I'm beginning to feel mighty pessimistic.
posted by wiremommy at 6:08 PM on July 31, 2000

Whoops, I retract my first paragraph since m.polo is apparently better informed about AOL's ties to Microsoft than I am. My bad. Thanks for pointing that out, m.polo!
posted by wiremommy at 6:11 PM on July 31, 2000

Nope, Polo's wrong.

Or, at least, I can find no evidence that he's right, after assiduous search. The MS/AOL contract for IE ran out at EOY either 98 or 99, depending on which source you believe.

I found no coverage of it's having been renewed, and that's certainly something Microsoft would have wanted to brag about, no?
posted by baylink at 7:19 PM on July 31, 2000

I can't find the reference either, now that I'm being called on it... The information was disclosed as a part of the hue and cry when AOL purchased Netscape in the first place. Given the time elapsed, baylink may be right that it expired in 99 - guess we all just thought, "Hey, no problem, Netscape 5'll be available by then and they'll just switch!" But here it is, some number of years later - and we're having this discussion.

Don't forget the most relevant thing, though - they have no product. They most likely won't have product this calendar year (that disastrous "preview release" ought to have cleared up any confusion on that score). And how long into calendar 2001 is this thing going to drag out before somebody just takes it out behind the barn and shoots the poor old thing? Don't forget, that much touted cross-platform "benefit" of whatever this Mozilla thing is ("It's a browser!" "It's a cross platform application development environment for information delivery!" "No, wait! You're both right!") simply doesn't have much meaning in an AOL world where reputedly 90+% of their customer base is using Microsoft Windows...
posted by m.polo at 7:41 PM on July 31, 2000

Re: AOL and Mozilla: Don't forget the webpads. AOL/Gateway recently announced webpads that will run Linux and (what else is there) Mozilla.

One other thing I dont believe anyone mentioned: Since XUL makes Mozilla completely configurable, it would be the perfect medium for AOL to pipe their proprietary content through, without relying on Windows, a browser or *their own client*. Basically, they could send the entire AOL environment over in XUL, making it possible for people to access AOL content even at work...

So, keep in mind: Mozilla may be cool and all, but it might be the Trojan Horse of AOL into World Domination :-)...
posted by costas at 7:47 PM on July 31, 2000

Again, people are making statements without fully researching the whole story. While it's true that Mozilla (and in turn, Netscape 6) have a boatload of problems, everyone seems to dismiss the fact that every one of these problems is being dealt with. It's a standard process in any software development cycle, but because Mozilla's development is open for everyone to see, peope are making judgement calls on software that is not finished. Jeez.

Mozilla is a whole new way of thinking about a web browser, and yet people are still missing the whole point that the browser component of Mozilla is just a component. Some would say it's not even the core component of the Mozilla "platform". Judging Mozilla (and Netscape 6) on the appearance of an unfinished product is just silly and I'm disappointed that Greg Knauss and the WaSP people published such articles that stick of sensationalitic journalsim. It's like judging the superiority of the Mona Lisa during DaVinci's pencil-sketching process. It's just too premature.

That said, everyone is entitled to their opinions and I'm actually glad that people are turning a critical eye towards Mozilla. It stirs up the ashes and brings attention to the inreasing importance Mozilla will play in the Internet landscape of the future -- one where Microsoft doesn't control 100% of the web and developers are freed from the development shackles that some companies want to lock them into by making them use non-standard technologies.
posted by camworld at 7:52 PM on July 31, 2000

It's inevitable whenever this discussion comes up for people to say how slow and unusable NS 4.7 is... is there something I'm missing? Besides java, Netscape is consistently faster-rendering than IE 5.5. And never crashes. The only reason I still use it is that I think it has a better interface (easier to minimize toolbars, and the toolbars take up less space in the first place, and also the "stop" button is placed more convienently) and the bookmarking system is easier to use. I've tried to switch to IE many times, but bookmarking is too hard and it is slower than Netscape on my machine... is there something I'm missing?
posted by kidsplateusa at 7:53 PM on July 31, 2000

from the article:

Ship or get off the pot.

I'm still holding out hope for Mozilla... cause Microsoft's not about to adhere to the standards without serious competitive pressure to do so... but damn, that's the funniest line I've seen in ages!
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:32 PM on July 31, 2000

Hey, Cam, saved that tired "It's a whole new way of thinking!" stuff until somebody actually ships something. The market will decide for you if it's a whole new way of thinking - or a three year boondoggle. And while you're at it, don't yell at us for judging Mozilla prematurely - maybe you should be calling up somebody at AOL and yelling at them for sticking to an obviously marketing department imposed deadline of "a beta release by Internet World" despite the fact that it did far more harm than good when it so publically displayed Mozilla's lack of significant progress.

Maybe this is standard software practice where you are, but frankly, any product that takes this long to get to 1.0 release is really just biding its time before it dies completely (ever heard of Lotus Jazz? Read about it; it'll be instructive). This ain't Linux, kids, it's commercial software and you can bazaar-it all you want but at the end of the day, you gotta ship the sucker or everybody's out of a (virtual) job. Just how long do you expect the market to wait for your "whole new way of thinking" before it just gives up and moves on?
posted by m.polo at 8:35 PM on July 31, 2000

I have to agree with m.polo here, Cam. I don't want All of that other crap. I want a browser that works. I already have a platform that I am more or less content with. All it needs is a basic, standard browser. If they are going to write something from the ground up, they need to start it out simply, like any other new software project would. They couldn't get one guy to write a basic rudimentary browser? I know its all wrapped up in Mozilla and can't run without it, but when people ask me "Any time this century?" I have to say "No, I don't think so." I don't think that we are being critical of the work being done by the Mozilla team so much as the fact that there is a basic market need that is not being filled. I guess it comes from watching too many movies as a kid, but you always assume that the good guys are going to pull off some last minute heroics and save the day after all. Every day it doesn't happen just adds one more twig to the bonfire of cynicism that is my feelings about the web.
posted by donkeymon at 9:21 PM on July 31, 2000

You're all entitled to your opinions. I see the overwhelming potential in Mozilla, even if you don't, and my opinions stand regardless how much you feel you need to criticize Mozilla (and Netscape 6) because of a long software development cycle.

If all you want is a small, fast browser, you're welcome to use Internet Explorer as much as you want, but please be aware that having just a browser no longer cuts it anymore. This is why Netscape is releasing a suite of applications, and why the Mozilla team is working on the various components to Mozilla. This is no different from Microsoft integrating Internet Explorer and Outlook Express, or some would argue, even Internet Explorer and Microsoft Windows. If you want to continue to believe that Mozilla should just be a browser, then you're welcome to do so.

The future of the Internet is not based on just a web browser, though that is its key component. This is what Microsoft is doing with Internet Explorer by making it the foundation for their .NET initiative. For Netscape/AOL (a la Mozilla) to not see this or to bow under the public pressure to release just a browser would be incredibly short-sighted.

I'm tired of the band-wagon jumping that I've seen happen in this industry and the posts here are just more of the same. I really wish people would look past the problems that software development has and see the big picture. All you have to do is try to develop a web application for the 4.x browser set and you'll quickly realize the importance of Mozilla and yes, even .NET.
posted by camworld at 9:40 PM on July 31, 2000

It's sheer idiocy to give up your market share by developing a new browser -- excuse me, platform -- for three years, and then expect to get the market share back because of your "new way of thinking." The big picture is that Mozilla is irrelevant, and comparing it to Microsoft vaporware like .NET is hardly a point in Mozilla's favor.
posted by rcade at 10:19 PM on July 31, 2000

Cam you know we love ya baby, but I don't want a new way of thinking from the folks that brought me Navigator Gold and Communicator.

Here's and idea for the Mozilla team: release one "component" at a time (START WITH THE BROWSER) so we can decide if they're worth it. I am not going to switch wholesale from what I've got to an untested "platform" which comes from an organization — AOL/Netscape/Mozilla — I have every reason to be wary of. Netscape has burned me before, why should I trust them? It's still friggin Netscape.

Say this outloud then look at every gold release from the Mozilla group: "We've redoubled our efforts, but we've lost sight of the goal."

This platform talk really scares me too. I want everyone to sit around the campfire and, for just a few minutes, remember all the happyhappyfun times we had solving compliance issues between two browsers both running on two different platforms. Now, Mozilla apparently wants to add to our happyhappyfun times by adding another browser and another platform. Thanks guys! I didn't have enough fun developing for a four combinations of browsers. Let's add to that number shall we!

Microsoft proved a quality browser can be updated in a year. Mozilla proved they can't release anything workable in two.

On the other hand, Cam, I hope you're right. I hope every good idea dreamed up by Mozilla is implemented so my work doesn't get mired in the most boring of development issues. Then again, I just wrote six paragraphs on idle hopes and dreams.

Screw it. It's just the web. I'm gonna get some pizza.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:36 PM on July 31, 2000

So we're just fools on the bandwagon, eh? And the guys who've spent their every spare moment beating the notion of standards compliance into the industry's head, who've had us all spouting the mantra of 100% compliance and believing it's possible and worthwhile, are showboating to get some press. Do you think maybe some of us are are a little mad and more than a little scared that this stuff won't fly? Nah, you caught us out -- we're just mouthing off to get under your skin Cam.
posted by nikzhowz at 10:36 PM on July 31, 2000

Baylink, could you let me know what you've been smoking and where you got it so I can acquire a key or two?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:44 PM on July 31, 2000

I wasn't saying that Mozilla should be given up on or anything like that. As Cam said, it is a far from finished product and should be viewed accordingly. All I was saying is that there is a certain product that I want, and that Netscape was in the position to provide it, and they chose another path instead. I feel that I personally am worse off in the short term because of this decision, but who is to say about the world in general? Overall I don't see this as a big deal in the long term.

Does anyone remember the battle between AC and DC current whe electricity was first struggling to achieve widespread usage? I didn't think so, because as the two competing formats became standardized and opened, they were both adopted for the purposes that best suited them. And both are in widespread use today, and nobody even thinks about it. (Except when they go to Europe.)

My point is that there is room for both small lean browsers, and visionary platforms, and that the two are not mutually exclusive. Most likely within 30 to 40 years, the entire web/browser concept will be completely outmoded and foreign, as completely different paradigms are developed. I believe this is the direction Mozilla is working in. But don't you ever look back at history and feel bad for all the consumers caught in the middle of various standards wars, whether they were for electricity, or train track width, or VCR standards? That is exactly the situation we are in now, and frustration is inevitable.
posted by donkeymon at 11:03 PM on July 31, 2000

Linux is my OS of choice.

I want a standards-compliant graphical browser that works, please. I don't want a unified development platform that runs like a dead fish on my 200MHz PC. I want a web browser that isn't Netscape 4.7xxx.

Is that too fucking much to ask?
posted by holgate at 3:34 AM on August 1, 2000

Apparently it is. And despite what Cam refuses to admit, we do see the "big picture" here as we rush headlong, lemming-like, to "jump on the bandwagon." But we retain the right to label something horseshit unless and until somebody proves us wrong. So. Go ahead already, shut up and ship something and prove us wrong. All we're saying is, nobody's waiting anymore...
posted by m.polo at 4:51 AM on August 1, 2000

holgate: Look into Konquerer, it's apparently quite impressive. umm.. lemme try to dig up a URL for ya.. (assuming you use KDE I guess) oh, hey, that's easy:

It's apparently catching up to Mozilla quickly, if not surpasing it.

And there's Galeon if you're using Gnome, which is based on the Mozilla engine.

Actually, it's exactly what everyone's looking for, a simple browser, based on Mozilla. It's just not going to run on your Windows or Mac box is all.

It's sheer idiocy to give up your market share by developing a new browser -- excuse me, platform -- for three years, and then expect to get the market share back because of your "new way of thinking."

Ever heard of Apple?

Yes, it's definetely not great, but if you take the time to restructure properly, and offer something that's different, solid, and what people want, it'll usually be worth the time and effort.

Another thing that few people seem to be taking into consideration is that Mozilla is immensly cross-platform compatible. When it's released, it'll be ready to go on Windows, Mac, every flavour of Linux with any window manager you want to use, all the BSDs, BeOS, Solaris, all the real Unices, everything.

You claim you want a browser, but do you want it only for Windows users? Or only for Mac users? Holgate wants a Linux browser, why keep ignoring the unix-like OS users?
posted by cCranium at 7:39 AM on August 1, 2000

Netscape is consistently faster-rendering than IE 5.5. And never crashes. ... is there something I'm missing?

This is what I ask every time someone claims Netscape renders faster or is more stable than IE on Windows. My experience has been the exact opposite.

I think [Netscape] has a better interface (easier to minimize toolbars, and the toolbars take up less space in the first place, and also the "stop" button is placed more convienently) and the bookmarking system is easier to use. I've tried to switch to IE many times, but bookmarking is too hard and it is slower than Netscape on my machine... is there something I'm missing?

Funny, I think Internet Explorer has a better interface (easier to minimize toolbars, and the toolbars take up less space in the first place, and also the "stop" button is placed more convienently) and the bookmarking system is easier to use. I've tried to switch to Netscape a few times, but bookmarking is too hard and it is slower than Internet Explorer on my machine... is there something I'm missing?
posted by daveadams at 8:15 AM on August 1, 2000

With the customizeability of the nn6 interface--or whatever this big app will be called as a package--it seems that the subjective arguments about which interface is better will move to the background once the features work which appear to be in the coming 6 months. While the product may not officially release for some time I just installed the latest build avail via netscape and it's quite impressive. I think Suck's article is really short-sighted and while generally the ground-up rewrite may be fundamentally wrong it seems that the browser in the nn6 preview is 95% functional (certainly comparable with ie 4) and that ultimately mozilla is building something new so that ground-up-is-wrong idea may not totally fit this project. App's are the future: we've got some tremendous choices for OS's and that's not gonna change much since we're kindof near the top of a curve in evolution as far as I can speculate given my perspective of things. So I guess I see this as something pretty amazing and a progressive part of computing as a whole--cross platform standards compliant applications. I expect the outcome to be writing documentation and data markup such that it will move and display within and across platforms as predicted when all is said and done. I'm content with the preview at the moment and look forward to progress over the next couple of years. I also don't see any reason why people can't start using NN6 preview release definitely for development but also for some other end use stuff.
posted by greyscale at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2000

On my most-visited site, 63 percent of the users are on IE5 or IE4 and 30 percent on Navigator 4. If Navigator's market share drops much further while Mozilla fiddles with cool shit, Microsoft will be able to embrace and extend HTML and CSS any way it likes. Avoiding that fate is a helluva lot more important to me than cross-platform user skins and a bundled e-mail client.
posted by rcade at 8:53 AM on August 1, 2000

I also don't see any reason why people can't start using NN6 preview release definitely for development but also for some end use stuff.

Possibly because it runs like a brick. If I'm to upgrade my PC after three years, it's not going to be in order to run a web browser. (In fact, I'm posting this with Netscape 3: Galeon's a little too stripped down right now, and Konqueror doesn't get on with Debian...)

And Cameron: we do understand what Mozilla is trying to do; it's just that we expected something else when the project began. The words "bait" and "switch" come to mind.
posted by holgate at 9:03 AM on August 1, 2000

With regards to the ground-up approach of creating a new revision: I disagree with Joel Spolsky's argument; not completely, but mostly with the word "never".

It boils down to an aphorism: you can't polish a turd.
The trick is deciding whether what you have is a turd or not.

There are times when the requirements for change in a codebase are impractical due to the structure or architecture. For example (and I'm not saying that this is the case), suppose that the rendering engine for NS 4.x "needed" to be multithreaded in the new version and to do so would require adding a semaphores/mutexes onto every rendering subtype--all code that wasn't written to be multithreaded, so you have to touch 95% of the headers and source for your rendered in a way that is highly intrusive and will be the source for a huge number of bugs (ie, deadlock which may not show up for weeks/months until triggered by the right set of circumstances).

I claim that by assessing risk and choosing the right model for the job, you will be taking the most efficient task. Joel calls this rearchitecture, but that typically means more than "just moving things around". He trivializes the process and paints ground-up work rewrites as work that completely ignores previous work. This is ludicrous.

In the previous example, it is far better for precisely one person (maybe two) to design and implement the multithreading model in such a way that the rendering subtypes fall from it naturally and in such a way that the current and future authors of the subtype need not know about how it was implemented, they just code to the template. In this way, multithreading bugs are prevented not created.

Ground-up rewrites are not particularly bad. For each ground-up rewrite that Joel points to that failed, I can point to a product which causes suffering because it has grown past what it was intended to be.

posted by plinth at 9:55 AM on August 1, 2000

I have a question here.

How many of you all who are bashing Mozilla for not delivering have participated in the development process, either from actually contributing to the code and taking on a chunk, or just working in the QA area, stress testing, no harms testing, or anything else remotely that would contribute directly to the Mozilla effort?

It's an open source project. If you have a beef, then jump on the help bandwagon and contribute more than just words.
posted by rich at 10:07 AM on August 1, 2000

I did QA stress testing for Mozilla for the first couple of months. But rich, everyone here has a right to criticize the Mozilla project whether or not they contributed. It's an open source project but it is run by the for-profit Netscape/AOL, and we're all critiquing the business decisions that have kept the project indefinitely delayed. Like 99% of end users, I don't want to hear "It's a whole platform". I needed a good standards-compliant browser; I've needed it for two years. What we're saying is, after downloading umpteen unsatisfying upgrades to Netscape 4, and the ucky 6 beta, end users are going to be staying away from anything Netscape in droves. As for an Apple-style comeback... whatever. Does the brave new Netscape platform come in Blueberry?
posted by wiremommy at 11:25 AM on August 1, 2000

If you want a small, fast browser that is standards compliant, the source code for Gecko is freely available to anyone who wants to download and compile it into their own browser framework. Why should Netscape be responsible for delivering what you need. Have you ever thought that maybe Netscape's agenda might be different from your own?Your comments are starting to sound pretty selfish. "Gimme a browser, dammit, I want it now." You sound like a four year old who's not getting what they want.In the meantime, Mozilla and Netscape both are working on delivering a suite of applications, not just a browser. How much clearer does this have to be?
posted by camworld at 12:03 PM on August 1, 2000

Your comments are starting to sound pretty selfish.

When you go to McDonald's and you say "I want a Big Mac", do you sound pretty selfish then? No. You're a customer expressing a desire and plunking down your money for it. (And yes, Cam, I would buy a good standards-compliant browser. I'd happily buy Opera if the interface didn't give me hives.)

Why should Netscape be responsible for delivering what I need? Because I was a faithful Netscape customer, probably one of the few who actually bought their software (I bought Navigator for my dad's computer so that we wouldn't have to download it via his sub-14.4 connection). Because I could be a faithful Netscape customer again, if they'd deliver the browser they promised two years ago, not the "suite of applications" that I don't give a crap about.

If Netscape's agenda is different from the end users' agendas, why should the end user ever download another Netscape product again? Companies who ignore their customers' desires tend to go out of business. We don't want that to happen to Netscape, and I'm sure Netscape doesn't want that to happen to Netscape. But maybe we're just being selfish.
posted by wiremommy at 12:20 PM on August 1, 2000

See, here I thought that Netscape was a company commited to giving its customers a product. I always assumed that companies would be intereseted in knowing how to best satisfy their customers, so that they could retain them and gain more customers. I know that the internet economy has turned a lot of business models on their ears, but I was never too big a fan of the "We know what is best for you and we will give it to you in a few years" approach.
posted by donkeymon at 12:21 PM on August 1, 2000

>Why should Netscape be responsible for delivering what you need.

Wow, I hope you aren't on their marketing team.

posted by netbros at 12:47 PM on August 1, 2000

Selfishness? Hardly: plenty of web developers (including myself) have sat on their hands for the past couple of years, while Microsoft pushed out the boat with various DHTML features in IE, because we've been waiting for Mozilla to ship. From day one, the project has carried the good faith of the web developer community: not the "suite of application" developers, but the people who build sites. And that was mainly because of the promise of the Gecko renderer.

We've given Mozilla more than enough time, and it hasn't delivered (anyone remember the six-month turnaround in the old days of Netscape?). Microsoft wouldn't have received such good grace.
posted by holgate at 1:18 PM on August 1, 2000


1. Mozilla is not Netscape. Yes, Netscape personnel work on Mozilla, but they are not the same thing. Netscape is a shell of its former being of a for profit comany working for the man, now owned by AOL. Mozilla is an open source project. So, technically, they don't have to answer to anyone.

2. Since Mozilla is a project, I doubt they have a marketing 'team'.

3. "Selfishness? Hardly: plenty of web developers (including myself) have sat on their hands for the past couple of years"

Uh, if you sat on your hands expecting other people to do all the work in an open source project, isn't that selfish?

4. Now, I know my 'technically they don't have to answer to anyone" comment is going to get all the harrassment, so I'll try to abate it right here.

Everyone is trying to use corporate logic and reasonability to harrass Mozilla because everything still thinks 'Netscape', which is a company, while Mozilla isn't. There is a different dynamic. As a project, they actually have a non-commercial focus. The problem with non-commercial focus is that you need strong leadership to keep things moving quickly and in the right direction.

The other problem is that unless your company pays you to work on the project, you don't get paid. And in this pay as you go society (except, of course, if you use Napster you heartless soul-stealing thugs), if you don't get paid, most people won't help out. Which makes it more work for the other people.

And usualy ends up in not being able to attract strong leadership. Because those tops boys want to be paid, baybee.

So, uh, why not stop sitting on your hands and bitching and do something. (Wiremommy excluded because she helped out. And for the record I was QA'ing for a while, too, while I was on break from school).
posted by rich at 1:59 PM on August 1, 2000

Camworld: "Why should Netscape be responsible for delivering what you need."

Rich: "Mozilla is an open source project. So, technically, they don't have to answer to anyone."

Boy, I had my doubts about the future of Netscape Navigator after reading Greg's piece, but you Mozilla fans have set my mind at ease with your feel-good slogans. They rank right up there with "this will only hurt a bit" and "it's not a big deal, honey, it happens to everyone -- you're just tired."
posted by rcade at 2:14 PM on August 1, 2000

OK, one last time. The browser in both Netscape 6 and Mozilla is a component, not its own application. If you want a stand-alone browser, you're welcome to go dowmnload Opera, Galeon, Konqureror, iCab, some version so IE, or any of the other browsers available on today's market.

The fact remains that the future of the web is about more than just a web browser. The company who ignores this and ships only a browser will likely not get very far.

The decisions Netscape made, and the decisions the Mozilla team made, were based on these facts and future vision. Other reasons are stated here.

The Gecko HTML engine remains a core component of the Mozilla technologies. It can easily be put into other applications, devices, and software -- including fast, lightweight, stand-alone web browsers -- the very thing you're all clamoring for.

Netscape, at some point, decided to develop Netscape 6 into a suite of apps, which caused the delay so many of you are complaining about. This decision was made, and cannot be reversed no matter how much you yell at the top of your lungs about how you want a just a browser. If you think Netscape should be punished for making this deciison, then take it up with them. I support Netscape beucase I like what they're doing with the Mozilla project, not because I think they make good business decisions.

The Mozilla project is completely open source, meaning that if something isn't to yopur liking, then you can contribute your time and skills to help make it better. Yet, I see very few of the people complaining here actually contributing to the Mozilla project. How fair is that? It's so easy for you to criticize something you don't understand, and then feign ignorance because you're counting on something Netscape said over two years ago.

Earlier this year when I saw how bad the UI was for Mozilla, I pitched in and created a better user interface, which received a warm welcome from developers who had been frustrated with the default Mozilla UI. This skin is now part of the most popular third-party package for Mozilla, and is well on its way to becoming the default UI for Mozilla. Again, this is Mozilla I'm talking about, not Netscape. Netscape has its own user interface plans that they don't share with the Mozilla project.

The bottom line is that Mozilla (and thus, Netscape 6) is 100% standards-compliant. This is what you're asking for, yes? And its very close to shipping a stable beta. The nightly builds for Mozilla are getting better every night. The Netscape PR2 nightlies I've seen are also shaping up nicely. All of this criticism and complaining is going to look pretty foolish when Mozilla (not necessarily Netscape) ships their 1.0 browser.

You may disagree with me, as that is your right, but please try to look at both sides of the argument before complaining so loudly. I'm on your side. I develop web sites, web applications, and like you, get very frustrated with the incompatibilities of the 4.x browser set. Mozilla (and Netscape 6) will make you life much easier, as it's clear that Microsoft has a different agenda.
posted by camworld at 2:23 PM on August 1, 2000

Fine; Netscape can release whatever they want, Mozilla can release whatever they want, I have no right to demand anything from either. However, I believe that Mozilla/Netscape/whoever could have done themselves a lot of good by releasing a stand-alone browser and saying, "Here's what good stuff we can do; stay tuned and see what we do next!"
posted by harmful at 2:37 PM on August 1, 2000

I downloaded M16 this morning from Mozilla, and have been using it on and off all day - default browser and all, whenever I click a link IE still opens, and I like my bookmarks - and have thoroughly enjoyed the process.

Want a browser? Go here, and if you're using a win32 system click "installer .exe"

It's 5 megs, from a FAST server (I got it in under a minute over the corporate T1, which completely smokes most servers I've used).

Install it, it takes about 30 seconds, with no reboots necessary. Make sure to turn off the Chat and email bits, and you're left with a browser that works quite well.

Is it standards complient? Not completely, it's missing javascript at least, but it renders HTML awfully nice. As an example I used a completely evil many-nested-tables site (100 tables each with 3 nested tables, no colgroup or any other defining tags used) from a project I'm working on.

(unfortunately I can't share the link - it's still in development, hidden behind firewalls, blah blah corporate NDA blah. And before lambasting me about the many tables, I repeat: "In development". :-) If anyone has a good public example of a massively nested table page I'd love to give Mozilla a whirl on it)

But, before you bitch about not having Javascript, remember the articles you're rallying behind. Both the WaSP's Open Letter and Greg's Suck article said that you all no longer care about standards at this point, and just want a working browser that's better than NN4.

Here you go, all your desires are met.
posted by cCranium at 3:01 PM on August 1, 2000

Uh, if you sat on your hands expecting other people to do all the work in an open source project, isn't that selfish?

I'm not a coder: my contribution to the cause, my bit of Mozilla advocacy has been to push for projects not to optimise for IE, even when it might have been politically expedient to do so. Browsing with NN3.04 (dateline 1996) makes me realise how little sites have evolved over the past couple of years, and from my experience, it's because we've been holding our collective breath and looking forward to some mythical, standards-based convergence "when Mozilla comes".

I now feel a bit daft for holding out. Whatever. Since Mozilla (specifically) is being coded away to the point of irrelevance, it's probably time to move on.
posted by holgate at 3:46 PM on August 1, 2000

Asserting a non-existant product is better than an existant one is pretty much demagoguery. You realize that, right? You realize demagoguery is bad, and people don't trust demagogues, right?

I hate defending Microsoft, but they're the only guys releasing quality work. C'mon Mozilla. Get it done. That is all we're saying. We don't want to be held in the grip of one company which barely cares about its customers, but that is where we're at until a competitor steps up.

'til then, empty promises. More of the same. Where's my Windows upgrade?
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:46 AM on August 2, 2000

::: But, before you bitch about not having Javascript, remember the articles you're rallying behind. Both the WaSP's Open Letter and Greg's Suck article said that you all no longer care about standards at this point, and just want a working browser that's better than NN4.

really? that's what we said? i don't recall writing anything like that, and i didn't see anything like that at

Suck said mozilla was so late, and so crippled by scope creep, that there was little hope for it. they pronounced it in critical condition.

WaSP said mozilla's lateness was jeopardizing its eventual acceptance in the marketplace, and giving microsoft an "out" if they wished to avoid working harder on XML and the DOM. if MS has no XML-compliant, DOM-compliant competitor to worry about ON THE MARKET, there is less impetus for them to comply. less impetus, for instance, for them to begin seriously working on XML and the DOM for IE6.

if mozilla were on the market now, kicking ass on standards, you can bet microsoft would be scrambling to beat them. now is the time when MS is planning IE6, so now is the time when a standards-compliant competitor should be on the market, making them sweat.

instead, microsoft looks at netscape 4.x and can tell themselves, truthfully, that THEY are the ones kicking ass on web standards. in terms of the GUI standards, they have far better support for HTML 4 and CSS, and parity support for javascript/ecmascript. why should they worry? why should they knock themselves out to do even more, when the competitor that should be keeping them up nights has not released a product in over two years?

if you think MS's browser is a non-issue, you are dreaming.

developers can only code to standards if ALL browsers support those standards. if mozilla comes out in six months, kicks as on XML and the DOM, but IE does not fully support those same standards, well, how will developers - and web users - be better off? it's hard to sell clients on a standards-compliant design that will only reach a small part of the market. what we'll be stuck with is the same old versioning. or just sticking to HTML, CSS, and javascript, and using proprietary backend technology instead of the power of web standards because they are not supported on most users' desktops.

WaSP asked for a standards-compliant browser. mozilla is going way beyond that. mozilla is admirable in many ways (the WaSP said so) but in losing sight of MARKETPLACE REALITIES they have hurt themselves. circle the wagons all you want.

WaSP - on behalf of developers and users - has been asking for standards-compliant browsers since Day One. microsoft is giving us some of what's needed, doing a great job in many areas, dropping the ball in others, and hedging on what remains. mozilla is giving us a promise. the web is growing NOW. users are identifying with brands NOW. we need a standards-compliant mozilla browser (not a sherman tank or a suite or anything else) NOW.

that's what we said, because it's the truth.

deliberately turning that argument into anything else is *DENIAL*, baby. "daddy isn't a drunk, he's just tired." "how dare you? daddy works damn hard." "daddy is relaxing in his study and doesn't want to be disturbed. you kids are so ungrateful." "daddy didn't wreck the car, he re-designed the front end because he is creative." "daddy isn't dead, he's in cleveland."


say what you want and think what you want. it won't change anything, anyway.

all of england wept while reading oliver twist, but the workhouses continued to operate. you know what i'm sayin'? words seem powerless now. if you need to pretend that everything is fine, i'll run you a tab.

two more points. given the rate that microsoft has been cranking out browsers, and mozilla has not, it's *possible* that IE6 could come out with full support for XML and the DOM *BEFORE* mozilla 1.0/"netscape 6" even hits the market.

if that happens, how will you feel, and what will you have to hang onto? superior XUL support?

if that concept scares you - and it should - maybe you should be LISTENING to the critical voices instead of dismissing them.

finally - i'm paraphrasing here, but the argument "if you aren't hacking mozilla yourself, you don't care about standards" - uh, okay, if that makes you feel better. but you know, web developers and web designers are NOT software developers. blaming us for not fixing your problems smells like a cop-out to me.

"daddy wouldn't drink so much if you kids would get off your asses and get jobs."
posted by Zeldman at 1:36 AM on August 2, 2000

"daddy wouldn't drink so much if you kids would get off your asses and get jobs."

Honestly, Zeldman, you've gone completely over my head with the various daddy references. Arguing the wrong point to prove the one you support, that I understand, but really. Too much daddy talk just makes me think "Who's yo' daddy" over and over again, and we all know that you're our daddy. :-)

And I do apologize, both to you and to Greg for misinterpreting both your articles, although you do say in the open letter that the WaSP wouldn't have pushed so hard for a standards-compliant browser if you'd known it would take this long. That's probably what I mutated to my point.

I imagine that means you'd rather see a gradual implementation of standards through releases than a huge wait for a perfect browser, am I correct?

The thing is, that's never been outright stated. The WaSP has continually been pushing companies for completely standards compliant browsers, and as a group you speak out for succesful implementations and speak out against poor, or crippled or non-existant implementation.

One thing that doesn't happen enough in these debates is people saying thank-you to the WaSP. As we're all saying, we want the same thing, and you guys do good work with your stated mission. It is appreciated.

I just disagree with the methods you use in negatively reinforcing the work that's going into the Mozilla project.

At this point, I'm going to say what I understand your points to be, please correct me if I'm wrong.

You say that, given only the two options, you'd rather see Netscape release a crippled browser then taking the time to develop a 100% compliant browser inside a suite of applications.

You say that by waiting to release the entire suite of applications, Netscape is not only losing market share, but hurting designers and developers, by forcing us to be backwards compliant to 1996 software.

You say IE has somewhere around 80 - 85% of the market share right now, browser-wise.

You say IE doesn't fully support W3C standards, but implements some proprietary 'standards.'

You say that if Netscape doesn't release, designers and developers will start coding with IE in mind.

You say that if designers and developers start coding with IE in mind, designers and developers will start using Microsoft's proprietary standards.

You say that if designers and developers start using MS' proprietary standards, they'll become defacto standards for web design and development.

You say this is a Bad Thing.

Am I correct? Am I missing anything? Am I adding anything I shouldn't be? Do I understand your point? I've tried to keep this objective, but some bias may have seeped through. I really do honestly want to understand your view here, so please correct me, add, detract, whatever, as necessary.

Onto my disagreement.

One thing I've noticed a lot is that whenever anybody, not just you or Greg, argues a point, their point becomes "Yeah, well, _I'll_ do whatever's right, but the hoardes of lazy people will do whatever's easiest."

To make a less-generic example, you're going to continue to code to W3C standards. I'd say that's a fairly safe assumption on my point.

You're going to continue coding to those standards because they're standards you agree with and you support, and you think that standards created by an organization without a monetary stake in the standards are better than standards created by a corporation. Especially a corporation known for keeping information proprietary.

Again, am I right? That, at least, is why _I_ am going to continue coding to those standards. I'm going to extend that, and assume that's why Lance Arthur is going to continue coding to them, or Jason Kottke, or Derek Powazek, or Halcyon Styn, or Jakob Neilson, or anybody in this crazy-ass web design community, well-known or not.

By arguing that Microsoft is going to be setting the standards, you insult us other designers and developers. If Netscape looses big, and never regains a noticeable market-share (again, something I completely disagree with, for reasons I've noted above, esp. AOL) we're not going to back down on these standards.

And even if they do, there are always options other than Microsoft. The Mozilla project isn't going to crash and burn, regardless of what Netscape does. If if they pull out, the code's out there for people to build upon, clean up, and release. And if the Mozilla project should die some miserable bit-rotted death, there's also Opera.

And if Opera chockes, there's Konquerer. And if Konquerer's defeated, there's the rest of the open source community who also back the W3C standards, who will refuse to use Microsoft until the day they (Microsoft or the OSS community, one or the other) die.
posted by cCranium at 6:55 AM on August 2, 2000

Thanks for your reply, cCranium. To keep it brief:

We're not insulting developers when we raise the issue that, if standards aren't universally supported, developers won't be able to code to standards. We're saying everyone who builds websites is faced with untenable choices. You think I code to standards? I don't. I can't code to standards that aren't supported. I have to code to what is supported by *existing* web browsers.

Lance doesn't code to the standards, Lance writes code that will work in IE and Netscape. He has no choice. Lance can correct me if I'm wrong, but look at Glassdog in Opera.

I don't code to standards. I write valid HTML, then screw it up with workarounds to support Nav4. I write valid CSS, but only a limited subset of the full CSS spec. I limit my JavaScript to stuff that works in Nav3/IE4. That's not coding to standards, it's web development today. We're all in the same boat, all faced with the same choice between coding to standards that aren't universally (or fully) supported, or writing browser-specific code.

On another point:

I imagine that means you'd rather see a gradual implementation of standards through releases than a huge wait for a perfect browser, am I correct?

Not exactly. We asked for a *browser* that fully supports key W3C standards, because we were told that Gecko did that natively. Since the rendering engine already existed and already supported standards, we urged Netscape to have Mozilla use it as the basis of their upcoming browser.

Speaking just for myself, I believe the delays have been due to scope creep - and that if Mozilla had focused on bringing a Gecko-based browser to market, that browser would already be here. I think that browser is badly needed for many reasons. The Mozilla team has a (vastly) larger vision, and I can't argue with that. However, their larger vision is not what we asked for, and if implementing the (vastly) larger vision has held up release of the browser, the WaSP can't help expressing its dismay.

It's like we saw a Cadillac in the showroom, and the salesman said, you want it? We said, oh baby, yeah. More than two years later, the Cadillac salesman is telling us our fleet of solar-powered trucks will be ready in another six months. We don't remember asking for a fleet of solar-powered trucks. Meanwhile, across the street, Lincoln keeps turning out new models.

Analogies often suck but that's what it feels like.

I'm not a software developer, but I've worked on the front end of web-based products and seen them fail because of scope creep - and watched engineers tear their hair out. Greg (who wrote the Suck article) has worked in software development, so he's not freebasing when he suggests that featuritis is probably to blame for the lateness of Mozilla 1.0.

A gradual implementation of standards seems to be working for IE on one level. However, after doing the right thing, they follow up by doing the wrong thing (in our opinion), so I can't say that strategy delights us. Over time, IE's support for standards continues to improve in released products - but they also continue to implement proprietary technologies before fully delivering (or fully committing to) standard technologies, and that worries us, to say the least.

As Simon St. Laurent said, we seem to be stuck between shipping-but-not-fully-committed, and fully-committed-but-not-shipping. Things look better than they did in 1998, but I doubt we're where anybody wants to be.
posted by Zeldman at 11:04 AM on August 2, 2000

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