November 20, 2000 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Joel 's a little smug when he says "Netscape Goes Bonkers and I'm very thankful, because Netscape 6.0 has been a terrific illustration of so many of the points I've made in Joel on Software over the last 6 months. Unfortunately, it's usually an illustration of what not to do." Too bad he's right.
posted by lagado (15 comments total)
Joel is right about some things, but people need to be careful not to drag the successful Mozilla project down with the sinking of Netscape 6. Give Netscape another six months and you might be surprised at what they come out with. Now, if only AOL would stop trying to use it as a vehicle for more advertising and Instant Messaging. For a corporate-interests-free browser, try some of the most recent nightly builds of Mozilla. And regarding corporate interests, don't forget that Microsoft is a corporation, too. A very large one. If you think they're going to not try and leverage their browser monopoly and try to use it to suck as much money out of you and your company as possible in the future, you are sadly mistaken. Sure, IE is free right now. But what about in a year? Two years?
posted by camworld at 9:31 PM on November 20, 2000

Um, I think Windows Whistler will make browsers less of an issue as thin clients move beyond HTML. Microsoft wouldn't make users pay for IE as, I guess, Mozilla would be much more stable by that time and they wouldn't be silly enough to lose userbase. IE will be free forever but it will expect development to stop or slow and have them moved into non-free products (whistler whistler whistler).

Yeah, well maybe.
posted by holloway at 10:05 PM on November 20, 2000

As I understand it, Mozilla is no different than Netscape 6 in that it has its own unique and independent implementation of all the UI widgets rather than using the ones the operating system provides. As a result, Mozilla looks the same on all platforms (subject to skinnning) and its widgets work identically everywhere.

Depending on your point of view, this is an advantage or a disadvantage. Unfortunately, it doesn't act native on any platform, because as Joel points out, it behaves differently than any other app due to ignoring any global setting for behavior set by that operating system.

Cam, didn't you actually read what Joel said? He spends considerable time talking about this very issue, and explaining why it was a major blunder in Netscape 6. And Mozilla suffers from exactly the same thing, doesn't it?

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:51 PM on November 20, 2000

Well, they're both companies, and they both need to figure out a way to leverage their corporate assets within their software. Luckily there's a way, in both cases, to turn off most of the junk. If I want email, I use an email program, not my browser. If I want IM, I use an IM program.

So for me all that matters is the WWW browser itself - and, inside the chrome - from the window borders in to the center of the browser window - IE and Netscape 6 are roughly equivalent. There are differences - but they are not huge, and point releases of Netscape will fix some of its issues, I'm sure.

Trouble is that with Netscape it doesn't matter. I don't care a bit about the fact that Gecko works pretty well inside there - everything that gives me access to that is practically unusable. And unless it uses the OS-based interface toolkit, that's not going to change. It's simply unacceptable, to me, to override the choices I have made which apply to the interface of every single other program I use.

Joel is right - Microsoft, for all its foibles and transgressions, has been down this road vis-a-vis the Macintosh - and after a long time, they changed gears and now make pretty much perfectly implement their software using a real Mac interface.

Mozilla may be successful. But unless it is implemented in software that people want to use, what's the point? Experimentation is great, but the last thing the world needs is to go back to the bad old days of DOS when every software publisher made their own interface, used their own keyboard shortcuts, etc. And for me, that's the most important thing Netscape 6's implementation of the Gecko engine brings me. No thanks.
posted by mikel at 5:09 AM on November 21, 2000

Sure, IE is free right now. But what about in a year? Two years?

I don't agree, but even if you're right, I'd happily pay for a well-written piece of software, especially given the alternative. Believe it or not, free is not the only feature people want.
posted by dandot at 5:39 AM on November 21, 2000

I am not trying to defend Netscape. On the contrary, I think it was a mistake for them to push this software out the door prematurely. They really should have let it cook a bit longer.

My concern is with the confusion between Netscape and Mozilla. They do share a codebase, but are very different products. While it's true that Netscape 6 and future versions will be able to take advntage of the innovations that come out of the Mozilla project, it's important to note that each product has its own agenda, controlled by completely different groups of people. The Mozilla project is an open source project, which means that anynoe who wants to contribute or become involved may do so. This includes software programmers, web developers, user interface designer,s usability people, and even just regular web users who want to help test the software prior to release. Netscape 6, however, is controlled by Netscape/AOL, whose agenda is more along the lines of advertising and securing new portal users and Instant Messaging users.

Microsoft's agnda is the same it's always been: give the product away for free to build a large user base, then figure out a way to leverage that user base into a large source of revenue. Along the way, they do everything they can to ruin an open standard so that the competition is extinguished.

I like Internet Explorer, and think it's a very fine browser. But I am concerned about Microsoft's intentions. It's a strong possibility that IE will act as an important component of their .NET initiative, which includes the Whistler technologies. But, in true Microsoft fashion, don't expect Whistler to .NET to use open standards, thus locking their users into yet another nightmarish proprietary solution. Microsoft is a very smart company, and I respect them tremendously for that. What I dislike about the company is their tendency to squash innovation by buying up the competition; and use their monopolies in numerous markets to subvert an open standard.
posted by camworld at 8:06 AM on November 21, 2000

You're right Cam, and I can definitely see how a company like Microsoft would go the "standards" route to gain market share and support, only to move away again later once they have an installed base and invested customers/developers/etc. They've done it before, they'll do it again.

And it is a concern - because what it leads to is the same reason why WAP is DOA and why Compuserve ultimately lost out to the Internet - it's a dead end that relies too heavily on one supplier and their wishes rather than allowing any developer to work with a published and known set of standards.

It's hard to believe that MS would try to go down that road again, after the early MSN fiascos especially - but "embrace, extend, extinguish" is an old idea in Redmond.

The trouble is that I don't know that Netscape or Mozilla point the way forward. In principle, for sure. But the truth of any browser is that it has to run on boxes that already exist. Unless a platform were developed solely upon which to run it, Mozilla has to live within/alongside the OS - and to do so without respecting the interface guidelines on those OSs is a big problem for the reasons I outlined earlier.

A browser isn't just a platform. It's not a platform at all yet, to be honest.
posted by mikel at 8:33 AM on November 21, 2000

Joel has been bashing Netscape 6 / Mozilla for a while now. The switch to geko has been his favorite pet peeve. I find it interesting that he trots out Lou Montulli to support his assertions. Lou was the engineer that implemented the CSS code in Netscape 4, rumor has it over a weekend. Perhaps if they had spent more time on the CSS the first time around then they wouldn't have had to chuck the engine and start over from scratch. Though perhaps I'm just being bitchy.

To Lou's credit he was also one of the authors of lynx. Which is a damn fine piece of software.
posted by captaincursor at 9:45 AM on November 21, 2000

I wasn't real happy with the CSS implementation in Lynx, either.

Thanks for explaining why.
posted by baylink at 1:01 PM on November 21, 2000

What the hell is a text-mode browser going to do with a style sheet anyway?
posted by kindall at 2:33 PM on November 21, 2000

My take on this is that the Gecko renderer is a good piece of software that most people are happy with and willing to go with.

The main gripe is with the GUI interface which has been needlessly rewritten from scratch. This seems to me to only be a small part of the project and could be fixed to use native widgets if there was the desire to do so.

posted by lagado at 2:59 PM on November 21, 2000

Microsoft, for all its foibles and transgressions, has been down this road vis-à-vis the Macintosh - and after a long time, they changed gears and now pretty much perfectly implement their software using a real Mac interface.
That is certainly true for Internet Explorer, but not at all true for Office, which looks exactly like a Windows program, with buttons called Close (a Windows concept), buttons that are rectangular and arranged exactly as in the Windows version, and many other oddities, all detailed chez About This Particular Macintosh.
posted by joeclark at 3:13 PM on November 21, 2000

What the hell is a text-mode browser going to do with a stylesheet, anyway?
Interpret the stylesheet to the best of its capability, as graphical browsers do. A parallel would be the design of stylesheets for different media types (think TTY). It's a good ten years away. Lynx currently linearizes tables and handles frames individually. CSS is a bit of a dream right now.
posted by joeclark at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2000

> What the hell is a text-mode
> browser going to do with a
> stylesheet, anyway?

Bold/Em/I/Strong tags can be displayed in Lynx as colour. One can bold, er.. font-weight from a style sheet, ergo something something.
posted by holloway at 4:14 PM on November 21, 2000


*that*, folks, was a troll.

posted by baylink at 9:58 PM on November 27, 2000

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