RE: DOJ Insanity
FM: Al Smith Jr.


Dear Steve,

I enjoyed reading your first column in this series and am now inclined to tell you so. I generally agree with the opinions you expressed, with emphasis on the appearances this situation thrusts upon Netscape.

I was not able to confidently ascertain your opinion on this; I don't buy into any portrayal of Netscape Communications Corp. as a mere interested 3rd party. I submit that anyone interested enough to follow the legal/litigative events of the browser wars as they have unfolded would agree that Netscape is bound to have been pushing this from the beginning. At the risk of offense (which I certainly do not intend), I'll recap the relevent things I remember.

Netscape Communications Corp. CEO (or is it President/Both?) Marc Andressen and cohorts within the company have submitted numerous complaints to the DOJ over the past few years involving a multitude of issues. Most of them insignificant and given attention (in my opinion) in lieu of creating the spectacle we are now witnessing. One that springs to mind is a negligible delay in the release of new OLE specs (to later be coined "ActiveX"). Netscape claimed that the delay was (a) intentionally designed and engineered out of a desire to squelch competition and (b) targeted specifically at Netscape.

Microsoft published both the letters and their response on their website some time later. Of course, they denied any wrongdoing, and even if they had some sort of malicious intent, it would have made no sense to have done what they were accused of.

It was and still is in the best interest of Microsoft to have OLE (ActiveX) integrated into as many internetworking products from as many different vendors as possible.

Microsoft stated from the beginning that their intention was to release the entire spec to the public domain. Not only would Netscape benefit from this, other companies who compete with Microsoft on their most important turf - operating systems - would also be free to adopt the spec into their on operating systems. This group includes such small players as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, NextStep, Apple, and new players who are showing promise, like the BeOS people.

Netscape never adopted the whole spec. (they have adopted drag-n-drop functionality with regard to bookmarking.) All of the fuss over something they never planned to support.

In fact, Netscape tried to re-engineer a product into a competing technology (DCOM), and at one point gave lipservice to the idea of creating an entire operating system based upon integration of their browser product and DCOM. In short, the very thing (as you did say) the DOJ is trying to forbid MS from doing.

The arguement that Netscape has purposefully tried to erode any hint of standardization on the net can also be made. The best example I can think of is their handling of the CSS level 1 style sheets standard. Their reps sat on the W3C board for months supporting the spec, walked out agreeing to implement with the rest of the consortium, and did a 180 as soon as they got back to CA. I suppose the integration of the

tag was more important to them. Who needs typographical control when you can turn your web browser into an overgrown ansi terminal?

Netscape (the company) generally leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Their antics have left me with the impression that they believe they cannot compete, and must rely on the government to legislate them into the market. The Generation X mentality that flows throughout their corporate image, the way they have repeatedly misrepresented themselves to legitamite 3rd party standards groups (such as the W3C), and their calls to the DOJ to help them compete tell me that these buffoons are not in tune with what I want and need.

They lack vision and resources.

I buy MS products (I buy things from other companies too) because they do the job better or easier than the competition. I've been working in the industry long enough to know what works and what I need. Most of the time, the MS product meets my base criteria. Sometimes, it exceeds it. It may be trendy to hate MS, but I could care less. Keeping my company solvent, responsive, and progressive is more important to me.

- Al Smith, Jr.