Saving Netscape's Pride
Friday, May 23, 1997 by Dave Winer.
The battle for the web is moving into high gear on the Microsoft and Netscape websites and on Jesse Berst's page on AnchorDesk.
Jesse has a great concise piece that urges Netscape and Microsoft to work together to agree on one format for pushing web pages and sites at users.
He makes some important points. Netscape's implementation of Marimba's Castanet protocol is interesting because for the first time Netscape is promoting a closed standard. I can't write a server to hook up to this new functionality in Netscape, only Marimba can because they haven't disclosed how their protocol works.
This isn't necessarily bad, but until it's opened and other technologists can evaluate the protocols, I doubt if it's going to get much serious support in the web development world.
Without Marimba, Netscape doesn't have much more that could be called push or webcasting other than scheduled bookmarks and a web crawler, neither of which excite me as a web developer.
Berst urges Netscape and Microsoft to work together in the context of standards bodies to sort out their differences.
I have a different idea. There's no need to wait for standards bodies, or to wait for both these companies to decide to cooperate with each other.
Luckily Netscape's browser is open, to making it possible for Microsoft channels to be distributed thru Navigator as well as Internet Explorer. This is a very important thing.
We don't have to wait for Netscape because anyone who can program an XML parser subset can add CDF support to Netscape, even old versions like 2.0 or 3.0. And we can deprive Microsoft of a competitive advantage over something as trivial as a new file format.
To prove that it can be done I wrote a CDF parser in Frontier's native scripting language, UserTalk. You can download it or view the source at:
Key point -- opening up software for scripting is a good thing for strategic reasons. In this case it saved Netscape the embarassment of having to implement Microsoft's format. If it proves to be important, if many CDF-formatted channels start appearing, you won't have to use Microsoft's browser.
It only took two sessions for me to write this parser. I doubt if this is any kind of barrier to entry. Only Netscape's pride could interfere, but they're scriptable, so it isn't an issue.
PS: It's OK to convert this parser to other languages. Let's have fun!