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Sucking Sideways

Monday, June 16, 1997 by Dave Winer.

Netscape is the fastest growing startup in history. There's a lot of energy focused on them. In the trades they face off with Microsoft. In the back rooms, everyone wants to do a deal with Netscape, to be validated by them. People boast of their connection with Netscape, and in the next sentence complain how arrogant and inaccessible they are.

If only Permalink to If only

In the old days we used to say "If only Apple would...", now we substitute Netscape. But, if they met with everyone, did deals with everyone, they'd have no time to do their own software. And they would probably still enrage 95% of the people who want to do deals with them.

The developer song goes like this. Netscape is encircled by Microsoft. They're going to lose. I have exactly the technology they need to win. If only they would do a deal with me! But they don't return my calls.

Sucking up Permalink to Sucking up

If a puppy sucks on a dry tit, it dies. If you depend on a deal with Netscape and you don't get it, your software dies. So we all have a choice, bet everything on a deal with Netscape, or find other ways to gain acceptance.

This is how I see it. They're doing the best they can at Netscape. They want to apply their energy to the success of their company. They don't see the world your way or my way, they see it their way, and that's OK. To some extent we get to define them, but they also have a say in how they're defined.

Sucking sideways Permalink to Sucking sideways

I'll keep making offers to Netscape. It can't hurt. Maybe at some time our interests and attention will align perfectly. I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity.

But in the meantime, instead of sucking up, I want to suck sideways. Make invitations to people who have the time to listen, and are likely to consider the offer. And, more important, I keep my door as open as I can to new ideas, and try not to say no before I've tried to say yes.

We're all on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, even the biggest most respected companies. Remember that, and focus on the persistent value -- the talents of the people, and the software they've already got running. Assume people are creative; if you let them, they'll entertain you. Just when you think it's over, something new happens, a relief pitcher comes in, and the game goes on.

If you doubt what I say, look at the second and third lives of Jean-Louis Gassée and his Be operating system. Up, down, down, up, down, down. One of the times around this loop JLG will be on top again. Bet on it.

Expectations Permalink to Expectations

At a meeting last week, a friend exclaimed "They're worse than Apple!" That, and a few conversations at the Netscape developer conference last week got me thinking about this stuff. I asked my friend "Which Apple?" I was making a sideways point.

Netscape is only three years old. Their culture developed quickly, they borrowed lots of ideas from previous Silicon Valley phenomena, some successful, others not. They need to be lead as much as we need them to lead. If we all have to do deals with Netscape to win, very few of us will be winners.

The HTML browser interface will not be the only way to receive information and ideas thru the global network. There's the salvation for the rest of us. Stay focused on connecting powerful writing and design environments to fun and colorful user experiences, instead of forcing all our ideas thru the narrower browser pipe.

Dave Winer

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."