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Silicon Valley vs Nobody

Thursday, October 30, 1997 by Dave Winer.

John Denver sang Thank God I'm a Country Boy.

I've been living in Silicon Valley for 18 years. I've been part of two startups, was a developer at one of the earliest software companies, and participated in an IPO.

I'm a Silicon Valley Boy, but I'm not sure who to thank!

Silicon Valley vs Bill Gates Permalink to Silicon Valley vs Bill Gates

Every few years, since the late 80s when Bill Gates became the largest personality in the business, Silicon Valley has gone to war with him.

Think about Bill Gates. He'll probably be fighting government regulators for the rest of his career. If for no other reason than this, I think diversity matters to him.

Then think about us. We want diversity too, but how well organized are we? What are we offering? We're sending a coordinated message to Washington, but how powerful (and empowering) are our messages to each other?

Thru Netscape, yes, we have offered diversity, but on unacceptable terms to Microsoft. Navigator was aimed directly at the heart of Windows, Netscape execs said so in public statements about Windows two years ago. Microsoft heard them. Netscape was doing an end-run around Windows. Microsoft blocked the move, I think effectively.

Every time he's approached this way, you'll get a crushing response from Gates. Frontal assaults don't scare him. It happened with Go and now with Sun and Netscape.

You have to build on his stuff, not incite the press to write "The End of Microsoft" pieces, and develop a loyal and happy following among users, and then maybe he won't attempt a crush.

(Examples: Adobe, Cisco, Intel, Intuit.)

Netscape vs Microsoft Permalink to Netscape vs Microsoft

To the Silicon Valley VCs, the next time you start a company to stand alongside Microsoft, make that position clear from the start.

If Netscape had done this, they would have emphasized that Navigator is a Windows application, not a new desktop.

The odd thing is that Netscape *did* build on Microsoft's stuff, but the public hype didn't emphasize that.

Silicon Valley vs Nobody Permalink to Silicon Valley vs Nobody

We've been effective at creating IPOs here in Silicon Valley. We probably create as many millionaires here as they do at Microsoft.

But Microsoft programmers have something we don't have in the valley -- leverage. Connections between products. A browser that can also be a help system or a user interface. A content tool that can invoke a runtime.

At Microsoft programmers can work together because they all work at the same company. But Silicon Valley programmers often don't work together, for reasons I don't fully understand.

In Silicon Valley we have something that they don't have inside Microsoft -- competition. We already have diversity, we just have to let different approaches have a chance. Its been a closed, exclusive club here. Let's open it up, let the technology and the users drive us, just like it drives people at Microsoft.

Silicon Valley has gotten a reputation for being anti-Microsoft. That doesn't serve our interests. To win, we must be good at diversity. We can't make it work without respecting Microsoft. And it can't work until we respect each other.

Dave Winer

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