Think Think Think
Friday, November 13, 1998 by Dave Winer.
When I wrote about Netscape's testimony in the Microsoft trial, people said it isn't just about Netscape. They said the same thing when I wrote about Apple's testimony.
When people read BOGU, a scathing piece explaining how Microsoft had lost my support because of their inflexibility, people sent mail saying "But I thought you liked Microsoft."
Yesterday, they sent mail calling me an apologist for Microsoft.
Am I wrong and is everyone else right? (Some people are nodding right now.)
No, I'm not wrong, but I'm not right either. And neither are you. And I'm not an apologist for Microsoft. People who think so are taking a shortcut and are depriving themselves of the opportunity to learn something new.
Few issues are so simple as to allow me to be fully pro something or anti something else. I am against capital punishment, but I understand the sorrow and rage one feels when a relative is murdered. I am in favor of abortion rights, but I understand the ethical dilemma. To arrive at my positions, I do a lot of thinking, balancing issues, considering alternatives, and being flexible. For a lot of issues, rigidity gets you further from a decision, not closer.
Like everyone else I have something called a point of view. And I am flexible. If things change, and I want to change, I let it happen. I try not to dig my heels in against change.
If Apple makes an accusation, it should be examined. Same if Netscape does. Does that make me pro-Microsoft? Hardly. If Microsoft screwed Apple, you'll hear about it here first, with facts to back up the assertion. But, Apple has not provided enough information, or access to their engineer. Does that make me anti-Apple? No, it says nothing about me, other than I have an open mind and want more facts.
People who say my last piece was anti-Apple should look again. I offered them a way to get QuickTime solidly on Windows. And I offered to help them turn the Mac platform into a vibrant system with lots of new apps. This is not an anti-Apple stance. If you want to win in the software business you have to be ready to cooperate, to accept a gift, at a moment's notice. Apple clearly isn't there yet. I hope they get there soon because there's a lot of cool stuff we can do.
My opinion: Save the silver bullets for real scary situations, like security holes in web servers, electronic privacy issues, junk email, Microsoft subverting WORA, or locking hardware OEMs into Windows. Or the nuclear missles that could launch on 1/1/00. Keep a sense of perspective.
Just because Apple says Microsoft done them wrong doesn't mean it's so. We have to look at facts to determine what's true. Constantly re-evaluate your beliefs as new information becomes available. Think think think.
As a software developer, and a member of the software industry, I have a stake in the outcome of the trial in Washington DC. So I think about it, what do I want to happen, and is that what's happening?
Here's what I think. The software industry is a ethical cesspool run by self-proclaimed leaders each with an emotional age that can be measured in single digits. To single out Microsoft is unfair, ridiculous and counter-productive.
It's even worse. The most vocal people on the Internet tend to be even more mired in the cesspool. Think it thru. If everything Microsoft ever does is bad, then how can you win? What if they did nothing wrong, or, even more extreme for some, what if they did something good? Could you even see it? If you don't show any flexibility in your point of view, there's no point discussing anything with you.
My last few pieces have been about thinking. It's the most important thing we can do right now. Think about the important things. Think about the things you want.
I ask the people who line up against Microsoft, what do you want? What's your vision? What will you do if Microsoft is defeated in court? Will you treat your customers and developers better than Microsoft treats its customers and developers? I'd like to hear about that.
I think there has to be a two-way BOGU for the crisis to end. Microsoft's attackers must stop asking for special treatment, and they must stop engaging Microsoft at the level they engage Microsoft, and start working to fix their own problems, to help others fix theirs, to grow into the role they envision for themselves instead of asking for a handout.
And on the other side, Microsoft must change. What do they want? Some of it they can have, and other stuff they can't. If they want the rest of the industry to get out of their way, they have to get out of the way of the rest of the industry.
In other words, it's time for disarmament, on both sides.
How will this be resolved? People are very angry, both at Microsoft and elsewhere. I get a lot of flames. OK, so after the anger subsides, what do you want?
I think this situation is like Israel and the Palestinians. The argument is about whether each has a right to exist. Same thing in the software industry.
Does Microsoft have a right to exist?
Yes they do. How do I know? Because they *do* exist. Just like the Palestinians do, as do the Israelis. People who are anti-Microsoft are anti-reality. They're here. The government is not going to kill them, any more than it's going to kick out Bill Clinton. It doesn't work that way. You can stop dreaming now.
Microsoft is. So is Netscape, Oracle, IBM, Sun and everyone else.
They are. They exist.
The more you oppose what exists, the more powerless you are. It's a good way to get nowhere. To everyone who wants Microsoft to go away, the key to your power is in giving up on that. Embrace Microsoft. Be glad they're here. Now work around them. Do things that make *you* powerful. To Microsoft, the next time that happens, don't mess with it.
PS: WORA stands for Write Once Run Anywhere. It was Sun's slogan for Java. Sun is a miserable immature company, I wouldn't vote for them to lead the industry, I'd rather go sailing on the Mediterranean or make pottery. But the Sun slogan resonated with thousands of developers, who want choice, they don't want to be locked into Microsoft system software. Same here. The day Microsoft embraces WORA and the philosophy of choice behind it, their troubles will be over.