Embrace and Get Over It
Monday, June 21, 1999 by Dave Winer.
I've been trying out a new feature, it's still not quite sticky (a Macromedia term when applied to websites, and a good one). The feature is called Bulletins and if you're a UserLand.Com member, you can opt-in to receive Bulletins, via email, either plaintext or HTML. About 200 die-hard Scripting News fans have signed up, and to them I send two or three emails a day, often a small idea I'd like people to focus on, or something new or newsworthy. It's been going for about two weeks, we're still learning how it works.
It has changed my writing style. I now have something between a Scripting News item (a lightweight thing) and a DaveNet piece (relatively heavy). And it yields succint statements that are off the top of my head, but sometimes one of them stands the test of time, like the one following. It's just a little bit of advice to Microsoft as they try to digest the Internet. It's based on email exchanges with a few Microsoft people over the last week. I don't want to say who because the exchanges have been very different and very frank. It seems Microsoft as a collective is doing a lot of thinking now about next steps to take and they all involve the Internet in some way.
View Linux as you viewed the Mac in 1983. It's a puzzle and a curveball. You don't own it. Find out what developers want to do with Linux, then provide tools that make that easy. Create bridges from Microsoft desktop apps to servers running on Linux. Invest in WINE so Windows developers have a clear path to Linux without creating new source code bases.
I can hear Bill Gates now saying "Never!" But until he embraces the Internet, in its latest incarnation (Linux), without trying to own it, he'll keep losing. And yes, they are losing. Ownership of the browser is worth bupkis. There will be a dozen browsers in two years. The Internet game is about flow and money, Microsoft has attracted very little of either. MSIE is free, and their portals have been disasters.
They can't focus on the Internet as long as they're protecting Office and competing with other companies. This is another dual-disaster. Office has run its course. They keep looking for a company to compete with. But the Internet is not a company.
It's too bad Silicon Valley turned Netscape into a company. It would have been much more successful as a cause. There are more and more developers who do not want to be Microsoft developers. That's what Netscape was a marker for. That, and Java, and now Linux.
Microsoft, in its DNA knows how to exist in such a world. It's a 23 year old company. Only three or four of those years were spent being dominant in the developer world. They have a lot of experience thriving in a world where they are not the only game in town. That's the way the world is again. That's why it should be easy for Microsoft to give in, say uncle already, and let the Internet swarm all over them.
In other words, instead of Embrace and Extend.. Embrace and Support. Or Embrace and Get Over It. Or Embrace and Relax. Seriously, Microsoft is a bundle of energy. Why?
Saturday morning I had breakfast at Buck's with Doc Searls and Phil Hughes of Linux Journal. A snippet from the conversation. Doc says he admires Microsoft for being able to "turn on a dime" to embrace the Internet. I realized that Microsoft had not turned at all. What's actually been happening is that Microsoft is exerting tremendous energy to stay right where it is. Such a waste, they could be kicking back and stay right where they are. (And of course nothing stays where it is. The world is revolving at 1000 MPH. We're all getting older. And new people are being born. And some of them are growing up and want more options than IIS, VB and ASP.)
In the end, the turn of the earth has more effect on the position of Microsoft than anything Microsoft does. I've read the history, I've watched up-close for five years as Microsoft has struggled and then struggled again with the Internet, and they never overcome it, and they never will. It's a fascinating show of hubris. The answer is so obvious, just ask what the world wants, and do your best to give it to them. Microsoft keeps trying to rephrase the questions and the world keeps saying "No, that's not what we meant."
Hey all this is from my point of view. A student of Microsoft and the Internet and a proud Internet developer who supports Windows because it's an excellent operating system that lots of people use. Can Microsoft be anything else to me? Probably not. But that's not so bad!