If I only had a brain
Tuesday, April 4, 2000 by Dave Winer.
From The Wizard of Oz.
"Well, whhat would you do if you had a brain?"
"With the thoughts I'd be thinkin, I could be another Lincoln. If I only had a brain!"
On days when I'm pounding my brain asking it to figure something out it's great to listen to this song.
Here's another one.
Click on it.
Yesterday Judge Jackson ruled, and luckily while channel-flipping last night I happened across the C-SPAN rebroadcast of the Bill Gates/Steve Ballmer press conference followed by the Janet Reno/Joel Klein press conference discussing the decision.
So now here we are. A judgment against Microsoft. Now the next, most vexing question, what to do about it. Steve Ballmer says it's time for Microsoft to work with developers. This is, of course, what both Netscape and Microsoft failed to do in the early years of the Web. So Microsoft has proposed a remedy that's not likely to mean much to Joel Klein, but means much to me.
So I find myself wanting to share a thought, unfinished as it is, about what the next steps should be to unwind from the mess that started so many years ago when Marc Andreessen said that Windows would go the way of the dinosaurs. Seems Microsoft won that debate. And we're all dealing with the aftermath.
To me, the group that's left out in all the discussions are the people who have bet their livelihoods on the Web. People who create Web sites, and Web applications, and of course, people who use those sites and apps.
Any solution that doesn't have direct impact on their independence, and empowers their creativity will fail, in my humble opinion. This is where the rubber meets the road.
The DOJ was wrong to focus on the hardware OEMs. They have shown no ability or inclination to innovate. It's not part of the formula of their industry. I've seen this confirmed over and over, even the freshly funded Linux clone vendors with permission to lose money, want to be nothing more than clone vendors, selling a commodity for thin margins (like Amazon). They're all going after Dell, a company that has never put anything interesting on a hard disk, even when they have the chance to.
The DOJ takes a neophyte's view of the Web, and focuses on the main thing a non-technologist can see, the hardware. It's not the freedom of the hardware that counts, it's the freedom of the minds of the creative people.
However, I agree with the DOJ that Microsoft has to learn again how to compete. They only remember the way they used to compete before they became a dominant company. The message, so clear, that Microsoft really isn't hearing, is that the way they compete is unacceptable.
So Steve and Joel, here's a concession either of you could put on the table.
Free the MSIE development team at Microsoft. Cut it loose. Give it a lot of money. Let someone outside of Microsoft drive it. Someone that Web developers, including Microsoft, could talk with. And make it a profit center, so that it will enable competition.
This is the cleanest way out of the mess, and I think it would address the concerns about Microsoft's mismanagement of the competition with Netscape.
In the future we will have a blueprint for a quick antitrust settlement. If Microsoft competes without restraint, as it has, they lose the product.
I'm happy to come to Redmond or Washington to discuss these ideas.
PS: The first thing I'd add to the browser is an include tag. That would fuel a whole generation of new web apps. I wrote about this in The Killer Tag, 12/18/96.
PPS: My company, UserLand, joined the W3C on Monday.
PPPS: Last Saturday we shipped a revolutionary Web application called Pike. To people interested in patents, there's lots of prior art in this piece. To people interested in software, it takes Edit This Page to the next level.