News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 1/22/98
Netscape had lost the browser war.
From: email@example.com (Wesley Felter);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 06:02:18 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
They had to do something different, really different, so they did it. At least it's a positive-energy thing instead of a negative-energy thing like telling users they should uninstall IE.
People worry that there will be too many variants. People worry that they won't have control of how their documents are presented. To paraphrase Tim Berners-Lee, anyone who says their page looks best in a certain browser just wants to return to the old world of nonstandard, incompatible software. The entire point of HTML is that the author should not, does not, and indeed now cannot know how their content will be presented.
While I think the release of the source code to Communicator will encourage more browser variants, it will encourge more browsers in the Mosaic heritage. Communicator is not that different from MSIE, and even Opera is descended from Mosaic in its visual style. It has taken us too long to get away from underlined links. Quick, what do the different colors of a link mean? Why? Is knowing whether you've visited a page before a useful function? No one questions these things.
There is a lot of room for better interpretations of HTML, ones that focus on usability and efficiency for finding information. The WWW and the browser are not graduate-student hacks any more, yet Marc Andressen's mental model of the WWW is the most prevalent one. What incentive is there for developing truly alternate browsers now that you can integrate the fastest (but least compliant) HTML rendering engine on the planet?
This came as a bit of a suprise to me as well. It is a very interesting concept but it sounds like the browser world could get too fragmented if a bunch of different people are trying to do extensions to the Navigator source code.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jonathan Gay);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 12:09:58 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
I suspect that the Navigator source code is big and complex enough that it will not be effective for a single programmers at home to make effective contributions.
Also, I think that it will be difficult for Netscape to build enough trust with these independent developers. Netscape has a horrible record for working with 3rd party developers. They really need to learn some lessons from Microsoft here.
For example, they pretty much destroyed any chance they had at turning their browser into an application platform by their poor handling of Netscape plug-ins. The fact that they did not solve the plug-in installation problems ruined a potentially great way to extend the capabilities of a web browser.
My two cents is that I would love to see a web browser be an open platform where third parties can extend the platform without being required to change the platform. Microsoft has done a decent job with this with ActiveX but I don't see how providing the source code to Communicator will help this happen for Netscape. I think it might just create lots of confusion for users.
Netscape must figure that they can generate overwhelming third-party development support by taking this action and that will counter-act the leverage Microsoft has in its OS and applications.
From: email@example.com (Jack Russo);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 12:09:19 -0800;
Netscape & Source Code.....
Question: Did Netscape (and its attorneys) pause to think about whether this action might result in some liability for Netscape?
The potential product liability is not what I am focussing on though that is an issue.
My focus is: The class of customers who paid over $50 or more per copy of Navigator as a license fee for something that is now free; will we see a class action case seeking a refund of all of those fees particularly from that class of users who say they paid under Netscapes "subscription" program - - a program which assumed that there would always be a future charge for additional updates to the software but which embedded that supposed cost into the subscription fee paid by the user?
Freedom is sometimes limited by contract. (smile)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jeffrey W. Baker);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 12:32:46 -0600;
Netscape releases source code
Surely Perl, Python, REXX, and any other language with a rabid developer community will immediately make their language work with Navigator.
There are other parts to the Netscape to Release Source story beyond the issues of fragmentation, more features, etc.
From: email@example.com (bpettit);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 98 08:12:48 -0800;
1. Depending on licensing, it's a potential problem for Microsoft (my employer) if I were to even LOOK at the Communicator source (I will avoid doing so until I find out, that's for sure).
2. I thought that Communicator Mac was partially a PowerPlant app, so not all of the source could be distributed. Also, I'm sure there are significant amounts of non-Netscape code that Netscape probably doesn't have the rights to distribute...yet. Thus the delay before the source is to be available (making this announcement sound like a shot from the hip).
3. An e-mail program is much easier to write than a browser. As is a news reader. There are freeware versions of both with source available, yet Eudora is a household word.
...a free Netscape means, IMHO, the possibility that higher academia can use the Internet better for coursework.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Roger Espinosa);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 11:08:53 -0500;
Free Netscape means...
A university could take the code, and add features that instructors need before they can fully trust deploying things online -- like being able to easily disable source viewing, or select-and-copy, or image-dragging, or printing. In a way that makes it easy for faculty to edit, without having to deal with the odd hacks folks use now.
All the features we used to have in HyperCard (and its kin) before the web made a mess of deployment, offering half the solution and never giving a complete answer.
None of these are terribly difficult issues, either. But they'd help potential content authors navigate the information access issues, that right now can't be answered.
No doubt about it--releasing source code is a terrific move by Netscape.
From: email@example.com (tam david alexis rain);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 07:46:49 -0800;
Re:"MS's comeback to Netscape's daring move"
But Microsoft could go one better: release source code for the browser extensions, and pay ISVs for the best enhancements. They should set up a competition, put an independent testing body in charge of deciding who wins, pay out say $25 million a quarter, and stand back. No way Netscape could match it. Best yet, MS could put behind them the rap that they just rip off other people's ideas.
The point is, you can show no greater respect for a developer than when you pay her for her work. By just releasing source code, Netscape extends the freeware ploy of making your user your free tester to the realm of developers, who are now supposed to become for-free code farms for Netscape. I don't know; there's a cynical angle to all this too.
Think about it....
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Garth Wolfendale);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 05:51:46 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
Netscape has consistently pushed HTML standard and platform independence. Now they release their browser sources and unleash a minestrone soup of quirky non-standard browsers from would-be browser 'giants' and 'hopefuls'..... all non HTML compatible. If you think the two-browser war was bad .. just watch this space!
It's the same situation as when UNIX sources were made freely available. There ended up multiple versions of UNIX, forcing clients to go with proprietary solutions (if you buy HP gear you must run HP UNIX ... etc etc) .... thats one major reason why Windows NT dominates the market now.
Netscape has lost the plot and the battle. I see this as a kamakazi move.
I hope that Microsoft doesn't make the same mistake .By remaining in control and dovetailing HTML and other developments with standards, they will surely end up pre-eminent since users will naturally go with the standard and supported system.
On the whole I'm very impressed with Netscape's move, which defies the previous history of this company much less the shrinkwrap software industry as a whole.
From: email@example.com (Fred Heutte);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 04:55:49 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
I would hazard a guess and say that Netscape can be trusted to protect and define the core of the browser properly, incorporate improvements judiciously, and develop an API and set of hooks to external libraries, routines and packages that will actually work. The involvement of serious outside developers will force them to. In return, they get all the benefits of development with few of the risks and costs, one of the most serious of which is the cost of overshooting the market, which they clearly did with the Communi-bloatware. More than a year ago, I asked my friend who works in Netscape Serverland when he thought they would fix this problem (this is right before the public betas of 4.0 came out), and he said, "Oh, probably in 5-dot." Guess he was right even though we couldn't anticipate the reason why.
Netscape also stands to benefit significantly by way of the market goodwill and addition to the brand value this will create. There is little danger of a runaway here since only they will be able to say with finality what is Netscape and what is not.
This might be a new way to run a software company, and it might be a flop. Either way, it gets the albatross, the sucking wound, the tar pit (yea verily) of the browser off their balance sheet in a big way.
Now, if Sun will do the same for Java, I will be *convinced* that we have suddenly entered a new dawn of software. I know..."dream on"...
Will Microsoft match Netscape and release the source code for Explorer? What a trip that would be!
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Trevor Zion Bauknight);
Sent at Fri, 23 Jan 1998 02:07:58 -0500;
CAN Microsoft do the same thing? I was under the impression that some 90% of the IE code could not be separated from Windows without rendering the OS useless.
The timing of this move seems as genius as the move itself. Now that Microsoft has dug itself into a little bit of a hole by making claims that its OS is dependent upon IE, wouldn't it be difficult for it to throw such a crucial component of its OS open to public view and tinkering?
And if Netscape did something similar to what Apple did (or didn't do, as the case may be) with Cyberdog except using Communicator components, using the Java VM under WhateverOS, would it matter? I'm assuming that such componentized structure is what JavaBeans is all about.
People indicate concern about the possibility of a billion different types of browsers -- hell, we have enough trouble already with browser plug-ins!
From: email@example.com (Julian Harris);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 15:52:18 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
So let's look at the dynamics of existing GPL products to consider whether this would be a problem. Surprisingly, there aren't billions of variants of GPL products, that there are at most few varieties. Compatibility is a primary concern for most people. People see the power in standardising, and there seems to be a natural force in the open community that standardises the right bits.
Consider that Perl is the most portable programming system in the world.
Consider that Linux has only 2 (or 3?) variations, all of which work on the most popular systems in the world, and are similar enough that it's easy for tools to be developed and run under each one.
Consider that it appears that all the serious GNU products have a well-organised, centralised system for development and redistribution.
How does this affect the Mac? Linux wasn't available for the Mac for a long time. One main factor to consider: Apple's feet were dragging (critical components were undocumented), and there are less Mac developers willing to spend their time on it for free, which took more time. If Communicator source is available for all platforms, I expect there to be a few coordinated variants, and that they will be cross platform, but possibly it might take the Mac or other platforms a little longer to be released. The MacPerl developers are keeping up with things better these days, so I guess it depends on what the motivation is.
How does this affect Microsoft? Consider how Linux is being percieved in the corporate world -- although it's gaining popularity, it's still considered by most as not practical because it's something that people cannot contractually rely on. People like Sun, because they get a box, they get a license agreement, and they get support. They get something tangible, and something that's safe. That's why Sun does so well.
Will Communicator's credibility be questioned because it's now 'programmed by anyone' instead of a company with a license agreement?
Final question -- what comments do people have on how this helps Netscape? From the bean counter's point of view, all it does is wipe away a huge source of revenue and throw open to the world significant intellectual property. Or are we seeing the beginning of a new economic model for software development? When do they expect to gain?
The Netscape announcement is going to put the people from Free Software Foundation, Cygnus, Redhat (and the other Linux packagers) in very very high demand.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (S. Alexander Jacobson);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 15:51:38 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
There are not a lot of people who know how to cope with absorbing source that comes from all over the Internet in some structured way.
Managing Navigator will become like managing a release of Emacs or Linux. Someone is going to have to know how to triage incoming source and decide what goes into a release. Someone will have to teach Netscape how to maintain test and production releases (like the Linux odd/even pattern), etc.
When Netscape realizes that they can do this with their servers (or get killed by Apache) and still make money from support and release management, it will inspire other companies to do the same thing. As Dave Winer notes, Microsoft may have to follow suit.
As this pattern spreads, the demand for people who know how to manage free software will grow rapidly.
As Netscape and others attempt to implement, watch for announcements like:
* Netscape buys Cygnus.com in stockswap worth $100m
* Microsoft buys FSF for $200m
* Sun/Javasoft acquires Blackdown.org for undisclosed sum
Netscape just changed the world again and life just got much more interesting.
There are also tags that would open up new power, things that would be easy to implement, but that we haven't been able to convince either Netscape or Microsoft to implement. In the new scheme, we won't need their permission. We can start a new browser using their source code, try the ideas out and then lobby them to include it in their next distribution. If they say no, and the ideas are compelling enough, we can release the software on our own.
From: email@example.com (stealth);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 15:50:32 -0800;
Re:Netscape to Release Source
This is a REALLY horrifying idea that could lead to the further balkanization of the web. Rememeber the days of "this page looks best in Netscape 1.1" and to a certain degree the ongoing problems of Netscape users not having full functionality at Explorer sites and vice versa.
Even if you distribute the new tag as a "plug in" do you want to force people to go thru download gyrations just to see your site?
The strength of the web as an infomation engine is that it relies on "standard" tags that any computer or browser can read. Moves away from standards like Netscape and Microsoft have done in the past were supportable because they had enough critical mass to force their adoption. If you've got a tag you can't get either of the big two to support now what makes you think you can persuade them to do so by writing your own browser?
One thing you forgot to mention in your rant was how Netscape would benifit. A business decision is only good if it keeps you in business.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gerry ONeill);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 15:49:22 -0800;
Apple's decisions, while I think they were stupid, I could see a very clear line of reasoning (even if from the old school).
Here, what is Netscape's incentive to continue great developement (at least on Navigator)?
Don't get me wrong. It is good as a nice thing to do, as much as charity is. But aside from good public relations, it is a neutral business decision.
I was willing to pay for Navigator if it was a good product. I support the people who develop programs.
Microsoft gave away their browser because it would kill off Netscape, and the platform would return back to Windows. I saw the plan. It made sense.
In other industries, they call it dumping, and file charges against the offendor.
Back to the point, I don't think the platform will move very much after Navigator 5. Aside, of course from other vendors that will still charge for their product.
One ironic thing is that the product may very well be based on Navigator code.
I think security concerns will dampen a lot of consumer's desire to run an off-brand browser.
From: email@example.com (Yann Christensen);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:50:21 -0800;
security and browser freeware
Given your musings a week or so ago about hotels offering their customers Net access, you might be interested in this story on News.com today:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Melissa Jones);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:20:16 -0800;
wiring hotels for Net access
One more thought: I think it's important that there be a component strategy put in place quickly by someone expert on each platform, so that a standard Netscape component quickly becomes available. Let there be one for JavaBeans (of course not a 100% pure Java one but that's coming with 6.0, right?), and an ActiveX control and so forth. Then people that want to incorporate browser functionality into their products can. Without it you get chaos and fragmentation.
From: Jacob.Levy@Eng.Sun.COM (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:43:54 -0800;
Netscape to GPL source code for browser
It's the end of bloatware. This is great news! Up 'till now people that wanted to use a browsing component only had one choice -- MSHTML.OCX on Windows, or you're left out in the cold starting a whole new process to run Netscape on Unix (what is the deal on the Mac)? If Navigator can be wrapped up in a portable Java bean, man, now we're talking power! You could even use it inside MS office if you wanted :).
From: Jacob.Levy@Eng.Sun.COM (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:39:21 -0800;
Netscape to GPL source code for browser
Once the browser is a component, I see several interesting development directions:
* Intranet special versions: a HW vendow could develop a special version that would run well on Intranets that used a central server manufactured by that HW vendor. The browser would "know" how to talk to the central server in a more efficient way.
* Bundled special purpose browsers for tools like search engines: here the logic to talk with a search server would be outside the browser, actually wrapped around the browser component (including communicating the search results which never made sense to me as HTML anyways) and the browser could be used to display a formatted summary and/or to actually browse the hits. Doing something like this for AltaVista would guarantee them a searching franchise for all time to come.
* Composite browsers that use HTML as part of the experience instead of as a complete interface. Best example is ActiveWorlds which has URLs attached to objects -- if you click on an object in the 3D world it starts a browser. Better integration than that is now possible!
* Specific composite browser: Frontier. :)
The point of all the above is that even without modifying one line of the sources it's now possible to browse in many novel ways.
On whether Microsoft will release the sources: I bet they will, since they don't make a dime off of IE (directly, that is). The only downside is that they will show off all the "secret" Win32 APIs that they've been using :).
Just a couple of thoughts on Netscape's announced intention to release the source code for Communicator 5.0.
From: email@example.com (Jesse James Garrett);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:19:58 -0800;
Browsers Want to Be Free
1. Here's a radical notion: Netscape's move allows Microsoft to get out of the browser business altogether. No matter how fast MS may be able to move to implement new standards, I think anyone who's been involved with the Linux or GNU communities could testify that a coalition of independent programmers could move faster. It no longer makes good business sense for Microsoft to maintain its own proprietary code base.
Instead of sinking their resources into trying to pre-implement the latest working drafts from the W3C, MS can focus on the only part of the whole browser game that ever really interested them in the first place: Windows integration. Microsoft could conceivably hack its own front-end onto Netscape's engine, the programmers now maintaining IE could focus on connecting Netscape's code to whatever ActiveWidget MS marketing has dreamed up this month, and Microsoft still gets a highly integrated browser they can give away for free.
It's not like this hasn't happened before; lest we forget, the IE we all know and love is NCSA Mosaic at its core.
2. While the browser is undeniably the most important element here, remember that Communicator also includes an e-mail client, a newsreader, conferencing software, and an HTML generator/editor. All of these product categories are affected by this announcement. This may be the spark that touches off an explosive period of growth and development in all kinds of client software.
I've read a few articles lately declaring the end of "Internet time". It could be that Internet time is just getting underway. Could this announcement render the notion of product cycles for client software obsolete by making Netscape's code a de-facto standard?
Here's what I see coming:
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Niel M. Bornstein);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 17:11:15 -0500;
There will be different "distributions", with different feature sets, for different user populations. Look at Linux or Apache for an example. New features will spring up in various distributions. Web developers will support a baseline of features as they become officially supported by Netscape.
Just by making the browser free, there will be no more reason to support older browser versions. Features will be field-tested by the ISPs and intranets, then integrated as soon as Netscape releases them.
Microsoft will struggle to track new features as they happen in Navigator. The standards process will become secondary to popular demand. Maybe a group of developers will band together to develop a pure standard Navigator, based on Netscape's code but elimating non-standard tags.
Someone will port Navigator to BeOS.
Wow! I know we all heard the rumors (mostly about a free Navigator) but this really makes you step back and just wonder... what's going to happen?
From: email@example.com (Lawrence Lee);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 13:51:47 -0800;
Netscape to Release Source
What happens to the W3C... will Netscape still participiate? Will independent developer groups form together to join? Will Netscape sponsor them?
It'll be interesting to see what sort of relationships Netscape and independent developers will form, in addition to the release of the source.
Hmm, reminds me of an old letter into DaveNet about someone that wanted to get a browser that parsed Hawaiian. That *really* reminds me of how powerful this move could be... amazing!
The free source code announcement by Netscape is very interesting -- but will it be for all platforms (Mac, Windows, Unix)? And how will they deal with the fact that they've incorporated third-party technologies -- like RSA encryption, Bitstream font rendering, Marimba Castanet, etc.?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Gardner, Mark J.);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 14:55:37 -0500;
Free Netscape source code
Also, will this include the mythical 100% Pure Java version that Netscape is supposed to be working on?
I'm sure the pool of developers that want to develop another full-blown browser suite is small compared to those who want to pick off only what they want and need.
I read the Netscape news release at pretty carefully, and at first blush this looks pretty good. Pretty much what everyone has been asking for.
From: email@example.com (Jack Bell);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 12:09:28 -0800;
Netscape Source Code
From what I can see, yes they are giving developers access to all the source code. Yes they do expect to "harness the creative power of thousands of programmers on the Internet by incorporating their best enhancements into future versions of Netscape's software." Yes they think that "This strategy is designed to accelerate development and free distribution by Netscape of future high-quality versions of Netscape Communicator to business customers and individuals, further seeding the market for Netscape's enterprise solutions and Netcenter business."
And yes, most importantly, they invoked the magic acronym "GPL" (Gnu Public License).
Only one little thing bothers me; the status of any patents held by Netscape as embodied by the source code they are making available under a copyleft program. They way I see it, this could be a real deal buster. If the patents are diluted by this and I was a Netscape stockholder (I am not) then I would scream my head off. The same if I was a Netscape lawyer or accountant.
As I am a programmer with no fiscal attachment to Netscape I find the whole thing pretty exciting. Assuming no flies in the ointment between now and the release date and assuming a standard GPL, then I make the following call on the Developer community: Let's figure out a way to unbundle Communicator!
If we could break Communicator down into a bunch of single purpose components (HTML rendering, HTML parsing/DOM, cache management, http, whatever) and wrap those components up as ActiveX controls and/or Java Beans then all our lives will get easier. A group of developers could do this work on a free basis, sharing the components and updating them as needed. Anyone could then use the components as needed in their programs, even programs with no need to communicate over the Internet, but with a need to display HTML.
Most exciting; it also lets web developers target a single HTML version. Right now anyone reading this is probably saying "Whoa, it will probably do the opposite due to multiple incompatible versions." I say you aren't thinking 'components'.
So what if your target user has IE? You simply run a cut down Netscape as an ActiveX control on her browser. No problemo dude! They are running an older version of Netscape? Well, there is a plug-in version too. They got some incompatible brand Z version of a hacked Communicator? Run ours with Java. All we need to do is to get a group of great developers creating the components and the world will follow. Even if it doesn't, those of us using the components can still get the benefits at the price of requiring a download. It worked for all those sites using Shockwave.
So, I volunteer. Who wants to head this thing up?
For the hackers that will modifiy Netscape, let's get this important feature: "Save form data locally". And having the possibility to import it in the form should be implement too !
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Patrick Gaumond);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 16:19:10 -0500;
Already a suggestion for developpers
Thanks in advance ! ;-)
Is this the biggest piece of software to go GPL?
From: email@example.com (John Gilmore);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 12:47:33 -0800;
Re:"Comments on Netscape GPLing the browser?"
There are far larger pieces of software, technically, including an entire operating system. But it's the largest piece that has been developed as proprietary, and then been freed to accomplish a specific objective in the market.
What do you think it will mean to the evolution of web browsing software?
I think it will mean that web browsing software will evolve much more quickly, more in the directions that users desire, and there will be more niches. Some will want small fast browsers, some will want monster full-featured, etc.
Do you think Microsoft will match the move?
I have no opinion on that.
What do you think?
I heard Marc Andreessen is the power behind it. I think it's a great move on Netscape's part. It shows that Netscape still has boldness and imagination. I think it will succeed.
This is GREAT news for the Internet.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Seth Dillingham);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 98 15:18:22 -0500;
This may be great news for you, too, when considered in the right light. It's another example of a big company believing that there is money to be made in free software.
Don't suppose you'd consider doing the same for the Mac version of Frontier? (heh heh)
Netscape is in deep. Despite best intentions, they cannot go on forever putting so much money, energy, and resources into the "front-end" when what they sell is the "backend". It is a heavy load to carry simply for marketing reasons, but is strategically flawed for a market with this much growth and competition. (i.e. the relationship between the frontend and backend is now worlds apart... and most folks would never know that they are related.)
From: email@example.com (Carl Sassenrath);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 12:14:27 -0800;
Netscape had to do it.
It's going to be very interesting to see what this does to Microsoft. What a blow!
I personally think that we will begin to see much more practical browsers. No longer will the user be at the mercy of what the browser companies want. If you want to create a Frontier-based browser which would be incorporated into the ODB, you can do it. It's not that you couldn't do write your own but I think that this code will become the foundation of future browsers.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Joshua Lucas);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 11:23:14 -0800;
Future of the Browsers
I also think that this gives MS more leverage with the DOJ since now they won't be one of only two major browser makers. Developers can now write browsers which are integrated into the system or they can write browsers which will be used in handheld devices. I think this opens doors for developers which weren't even built a few months ago.
This is first time I have felt good about the possible direction the software community has been going in a long while. This may also be the first real step towards unseating Microsoft and bringing back a little competition.
From: email@example.com (Brian Aker);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 13:24:59 -0600;
Browser evolution could just spur evolution in the software community.
What we really need next is for IBM or Corel to release their office packages into the public domain (preferably Corel since Word Perfect still has a better name brand then AmiPro, and name recognition is the name of the game). Having an office package that was freely available and that allowed for Community input could easily give MS a good run for their money.
Perhaps Scott McNealy should approach one of the two companies who hold the rights to these two packages to do just that. What better way to bring energy back to the UNIX desktop market (or for that matter to bring energy to the MacOS, BEOS, Linux....). It would certainly be more fruitful then his normal name calling.
Netscape releasing their source code for Communicator 5.0 is both a good thing and a bad thing.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Todd Breiholz);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 13:24:21 -0600;
Netscape Source Code Availability
It is a good thing because it allows those of us who use the software to be ultimately in control and responsible for the direction it takes and the feature sets it supports. Need XML support. Great! Let's put it in. Some new "standard" comes down the pipe that needs to be implemented. Great! Let's put it in.
It is a bad thing because I already have 6 versions of Netscape installed on my PC for testing. What happens when any hot-shot programmer with a compiler starts hacking at the code and then (gasp) distributing "Dave Winer's Netscape Communicator (with built in Cuisinart)". I currently have a little control over the browsers my clients use as a majority of our sites are Intranet/Extranet to their desktop, but as we do more Internet apps, this is going to be a HUGE concern.
As a developer I think the good outweighs the bad, but I also believe that I will be cursing Netscape for releasing the source at various times throughout the next couple of years.
You ask us what effect Netscape being free and open will be. It will be good and bad. The nearest analogy is the different flavors of Unix in circulation.
From: email@example.com (Adam Rice);
Sent at Thu, 22 Jan 1998 12:48:26 -0600;
Netscape goes free and open
While it is good that an ambitious programmer can delve in and add needed functionality--or remove unneeded functionality--to provide a more tailored browser, we could wind up with a Babel effect. One browser will be updated to take advantage of certain web-tricks, and some people will write web pages based on the assumption that all browsers will support them.
This suggests to me the remote prospect of a highly modular browser: imagine if the network interface code, disk access code, screen rendering code, etc, were all quasi-independent modules that could be tweaked by different programmers. The overall program would need (at least) one of each kind of module, and would free users to assemble a really optimized browser for their needs.
Let one hundred flowers bloom!
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