News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus Mail Starting 1/24/98

From: ryantate@uclink.berkeley.edu (ryan travis tate);
Sent at Sun, 25 Jan 1998 06:21:46 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

The last three months have witnessed a shake-up that has exposed many self-chosen leaders of the anti-Microsoft coalition as charlatans -- companies and people who offered an alernative to Microsoft that was only skin deep, that at its core was the same old, scared, greedy philosophy that drove the software business before the Internet exploded.

Companies like Apple, which couldn't even embrace open hardware standards. Sun, which thought it could control Java and ended up destroying it. Oracle, which ignored the fact that the web only happened because of powerful clients. Jobs & Ellison & company. when you get down to it, Gates has learned to 'think different' better than any of them.

Microsoft evolved. Apple didn't. Sun didn't. Oracle didn't.

Netscape almost didn't, but did.

Now there's hope for a Microsoft alrenative! Not because Microsoft is bad, but because diversity is good. because a competitive market exists only with choices.

Now somebody roll up their sleeves and get working on a slick, friendly, open OS ...


From: nelson@crynwr.com (Russell Nelson);
Sent at Sun, 25 Jan 1998 04:58:20 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

Yes, an army of unpaid developers will start working on Navigator. But the important part is not that they're unpaid (they might actually be paid by someone who wants a Navigator feature that Netscape never thought important enough). No, what is important is that they are freed to make the changes they want to make. Freed software is not about price, it's about freedom.

Microsoft software is profoundly anti-freedom. Microsoft strongly wishes to deny people the freedom to make their own changes to its applications and operating systems. If programmers had the freedom to do that, then some of them would supplant Microsoft's operating systems. Microsoft applications rely on Microsoft controlling the operating system. You see, people at Microsoft noticed that the dominant application changed whenever the operating system changed. First there was Visicalc, then Lotus, then Excel. So Microsoft now changes their operating systems regularly, and its programmers get first crack at writing the applications.

Microsoft wins by default every time. All they have to do is turn the crank. But this creates a problem. While it creates genuine economic benefits to users of Microsoft software, it also increases the cost of independent programming, because the operating system changes all the time. Microsoft's proposed solution is to have an entrant in every significant field, so that independent programs are not needed.

Those of us who value freedom for its own value disagree with this solution. Some of us are working on Linux (http://www.linux.org), a review of which appeared in Wired Magazine, who compared it favorably to Windows NT (http://www.wired.com/wired/5.08/linux.html). Linux has the potential to bring even greater economic benefits to its users. It is Unix, which is a stable operating system with no vendor with an interest in changing it. Unix is designed to be easy to program for, so its software development costs are cheaper. Unix has some usability problems, yes, but Linux developers are working on this (http://www.kde.org and http://www.gnome.org).

Right now, people are worried that Microsoft will dominate the operating system market with NT, and that the competition will suffer. Since, in my view, the main competition is Linux, and Linux development occurs independent of sales, this worry is not well-placed. Better to worry about Microsoft, whose proprietary business model cannot compete with Linux's freed business model. As Netscape has learned, it's tough to compete with "free''. Microsoft is about to learn the same difficult lesson.

Any bets on the month and day in 1998 when Bill Gates is quoted as uttering the word Linux?


From: tesler@pobox.com> (Larry Tesler);
Sent at Sun, 25 Jan 1998 04:58:44 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

There are several reasons Netscape is turning responsibility for Java over to OS platform vendors. Anti-Java forces will spin it as you did, namely, "Java didn't become the ubiquitous web content format that people widely predicted it would." But that is reading more into the situation than is warranted. The decision has been inevitable since Sun licensed the Java VM to most OS vendors two years ago. It was only a question of timing.

Netscape's implementation of Java has always had incompatibilities with other implementations. Now that the OS platform VM's are maturing, customers, developers and OS vendors are better off using them than Netscape's VM.

There has been outside pressure on Netscape for over a year to adopt the native platform VM's. There has recently been inside pressure as well--maintaining their own VM was expensive. They stayed with it as long as they did because some of its features were interwoven with the browser and hard to factor out.

Another possible motive for choosing this point in time to remove the Java VM from their code is that they are making the sources of the browser available. There is probably Java source code that they have no right to distribute.

True, Java was grossly overhyped. Still, it has become as ubiqitous as any dynamic web format around other than HTML with the so-called "JavaScript". I encounter Java-powered web pages several times a day. ActiveX, which was almost as heavily hyped, hasn't gone anywhere on the web.


From: InterMark_Consulting_Group@compuserve.com (Erik Sherman);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:18:19 -0800;
Java Loses Netscape

Netscape made the judgment not that unpaid programmers would improve further their product development, but that programmers with hooks into the browser would customize a browser for their particular applications. The only problem with this rationale is reality. Companies have browsers for employees simply because it offered a portable, non-proprietary user interface to information and software. Needing this version and that version of a browser totally defeats the purpose.

And interestingly, Microsoft does well in the browser business independent of their interest in creating content (and to be fair, divisions of Microsoft are heavily into either creating or commissioning content) because they bother to find out from users what features might make a difference to them. They have always been smart that way. And giving the customer what he wants is a tried and true law of business.

From: alan@cooper.com (Alan Cooper);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:18:48 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

What you say about the inappropriateness of the VC model to combat Microsoft is right on target. MS is quite vulnerable, but the VCs either want to attack it head on or not even play the game.

From: tlundeen@lundeen.com (tim lundeen);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:17:31 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

You really need to distinguish between the Java VM (now readily available from multiple sources) and programs written in Java. Last I saw, Netscape was still committed to their Java-source browser.

Having Netscape use the Java VM from the host OS or other VM vendor is a step forward, not a step back. Why should Netscape put its resources into what should/will be a freely available tool?

The work Netscape did up front for Java was very important. But the Java VM torch can now be passed.

While, like you, I do like to get paid for any major effort -- there are significant numbers of developers who don't have this constraint (colleges and universities are the most obvious source, as well as people who enjoy it and do the work outside of their regular job). In my case, I certainly don't mind doing things in other people's source and submitting fixes when I run into problems -- we've submitted changes to Apache, for example. These ongoing low-cost bug fixes from the user base at large can really help stabilize a product, regardless of anything else.

I actually think the right long-term answer to this is to change the market -- we need a new way of doing things that can pay independent developers who make significant contributions, without requiring every developer to build a complete product and market it successfully. Our whole software market model needs to change.

From: mslade@ix.netcom.com (Michael Slade);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:16:21 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

There may be a bright side to this for Java. Perhaps Sun will add more emphasis to their Java Activator technology and become the main supplier of Java VM's regardless of browser. That might actually strenghten Java by reducing the number of Java flavors.

From: zellmer@virtualproperties.com (Jim Zellmer);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 15:15:48 -0800;

We recently purchased two DEC 14.1" P5 based laptops - to run NT app dev.

You're quite right on setup issues. I have yet to get the modem to work on one of them (IRQ issue)

You'd think, 17 years after the original PC that we'd be beyond all this.

Our latest PowerBook is easy to maintain and generally quite reliable - though the price performance ratio is not what it needs to be...

From: mcjones@pa.dec.com;
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 98 14:14:27 -0800;
Re:"Doug Englebart"

In this Saturday's Scripting News, you said:

In the 1970s, before ThinkTank, Ready, Framework, PC-Outline, MaxThink, Acta, MORE or Frontier, Doug Engelbart, the man who invented the mouse, worked on an outline-based workflow system called Augment, at a company called Tymshare.

Actually, Englebart began thinking about this area in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, at SRI (Stanford Research Institute), he began the Augmentation project. The work was complete enough to give a very impressive demo (including telecollaboration) at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco in 1968. Here are some references for more information:





The latter reference includes screen shots, etc., and is reproduced complete with the outline-style section numbering in which it was written in the Augment system.

From: delza@voyager2.cns.ohiou.edu> (Dethe Elza);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 12:07:03 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

Pulling an integrated Java out of Netscape is good news for both Java and Netscape. Here's why:

1) Netscape didn't do a very good job with Java anyway.

2) One of the best things about IE is that you can choose which VM to run your Java applets--that's what Netscape will have now.

3) By providing hooks to the VM of the user's choice Java can be upgraded independently of the browser. Following this logic, more pieces of the browser can be spun off: parser, display, scripting language. Why should any of that be built into a monolithic browser when it could all be components that work well together and can be used for other applications (another thing MS is doing).

4) If you have a bunch of parts with clear interfaces between them you can upgrade all the pieces independently--software can evolve rather than going through huge revisions where everything changes at once.

5) XML browsers will have to be built like what I'm describing if they're going to follow the spec for DOM, Scripting, etc.

6) There are a lot of other folks developing Java for the various platforms, so why be limited to Netscape's (poor) version?

7) Taking Java out of the browser, but leaving hooks for it in, may make those hooks available for other cross-platform languages, such as Perl. The main reason Java is nice is that it is cross-platform and ubiquitous. No, everyone doesn't have it, but more people have it than anything else. If everyone had Perl loaded on their computer we'd use that. Personally I like parts of Java, hate parts of it, and use it because it's there. I suspect it will still be there despite Netscape, despite MS, even despite Sun. But if not, something else will come along which provides equal or better functionality.

From: cshotton@biap.com (Chuck Shotton);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 13:34:23 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

I think that Netscape's announcement about Java is being misinterpreted. I understand it to mean that they are no longer in the unnecessary business of implementing Java VMs, not that they aren't supporting Java. In that regard, this is good news. Netscape's refusal to support native O/S implementations of Java in favor of their own has been one of the big flaws in the Java message, especially on the Mac where confusion over multiple VMs has prevented anything real from being done with Java on that platform.

Now that we don't have Netscape's idiosyncratic implementation of Java to worry about, there is one less bit of confusion and hassle that Java developers have to accomodate.

From: reede@willriley.com (Reede Stockton);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 11:45:46 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

Java hit the map in a big way for all the wrong reasons. It was seen by various analysts as the lingua franca of the web, as a replacement for Windows, as the long term programming language of choice for _everything_, etc. The economic driving force behind Java, however, has always been the same. The people who really need and want a single source code base are enterprise developers.

The enterprise market is what Sun has always wanted and it is _still_ where Java finds it's strongest support. Netscape's commitment to Java is completely irrelevant in terms of that market. And Sun has already made a Win/NT replacement for IE's Java -- obviously, the same thing works for Netscape.


From: guha@netscape.com (Ramanathan Guha);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 11:18:19 -0800;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

Don't look at it that way. Java is a fantastic language to program in. Now is the chance for Sun to set Java free and let it flourish. I hope they do the right thing.

From: jyl@tcl-tk.com (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 09:07:14 -0800;
Java over?

More thoughts: yesterday (wow, was it only yesterday? :) you asked whether your readers thought Microsoft would release their browser source. I was wrong when I said yes. Here is why.

To win, all they have to do is sit tight. They clamp down on their own platform, controlling what runs on it and what does not. In the meantime, Netscape opens the floodgates and lets Microsoft, Sun, IBM and others compete for which JVM runs the best in Navigator. So you have 40% of the market running Microsoft's VM (in IE) and 60% confused. What will happen? The 60% will move to the JVM that's compatible with IE -- Microsoft's. And it makes it even more difficult for some other platform to penetrate the WinTel fortress.

That means that Microsoft will not change anything in their strategy: they'll keep going at their current level of investment, making sure that Java runs the best it can on their own platform. The rest will happen without Microsoft lifting a finger. The epitaph on the grave will read "died of self inflicted wounds". A repeat of the Apple saga.

From: jyl@tcl-tk.com (Jacob Levy);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 08:45:17 -0800;
Java is over?

I think what this means -- if it is true -- is that Java *as a platform* is over, except in niche markets. Java as a programming tool is still very much alive. Microsoft isn't about to drop something that can make programmers more productive on their own platform.

From: mnorman@princeton.com (Michael Norman);
Sent at Sat, 24 Jan 1998 13:43:13 -0500;
Re:Java Loses Netscape

Just wanted to provide a counterpoint on how this relates to Java.

Myself and, I would imagine, many Java developers have wished that Netscape would ditch it's Java efforts and hook into the native Java environment.

The primary reason most Mac-Java people I know use IE is because they get the choice to use the operating system's VM. (Of course, it's also a nice browser, as I'm sure you're aware.)

On Windows, Netscape can just distribute Sun's JRE (like Marimba does) and a lot of people would be very happy.

It seems like Netscape has put a lot of effort into putting things like LiveConnect, etc. into their java implementation. They're now going to make these things accessible as native libraries available to whatever local Java VM they're running on.

(Netscape's security model might be harder, but JDK 1.2 has a lot of security manager hooks that would make it easier.)

As soon as I heard the source code announcement, I wondered how hard it would be to replace Netscape's VM with other VMs. Now they're doing it for us.

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