Astounding Comments From the WSP
Thursday July 20th, 2000
The WSP (Web Standards Project) now states that it is interested in released products more than compliance, and has released one of the most astounding pieces of work I have seen come out of their office.
The WaSP, a pseudonym which speaks for the whole WSP (or at least its leaders) has written a piece taking Netscape to task for failing to produce a browser in the allotted time limit. Click "Full Article..." below to read my response. For the record, I am not an employee of Netscape.
#50 They're right. Mostly.
Friday July 21st, 2000 5:09 PM
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OK, some of the things that the WSP says are silly. Taking Netscape 4.x off the market isn't a possibility, for several obvious reasons.
But many of their points make sense -- much more sense than the response here, at least. Can you honestly believe that IE's dominance over Netscape is a result of monopoly control exterminating an inferior product? Netscape 4 sucks, pure and simple. Its rendering engine is hopelessly buggy; its support for basic standards is awful; it uses proprietary and equally awful things (like LAYER) wherever possible. It's slow, the interface is clunky, and it crashes often. I use IE exclusively, and standards are in fact a main reason for my doing so.
Two years IS forever in computer terms. There's no argument there. And Microsoft has certainly not "coasted" after releasing version 4. (Are you saying, seriously, that the difference between IE 5.5 and 4.0 is the same as that between Netscape 4.72 and Netscape 4.0? The timeframe between the two is about the same.) IE 5.5's standards support is much better than 4's. Much. Sure, it isn't great, but if we're comparing it to Netscape, it's wonderful.
The area where you're not understanding the WSP is summed up here: "The WSP underestimated what it would take to produce a browser that could run on any of the major platforms, with a limited number of developers." It's the "limited numner of developers" that's the issue. The WSP is taking issue with the fact that AOL just ain't trying hard enough to get Mozilla out. AOL is not a struggling, cash-strapped startup. If getting a good browser out quickly was a priority, there would not be a limited number of developers.
Some other points: - Microsoft did not turn the browser into a revenue-less commodity. Yes, Netscape used to be shareware, but the evaluation versions were evaluation versions in name only: 99% of Netscape users never paid for it. Many didn't even know that they were supposed to. - A browser integrated into the shell is a useful feature. Yes, if Microsoft was motivated by kindness and altruism, they'd have designed it so that the rendering engine was a replaceable component. Hopefully the antitrust suit will force this to happen. But for evidence that integrated browsers are not monopolistic and useless but useful and essential, just look at the primary Linux desktops, built without a thought to monopoly: KDE and Gnome (2.0, admittedly).
The WSP is supporting standards-compliance. They've been supporting it for ages. They're angry at the fact that, after all these ages, Netscape has still not produced a usable, standards-compliant browser. (During the same time, Microsoft HAS done this with IE5/Mac, and Opera has come quite close.) Sure, the anger is a little extreme, but it's very much justified.