Netscape Cannot Win

Monday November 6th, 2000

I have recently become convinced that Netscape is fighting a losing battle against third-party micro-managing in their attempt to produce a browser for market.

The first conflict was with the raving loonies of the WSP. The WSP whines and bitches about standards compliance. They create a petition to convince Netscape to switch to development of their "Gecko" rendering engine technology, which promises greater standards compliance. They take credit for the Mozilla project moving to this new technology.

Then, they decide that the WSP is much more concerned about dictating project deadlines than standards compliance, and demand that Netscape release a product before the end of the year 2000, and stop any more work on Netscape 4.x -- including security fixes, apparently. (And read below to see what their fearless leader had to say today).

Now, a guy named Dave Flanagan has determined that Netscape 6 is too non-compliant to be released, although any reasonable, objective assessment of the application would prove that it is much more compliant than any browser currently on the market (yet you don't hear Mr. Flanagan petitioning against the release of iCab or IE6 or Konqueror).

And guess what? Mr. Flanagan has a petition you can sign, telling Netscape to hold off release of Netscape 6! But you can also use his petition to log your dissent.

[Mr. O'Reilly, I'm saddened that you signed an assent to Mr. Flanagan's petition without making an assessment of Netscape 6's standards compliance.

And Mr. Zeldman, I was dismayed, but not surprised, to read your statement in which you backtrack on the WSP's call for product release by the end of the year, when you obviously have not done an honest assessment of Netscape's standards compliance. "Releasing a close-to-perfect standards-compliant browser would be fine. (No software is perfect.) But releasing a browser with seriously buggy, incomplete standards support will not serve Netscape, will not serve developers, and will not serve the cause of web standards."]

I have made it known to a few people that I will no longer be fielding Netscape news on my site. You may see news of product releases, but you will no longer see links to reviews, complaints, rants, or any other information having to do with the Netscape product.

This site is called MozillaZine for a reason. I started it to support the Mozilla Open Source project. Along the way, I tried to be a voice of support for Netscape as it navigated the murky waters of being a commercial contributor to an open project. But what I am confronted with is the fact that if I were to continue posting Netscape news I would be forced to continue posting links to this garbage, giving it more credibility than it deserves. Look what happened when news of Mr. Flanagan's petition hit Slashdot. The petition now overflows with rants against Netscape, and I bet not one of these ravers has done even a modest assessment of Netscape 6's standards compliance. Is that the kind of support you wanted Mr. Flanagan? If you can get lots of people to raise their voices, does the din drown out their ignorance?

In any case, this crap will no longer will find a home in MozillaZine. So, take a good long look. Gaze into Mr. Flanagan's eyes. Because he's the last guy with an axe to grind against Netscape that you will see in these pages. The last armchair-marketer to get a say on this site. You'll have to go elsewhere to get your fix. (However, I allow myself an exception to clobber the hell out of the WSP if they continue to act like pussies.)

Netscape is in the unenviable position of choosing between bug-fixes and product release - the Scylla and Charybdis of software development. They've set their course. Maybe they will stop and reassess. That's up to the Netscape managers and the PDT team. But the waters grow increasingly insipid, and they might just end up deciding that it's not worth the trouble and pack it all up and call it a day. Maybe they can put in the past this peanut-gallery micro-management Hell that they've fallen into.

I'll leave you with a very thoughtful post to the n.p.m.layout newsgroup by Dylan Schiemann.

#20 Why Mozilla is so hated, and loved.

by mcelrath

Tuesday November 7th, 2000 10:22 AM

You are replying to this message

I\'ve seen this happen many, many times now. Someone starts bitching that Mozilla isn\'t standards compliant, it doesn\'t do X, Y, or Z (and IE does), and it\'s just simply taken TOO long. This is followed by bitching by the mozilla developers (re: Dylan\'s message) about WHY people are bitching rather than contributing to this open-source project.

Here\'s why. Mozilla may be open source, but they\'ve chosen a development mechanism that is simply a monster. Normally when someone grabs an open source piece of software with a bug, they shoot off an e-mail to the developers. (or join the devel listserv). This is simple, easy, and doesn\'t take a heck of a lot of time for the bug-finder. Compare this to Mozilla, where you have to wade through endless forms to submit a bug, and nobody *knows* how this bug system works anyway. It may be organized, but it\'s a hurdle for an outsider. After you submit a bug, it\'s weeks or months before someone \'verifies\' it, during which time you\'ve completely forgotten what the bug was all about. Timely response is key. And your model involves a heck of a lot more of a time commitment from the bug-finder than just shooting off an e-mail to the developers. Thus you just reduce your potential bug contributors by a good amount.

Secondly, the source is simply impenetrable. If a person who found a bug were to try to fix it, they have to wade through a monsterous amount of code. This is seriously hampered by the fact that there is no well defined way of navigating the code. THERE ISN\'T EVEN A README! How does an outsider find out which package/directory to look in to fix said bug? How do they figure out which directory could even be relevant? I know there are many web pages documenting and discussing these things, but there doesn\'t appear to be a clear, consistent set of pointers for people to FIND these resources. Open source projects are based around text files in the source, not some set of web pages somewhere else they have to go find.

You guys have chosen to make life very difficult for any potential contributor. Mozilla wins the award for the most failed project. That is, I have ATTEMPTED to compile it (and failed) more than any other project, ever. I have ATTEMPTED to figure out how to contribute, and after several months of a few-hours-here, a few-hours-there, I have even submitted a few bugs. I have also ATTEMPTED to fix a few bugs by diving into the hideous source tree, only to be beaten back by lack of information and an absurd number of files.

Now, perhaps I\'m a flaming fucking moron. But perhaps I\'m representative of the people who WANT to, and TRY to contribute to mozilla. YOU need to make it easier for me, if you want my help. So quit bitching and lower the learning curve dammit. We open-source developers only have a few hours a week of spare time to dump into mozilla.