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.

#33 Re: Why Mozilla is so hated, and loved.

by Blake <>

Tuesday November 7th, 2000 7:10 PM

You are replying to this message

Man, I missed this silly comment when I posted!

*** "Normally when someone grabs an open source piece of software with a bug, they shoot off an e-mail to the developers."

Hey, now there's a scalable idea! And when Mozilla gets x00,000 people findings bugs, they can all just send an email to the developers. Then they and the developer can email back and forth, exchanging details about the problem. This would also make it easier to find and prioritize bugs, not to mention cutting down on duplicate bugs (potential bug reporters could just log in to the developer's email and look for an email about the bug they want to report). Now why didn't we think of that?

*** "This is simple, easy, and doesn't take a heck of a lot of time for the bug-finder"

It takes me about a minute or less to report a bug. In the 5 months that I've worked part-time on the project, I've reported 509 well-detailed bugs. What's the problem here?

*** "where you have to wade through endless forms to submit a bug"

There is an exact total of 1 form to "wade through" to report a bug.

*** "and nobody *knows* how this bug system works anyway"

I know how it works. 300 Netscape employees understand it. A couple thousand Mozilla contributors get it. Are these people all smarter than you or something?

*** "It may be organized, but it's a hurdle for an outsider."

Hm? Where's the proof? We get about one or two new people in #mozillazine ( a day. It generally takes about 5 minutes before they understand how the system works, and then they're reporting bugs.

*** "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."

What? Only resolved bugs need to be verified. In any event, this statement doesn't make any sense. Tip #1: know everything about what you're complaining about before you rant.

*** "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."

Like I said, it takes me very little time to report a bug. I'm glad you seem to to thinking reporting a bug is so difficult, because we certainly don't want lazy complainers like you on this project anyways. Believe it or not, developers don't want to be inundated with 200 badly written bug reports a day via email. And this leaves any form of QA out in the cold. This is, without a doubt, the silliest bug reporting system I've ever heard. Which project did you used to work on which utilized a system like this? I'm not surprised that it yielded lazy contributors like yourself who spend their time bitching instead of learning.

*** "Secondly, the source is simply impenetrable."

As impenetrable as it is, I've fixed 131 bugs in 2-3 months. Imagine that! I started this project with a little bit of knowledge of Visual Basic. A few months later, I have fluency in such languages as C++, JavaScript, XBL, XML, XUL, CSS, DOM, and even propietary Mozilla technologies like XPConnect. I also have an engineering job offer from Netscape. Damn that inpenetrable source that only a couple hundred people have figured out!

***"If a person who found a bug were to try to fix it, they have to wade through a monsterous amount of code"

er...or you could have a general (or very specific) idea of where the problem lies, head right towards it, and fix it. But gee, we do sincerely apologize for the monsterous amount of code in the project. We never expected that 7 simultaneously developing open source projects, including full applications (like a browser, a mailnews client, an HTML editor, and a chat client), would generate so much code. Sorry if it's not the tic-tac-toe game you're coming from.

*** "This is seriously hampered by the fact that there is no well defined way of navigating the code. THERE ISN'T EVEN A README!"

YOU'RE RIGHT!!! There's only like 50 of them! Bob, meet <> and #mozilla on

*** "How do they figure out which directory could even be relevant?"

Well, let's see. "netwerk" is the networking code. "xpfe" is the XP front end. "mailnews" is the mailnews code. It's all quite logical once you're literate.

*** "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"

There is, had you taken the time to look.

*** "Mozilla wins the award for the most failed project"

And you win the award for the laziest and most braindead person I've ever met, not to mention having the worst ideas for a bug tracking "system" that I've ever heard.

*** "I have even submitted a few bugs."

Even that? Wow! Where do we send the fruit baskets???

*** "Now, perhaps I'm a flaming fucking moron"

`Perhaps' usually suggests uncertainty, so it probably doesn't belong in this case. Might as well remove it.

*** "YOU need to make it easier for me, if you want my help"

Dude, my cat is submitting bugs. How much easier can it get? Take some time to figure it out. Oh, and of COURSE we want your help. How would we live without it!?

*** "So quit bitching"

You're telling US to quit bitching!?

*** "We open-source developers only have a few hours a week of spare time to dump into mozilla."

Yeah, damn. I only find time to report about a hundred bugs a month, not to mention triaging and testing another 500 of them, and fixing about 30 each month.