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.

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

by mcelrath

Tuesday November 7th, 2000 10:56 PM

You are replying to this message

Let me delineate the timeline again, if it wasn\'t clear enough the first time.

1) Outsider bitches that Mozilla isn\'t standards compliant/doesn\'t implement feature X/is losing the browser war/is taking too long. 2) Mozilla developer bitches that if all these people who were bitching (#1, above), they would be more standards compliant/have feature X/win the browser war/take less time.

This has happened many, many times when criticism #1 came from someone \"important\". (And thousands if you count slashdot) My post describes why people don\'t contribute in the numbers that Mozilla expects. I don\'t claim bugzilla isn\'t necessary, nor do I claim Mozilla could be managed with a single listserv. I claim mozilla\'s documentation sucks in a way that hurts open-source developers. I claim it\'s too difficult to localize a bug and try to fix it once you find a bug. I claim not everyone knows all the mozilla TLA\'s (like XPFE -- so what\'s XP then).

There is a learning curve, and it\'s a big one compared to ANY other open source project. Mozilla doesn\'t provide enough resources to help people get over that curve. There are a plethora of resources on But coders don\'t like reading documentation. Open source coders \"scratch an itch\". They find a bug and will try to fix it, and if they can\'t do it in a few hours, they will give up. Said coder then dives into the codebase. There is virtually no documentation in the codebase. A README in each directory with a description of the TLA and list of relevant URL\'s would go a long way.

I\'ve been saying this for a long time, but no one wants to hear it. They just go through the cycle of complaint again.

Lastly, I will avoid personal attacks, but instead direct you to \"The Evolution of a Linux User\" at <> for your amusement. I suggest a similar evolution exists for Mozilla. Pay special attention to the second paragraph of Stage 7.