|November 25th, 1998
To Hell With Microsoft, Netscape, AND AOL Too!
The browser wars aren't about good technology. They're about the public's fascination with a David and Goliath story. Users can identify with that type of story. Honestly, if you want to know the truth, I think both Netscape Navigator/Communicator and Internet Explorer are junk pieces of software, bloated with lard, the technological analogue of a P.T. Barnum fat lady.
What's my proof? Let's start with the back and forward buttons on either browser. Even on a Z-80 it should be possible to get instantaneous back/forward buttons, not these interminable seconds that add up, and up and up whenever I am forced to use either of these two "modern" programs on processors with 500 times the power of a Z-80.
How about the load times for these two behemoths? Do I need to while away my day waiting for software to load? Is that what today's technology is about, waiting? How about the enormous amount of RAM these monster apps consume? Is any of this necessary for the relatively simple tasks a browser has to accomplish? The other day I came across the installer disks for Photoshop 2.0. It was on three floppy disks. Viewing a little text and a few graphics, and letting a Java applet run is not some gargantuan programming task. It should all be possible in 500K of well-written code, tops. Not 20MB of elephantiasis.
And what about the bugs? The endless crashes? Navigator and Explorer both cause more crashes on my system than every other source combined! Yet this stuff is hardly immature software -- there's no excuse for its deadly inefficiency and instability. There's been enough time to iron out the kinks and slim down the code. Trouble is, nobody's doing it. Why is that?
This software is pathetic. Mark Andreeson may have been some sort of Wunderkind during his college days, but if Navigator is any indication today, his salad days are over! No wonder Microsoft, a junk software house par excellence, decided to base IE on Andreeson's code! It fits perfectly within their vision of World Domination Through Bloatware. Sheesh!
I don't like the idea that the Internet is influenced by any of these goofballs. Hasn't somebody got a decent browser out there?
As for the groundswell of underdog support for Netscape, it's not about good technology, it comes back to that soap opera. Throughout all the debates about Navigator/Explorer and Netscape vs. Microsoft, I just don't see great software being written. Why the hell should I care if a dopey programmer with great marketing skills gets rich or gets poor? I think it's time for the public to forget about Microsoft, forget about Netscape, forget about everything but having some software that whizzes. NO WAITING ! ! ! I was not born to wait on a computer ! When I press a button I want something to happen right away. I don't want a perceptible wait. Let me see that, and I'll be impressed.
But no, we're all interested in these David and Goliath wars, because we want drama, not great software. That's the whole problem with the Computer Industry today: when software was all on the mainframe, user response was instantaneous, because that's what those users demanded from programmers. What computer users seem to demand from programmers today is soap opera. Hey! I'm a pro. I want some pro software. Fast, smart, bug-free.
And as for AOL and Sun . . . .
Is AOL a suitable owner of Netscape? Well, just what is AOL, anyway, but the first connectivity service provider with a system that appealed to the non-technical? After that one great breakthrough, what do you get? Besides a busy signal I mean? The most significant thing about this deal is that it's a stock swap: garbage in, garbage out. As far as I'm concerned, the stock of both companies is valueless because both companies have a market cap that astronomically exceeds their value. That's why neither is offering any cash to the other: they don't have any. Neither of these companies is selling anything but hype and hope.
On one hand, it's disturbing to think of Netscape being involved with a company like AOL. But there is hope: this gives a really good team of programmers (Mr. Torvald, are you listening?) to come up with the browser we all really need. And while you're at it, Mr. Torvald, how about designing the OS we all need? Whoops! I forgot. You already did that. Sorry! And as for Sun--if this company really understands rational hardware and rational software as much as it says it does . . . where's the decent browser I'm looking for?
Send us your comments!!
Bill is an industry consultant who has worked in the computer industry for 12 years. He has written for many publications including MacWeek and PC Magazine. We are very pleased to welcome Bill to the editorial staff of Webintosh.