"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 September 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

NetSoft vs. MicroScape

[Douglas Coupland]

Douglas Coupland once advised us

to write and seal a description

of our worst enemy's most

distinctive attributes,

not-so-subtly cautioning that

the villain we'd describe might

ultimately turn out to be

ourselves. We decided to follow

his suggestion, skewed to become

a sort of blueprint - thus,



[Netscape PR]

Apparently, Jim Clark was

similarly counseled. Assuming

his instantaneous reaction was

to jot down a thumbnail history

of Microsoft's robber baron

exploits, we're forced to

conclude that he kept his

scribblings and, in fact,

immediately set out to evolve

them into the Netscape Business


[Netscape Corporate Overview]

Amidst the excitement of the

impending release of Netscape

2.0, it's easy to be distracted

from the real interactive

entertainment: watching Netscape

attempt to relive the worst

moments of the last ten years of

the software industry in the

space of eight months.


[Netscape Frames]

The key to understanding

Netscape, it seems, is to read

through their PR sophistry about

"application platforms" and

label their product as what it

really wants to be: an Operating

System. Y'know, like Windows 95,

except cross-platform. It's only

fitting that Netscape would

strive to emulate the most

conspicuously shady tactics of

the Microsoft juggernaut (and we

don't mean the uncanny

similarity between 2.0's frames

and Windows 1.0's tiles).


When Netscape touts its "plug-in

architecture" don't be fooled

into thinking of Photoshop -

they're not talking about Kai's

Power Tools. Netscape's development

partners include some of the

most auspicious in the software

industry - Adobe, Macromedia,

Apple, Kaleida, and more. Expect

to be running apps from these

outfits very soon, if you aren't

already. Netscape Navigator? No,

Netscape OS.


While the strategic alliances

with the SW big boys are real

enough, it should be pointed out

that Netscape's recent

announcement of more than 2,000

developers joining its

Development Partners Program can

be dismissed as amusingly

meaningless. Every joker with a

browser applied for this

program, hoping, perhaps, to

snag an alpha of 2.0. And keep

in mind that nobody even knows

whether or not they're part of

this elusive Partner's Program -

as Netscape hasn't actually

officially approved anyone yet.



The astute software developer may

feel compelled to interject

protests here along the lines

of, "Wait a minute, piss-poor

treatment of developers was a

late 80's Apple trademark...

what's this got to do

with Microsoft?" While we

wouldn't hesitate to agree that

Netscape should seriously

consider tossing some of their

stock at ex-Apple evangelist Guy

Kawasaki (even if Guy has come

back to Apple as an "Apple

Fellow", Guy is no stranger to

potential conflicts of

interest), Netscape's powerploys

go well beyond shoddy developer



Netscape's adoption of the

preemptive announcement credo

(developing its NewsServer and

Publishing System products in

a backroom labeled "vaporware")

is quite the indicator, but their

unflinching embrace of

Microsoft's date-rape approach

to strategic alliances really

puts the show in perspective. As

surely as Gates supervised the

systematic sodomization of

Apple (remember "look and

feel?") and IBM (never mind the

OS/2, here's the NT), Netscape's

partnership with the Java team

is growing more sour with every




Netscape announced that 2.0 would

include a scripting language

called JavaScript, based on

Java, which will be used to

control other plug-ins, such as

Macromedia's Director Shockwave

player. What is JavaScript?

Enquiring minds want to know,

including, perhaps, some people

at Sun, the four-year incubator

of Java technology:


From the java-interest-list:

>>"Netscape Navigator 2.0 supports
>>the Netscape scripting language,
>>a cross-platform language based 
>>on Java"                        
>Oh well, we were not involved in 
>the design of this language. It  
>has no relation to Java applets, 
>it doesn't interface to Java, nor
>is it implemented in Java.       
>Have fun,                        
>Arthur van Hoff                  

Arthur van Hoff, of course, being

one of the principal engineers

on the Java project.



[(Sun's) Duke!]

In other words, look for the

relationship between Java and

JavaScript to be closely

analogous to that of HTML to

Netscape HTML, where Netscape is

successfully converting an open

standards process (or, in the

case of Java, another company's

trademark and an open language

specification) to a proprietary

one owned by itself. And those

annoying and restrictive

features of the Java language,

such as security and distributed

objects? Bye-bye.

[Ha Ha Java]

It's a shame that Adobe has had

since '82 to refine its licensing

agreements for use of the

PostScript language - it would

be great to see Netscape try to

apply a similar set of screws to

Adobe. Then again, Adobe had the

foresight to buy out the most

promising HTML editor to date,

Ceneca's PageMill, to try to

shoe-horn PDF into it.


But even if you subtract Netscape

partners too big or too

insignificant to clown with,

you're still left with a bevy of

would-be victims. Does Netscape

have the wherewithall to bang

'em all? Maybe, when you cast

your gaze upon their newest

management recruits: a virtual

shadow government consisting of

seasoned veterans of failed

start-ups and has-beens (NeXT, GO,

and Borland - all sharing the

distinction of having been

royally hosed by Microsoft. But

then again, who hasn't been?)

led by heavy-duty hardass Jim

Barksdale, former FedEx VP and

AT&T Wireless CEO.


[Browser Stockquotes]

Could Netscape's stock price be


courtesy of the Duke of URL and Strep Throat