"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 12 February 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Devil You Know


[Netscape to Microsoft]

If Netscape is the next

Microsoft, what does that make

Microsoft? If Microsoft's recent

announcement about canceling

Blackbird is any indication, we

suspect that, when it comes to

the net, Microsoft may very well

be the next Apple.



When Microsoft unveiled Blackbird

to the world last July at their

Interactive Multimedia

Conference, the boys from

Redmond did little to hide their

disdain for the primitive media

capabilities and patchwork

standards of the Web. After all,

by their reckoning, any fool

could see that Netscape and the

rest of the Web community had

taken an evolutionary step in

the wrong direction. How could a

group of overpaid college

students, for the most part

ignorant to the last ten years

of interactive multimedia, have

the audacity to set the standard

for something so important?

Clearly something had gone

horribly awry, and it was the

duty of Bill and his minions to

set things straight.



Microsoft's answer was Blackbird,

introduced as the tool for

publishing on MSN and later the

cornerstone of its Internet

Studio. A cross between Quark

XPress and Visual Basic,

Blackbird promised complete

design freedom and total

interactivity. No more wasting

time with retrograde markup

languages and discredited

operating systems. And best of

all, it was cross platform,

running equally well on Windows

95, 3.1, and NT!


[Alan Kay]

Alan Kay, the father of the

personal computer, has been

attributed as saying that HTML

is the DOS of the 90s. If we

extend that logic, Java would be

Windows 3.1. Blackbird -

proprietary, aimed at creative

professionals, and expensive -

is vintage Jobs-era Macintosh

all over again. In the

hyper-accelerated pace of the Web

industry, Blackbird's fall from

grace looks like a double-time

caricature of Apple's 10-year

slow burn.




For the last year, every would-be

pundit has delighted in

repeating the mantra "Microsoft

just doesn't get it." The

problem is that Microsoft

grokked the Web all too well.

Having played with SGML, ITV,

and network technologies for

years, Bill Gates, Nathan

Myhrvold, and the rest of

Microsoft's big thinkers already

saw where this thing was going,

and didn't like it at all.

Unfortunately for them, though,

Microsoft's "father knows best"

attitude played into the hands

of Netscape, who used the

specter of Microsoft "stealing

the Web" as an excuse to impose

martial law and set themselves

up in a monopolist's catbird

seat. It seems that none of the

bright boys in the technology

press caught the implicit

doublethink of "Microsoft

doesn't get the Web" and

"Microsoft is going to take over

the Web."


[Safe for Democracy]

Now that Microsoft's thrown in

the towel with Blackbird and is

instead focusing on harmlessly

generic Web servers and

browsers, the net is once again

safe for democracy - or is it?

Rumor on the street is that

Netscape has been in merger

discussions with America Online.

We can envision an unholy

alliance between the two

companies resulting in an AOL

plug-in for Netscape Navigator

(no doubt replacing the

mysterious "default" plug-in),

which means that URLs like

aol://suck might soon become a




And, not to be left out of the

fun, Sun has recently announced

a line of Java processors that

will run your Java applets

blazingly fast, as long as you

buy your hardware from Sun.

Sound familiar? Having routed

Microsoft, the Netscape/Sun

alliance has set its sights on




While we're hardly fans of Bill

Gates and co., all of this leads

us to wonder what exactly we were

afraid of Microsoft doing to the

Web in the first place.

courtesy of Strep Throat