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Lessons from the Browser Wars 212

Posted by Zonk
from the dodge-the-incoming-bugs dept.
An anonymous reader writes to mention a piece on the Harvard Business School site talking about Lessons from the Browser Wars; specifically, what can be learned about first-mover advantages and the upsurge in Firefox use? From the article: "As a tool for exploring how standards are set when new technologies hit the market, the browser wars exhibit many features we like to study: competition between two viable alternatives, rapidly improving technologies, the ability of firms to use strategic levers such as market power and channels of distribution, growth in demand leading to diffusion of the new technology through the population, and uncertainty. Thus, this is one example from which we can generalize lessons regarding the outcome of diffusion of innovation into a market."
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Lessons from the Browser Wars

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  • by T-Bone_142 (917711) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:31AM (#15137229)
    "rapidly improving technologies".... IE hasnt had a real update in years... only now its IE 7 in the beta stage.
    • I didn't realise that when he said that he meant that every browser was rapidly improving.
    • The "browser wars" are generally considered to be about 99-2002, or Netscape 2 - 4 and IE 3 - 6. After that, nothing much happened because Microsoft stopped development and Mozilla (Netscape) decided to do a complete rewrite. There were a few releases, like the original Mozilla Suite (aka Seamonkey), Netscape 6 & 7, Opera, Safari etc. but none of the managed to dent IE's market share. Basically very few people cared about browsers until firefox came along, which has also increased interest in other mino
  • Just be better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Crouty (912387)
    Screw Harvard.

    Be better than the competition and make sure people learn that.

    Simple as that.

    • Re:Just be better (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TeacherOfHeroes (892498) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:52AM (#15137282)
      Be better than the competition and make sure people learn that. Simple as that.

      Ohh...so thats why microsoft is so popular.

      Okay, maybe this is actually too simplistic a view. I don't think that its unfair to say that both sides will claim to be better than the other. Microsoft claims to be better all the time, and advertises heavily to that effect. How does the average consumer tell the difference?

      More importantly, in this case, the playing field isn't exactly level. Microsoft is able to include IE with windows, so Firefox (or any other browser) not only has to be better than IE, it has to be so much better that its worth the effort of switching and learning the new interface.
      • "Okay, maybe this is actually too simplistic a view."

        That's correct.

        "I don't think that its unfair to say that both sides will claim to be better than the other. Microsoft claims to be better all the time, and advertises heavily to that effect. How does the average consumer tell the difference?"

        You're a consumer who just bought a PC, and it has Windows on it. Either you made a mistake, or Microsoft is right. Which will you say out of the gate? Why, you will say that Microsoft is right, and believe its ad
    • Re:Just be better (Score:2, Informative)

      by ghee22 (781277)
      Judging from your young ID #, I'm suprised that you do not remember JVC's VHS vs Sony's Betamax.

      Betamax, although had a maximum of 60 min. when first released, had superior quality video compared to JVC's (3 hours length) VHS.

      Sony updated Betamax's technology to have comparable length times as VHS while maintaining greater video qualtity but VHS had already become established, causing the market demand for Betamax to decease.

      What's the lesson?

      "Be better than the competition" --> Sony was
      "and make sure pe
    • Re:Just be better (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cpopin (671433)
      This is a naive point of view. Harvard Business School trains the next great CEOs of American business. The lessons of Enron have taught us that executives can have a devastating impact on the lives of everyone inside and outside a large corporation, from white to blue collar, the educated to the techno-challenged; across markets as well. Watch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room [enronmovie.com] and then decide for yourself who gets screwed when Harvard is disregarded.
    • Re:Just be better (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ooze (307871)
      Wrong. People are lazy. People are stupid. Microsoft decided for them what they use, by distributing IE with windows. Peope didn't have to think or to do anything. Microsoft used it's power to spare the people some thinking and some work in the short run. This strategy always works when you need to deal with lot's of people.
  • Lesson for what? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ian_mackereth (889101) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:40AM (#15137248) Journal
    It's hard to imagine a similar situation in another industry.

    Windows comes with IE pre-installed, so another browser has to be sought out, downloaded and installed to supplant it. Where else does this sort of edge apply?

    It would be like buying a TV from a vendor with a huge market share which only has their affiliated station(s) pre-programmed into it, with a fairly complicated method of re-tuning being required to pick up other channels.

    So, it's hard to see what valid lessons can be learned from such an unusual situation.

    • Re:Lesson for what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:54AM (#15137284) Journal
      Where else does this sort of edge apply?

      Until recent times,

      • Boeing and the commercial aircrafts.
      • any american automotive manufactuer.
      Currently:

      Pretty much all large general gov. contracts are awarded to Haliburton or Cm3Hill.

      Shortly, Boeing and LMart will merge their rocket divisions which manufactuer the EELVs. They are trying hard to prevent the gov from offering contracts to any other rocket company out there.

      Nearly all power companies and comm companies have similar adv. (and are increasingly making HEAVY use of such monopolies; after all it has been shown that you can get by with it)

      I would go on, but Why? There are plenty of examples.

      • You are correct, the browser wars are business as usual as far as corporation behaviour is concerned.

        At the same time they are unique as far as quantity of data available on them. They are the first big antitrust case after email became normal means of communication. As such they are the only antitrust case where the students can study how to do the business as usual while not getting caught redhanded.

        Personally I disagree with Harvard's intent to industrialise the production of sociopaths who learn how

    • Example from another industry? The Dish DVR v.s. Tivo is a good comparison.
    • From the article

      or was Microsoft just more successful at the distribution end by convincing most PC companies, some argue by anticompetitive tactics, to include IE on every PC shipped in the late 1990s? Researchers line up on both sides of the argument.

      CLEARLY if there are researchers on both sides of the argument then it isn't as cut and dried as you try to make it out. And why didn't Netscape go from PC company to PC company and work out individual arrangements to get Navigator Pre-installed on those ven
      • Re:Lesson for what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Brian Kendig (1959) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @10:19AM (#15137887) Homepage
        And why didn't Netscape go from PC company to PC company and work out individual arrangements to get Navigator Pre-installed on those vendor's PCs. Clearly Microsoft put in the larger amount of effort here, and deserves to be applauded for their shrewd negotiating.

        "Shrewd negotiating," heh.

        Netscape DID go to PC vendors and worked out some great mutually-beneficial deals with them.

        And then Microsoft told these PC vendors, "You're not allowed to ship Netscape on your PCs, or else we'll raise the price you pay for Windows." In some cases, they even threatened to prohibit a PC vendor to ship its computers with Windows at all if there were deals in place with Netscape. This is all documented in the antitrust case's Findings of Fact.

        Faced with this decision, there was no decision - it was unthinkable to ship a PC without Windows, and vendors had to keep their prices down to remain competitive. So they had no choice but to obey Microsoft and refuse Netscape.

        The only lesson from the Browser Wars is this: you CAN NOT COMPETE against a juggernaut. Netscape had a terrific idea and went to market with it - such is the American Dream. Microsoft wanted in, and met with Netscape to say: "If you let us have the browser business on Windows, we won't bother you with the browser business on Mac and Linux." Netscape refused. So therefore Microsoft gave its browser away for free, and poured its Windows operating system revenues into the development and marketing of IE. (And they did the same to Netscape's other products, too - remember the free IIS web server, Microsoft Proxy Server, etc. etc.)

        If you're a small company trying to make money, and a gargantuan company steals your idea and gives it away for free, there is simply no way to compete. Period. Yes, IE became better than Netscape was - how could it not, with all the money Microsoft was pouring into it while stealing away Netscape's customers and revenues? If Netscape can't make money, it can't improve its products at the same pace as Microsoft.

        One of the Microsoft higher-ups in the antitrust suit admitted that the company's stated goal was to "cut off Netscape's air supply," and that's exactly what happened.

        • Pop quiz: how much was Netscape charging for their browser when Microsoft tried to "cut off their air supply?"

          Answer: zero if you downloaded it. They decided to focus on revenue from their line of products for servers. Like many, many other .com companies, they found later that their business plan of "Give away our competitive advantage for free" was not really a great strategy. Ahh well, them's the breaks. Turns out there is really no market for a browser, just like there is no market for a calculato

          • Yes, Netscape allowed free downloads of its web browser; but there was still lots of money to be made from it.

            How? By cobranding it and licensing it to PC vendors to ship on their hardware. By negotiating deals with companies to have their web sites be included in the default set of bookmarks. By selling the software on CD, along with a manual, for people who preferred those sorts of things. By marketing the Netscape browser bundled with a TCP/IP stack and a dialer that would easily sign a user up with any
    • Re:Lesson for what? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JulesLt (909417)
      After-market car accesories (i.e. stereos - originally cars didn't come with them, then manufacturers shipped with them, but their is still a lively niche market in changing them). There are also plenty of lessons you can learn - MS came from behind and 'won' by being able to leverage their existing customer base. (You could learn the same lesson looking at Windows and MacOS, or increasingly SQL Server and Oracle). For business people that means depressing lessons like, don't bet that 'being first' is goi
    • Imagine if, let's say, Windows came with Office (something that MS would love to do). People would not try altenatives. Bundling a major piece of software like a web browser with the O/S is an act of monopoly. They should have bundled the web dlls only, but not the application itself.
  • Semiliterate, buzzword-laden, and alternating restatements of the obvious with outright falsehoods. Yep.
    • Statements of the obvious, I agree: it's obvious that Microsoft bundling of IE with Windows killed Netscape once MS got IE 'good enough'.

      About the falsehoods, could you be more specific?
      • The paper is flawed from the beginning by a specific omission:

        Did Microsoft win because its Internet Explorer was the technologically superior product to Netscape Navigator, or was Microsoft just more successful at the distribution end by convincing most PC companies, some argue by anticompetitive tactics, to include IE on every PC shipped in the late 1990s? Researchers line up on both sides of the argument.

        The above debate is poorly framed because the anticompetitive tactics are wrong. The tactic was

    • Pretty much the same crap that always get's modded up here.
  • by ndogg (158021) <the.rhorn@ g m a i l.com> on Sunday April 16, 2006 @03:48AM (#15137270) Homepage Journal
    Navigator v3 and 4 were not that great compared to IE v3 and 4.

    Also, after around v4.5, Netscape didn't release a new version of the browser for about two or three years, while IE's development progressed in spades in comparison. They could have at least done some parallel development with the 4.5 code base to release 5.0 while waiting on the Mozilla team.
    • Navigator v3 and 4 were not that great compared to IE v3 and 4.

      It is generally believed [wikipedia.org] that:

      Through the late 1990s, Netscape made sure that Navigator remained the technical leader among web browsers. Important new features included cookies, frames (in version 2.0), and JavaScript (in version 3.0).,

      and further that IE 5 was the first version with some technical advantages over Netscape 4. It can easily be argued that most of the problems Netscape had on Windoze were M$ induced, as such problems did not

      • Sorry, but I don't buy that Netscape 4's problems were caused by Microsoft. I abandoned Netscape when version 4 came out, and I don't use Windows. IE on the Mac had better standards support, was faster than Netscape, and was less buggy.

        Netscape decided to ignore standards and add more and more proprietary hacks. For instance, they didn't want to support CSS at all--they had their own proprietary JavaScript Style Sheets, and when they finally implemented CSS in Navigator 4 it was by translating it to JSSS, s
        • Meanwhile, the Navigator code base was becoming a mess, partly because of the focus on adding more and more proprietary NSHTML and JavaScript hacks. ... They also took the kitchen sink approach of insisting that everyone who wanted a Netscape browser also wanted a Netscape mail reader, news reader, IRC client, and so on. That might have made sense on Linux, but on the Mac there were much better alternatives ... so nobody wanted the bloat of Netscape.

          What bloat? Navigator fit onto a single floppy for a lon

    • Netscape did drop the ball. However, there were other things going on. First, MS transformed the game from producing a web browser to producing a programmable application front end. Now, there was no problem with this, and the technology was limited, but what happened was that many started writing web pages as if they applications that would run on windows in IE instead of web content that would run on any complient browser. Sometimes this was done just for cosmetic effect. The big guys, like Yaho, nev
      • >First, MS transformed the game from producing a web browser to producing a programmable application front end.

        Netscape was the "first mover" on that with Java and DHTML. Netscape's founder even bragged about making Win32 unncecessary.

        >Second, MS created an excessively forgiving browser. This allowed management to promote the creation of malformed content that would still work.

        The early philosophy of HTML was to be forgiving, almost everyone supported that idea. Nutscrape's browsers were extremely fo
    • Navigator v3 and 4 were not that great compared to IE v3 and 4.
      Also, after around v4.5, Netscape didn't release a new version of the browser for about two or three years, while IE's development progressed in spades in comparison.


      You seem to remember this better than me. Can you tell me which version of Netscape it was that wouldn' let me open a web page before I told it my name, adress, shoe size and pledged my first born to it?

      That was the last version I *tried* to use. I didn't use it, I even went to i.e.
    • I've spoken with some of the people who worked at Netscape; and their words confirmed my own observations about the source code (as well your observations).

      One key flaw at Netscape was due to the engineering mismangement. It was a combination of micromanagement combined with little to no responsibility for the source code. Anyone could make changes to any part of the source code at any time. Not only did you have to worry about implementing your changes using varios API's; but those API's could change ri

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @04:02AM (#15137291)
    While I've been trying to pry myself away from IE and meander over to Firefox, I've encountered a few bugs (quriks?) with FF in terms of how it handles fonts.

    click here for jpeg explanation. [putfile.com]

    Is this because IE renders the page incorrectly? Firefox is on the left, IE is on the right. The only font settings I've changed has been increasing point size via the mouse wheel (on both browsers) 3-4 clicks. I would hate to have to change my display resolution just to make it look right (using a 19" CRT with 1280x1024).

    IMO, IE just looks better to me, comparitively speaking. The way the font(s) are being displayed in FF makes for a terrible browsing experience to me - large text is extremely, overly large, while regular text is small & almost unreadable on my 1280x1024 screen (see screenshot).

    Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated, I figured you slashgeeks could help me, cause I'm stumped. No, this isn't a troll, it's a legitimate question. I'd love to be able to use Firefox, but I'd want the text to be displayed *exactly the same* as it is in IE, and it would be amazing.
    • Techincally Firefox is rendering it wrong. The page uses a ton of realtive font sizes [font size="+1"]. The old W3 standards in HTML 4.01 was that no font could go beyond -6 and +6. Naughty Drudge Report doesn't properly close its [font] tags and uses [font size="+7"].

      IE assumes anything over +6 is only a +6. The Gecko engine just keeps increasing the size proportionally.

      http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_font.asp [w3schools.com]
    • Just hold [Ctrl] and scroll the mouse wheel to change the font size on Firefox.

      If that doesn't work then use the View -> Text Size options from the menu bar.

      This problem has nothing to do "correctness" - the general font size is your personal preference.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 16, 2006 @04:16AM (#15137321)
    The article states that web developers are prone to developing for the browser with the greatest market share (IE) over ones that do not. What a fallacy!

    Personally, I test most of my web development on firefox and mozilla, due to it's superior debuging support. Only after I get a portion of script working in those browsers do I test in IE and make the appropriate fix (through javascript or conditional compilation) to get it to work for IE. IE seems to always be the browser that needs some sort of "special case senario" code to function properly, while the other browsers need little to no tweaks for cross browser compatibility. And when they do, it is usually a sign of bad scripting which is remedied accordingly. I can say that I have never needed to use a CSS hack. IE however tends to crave bad scripting, even requiring bad scripting in some cases.

    After that, I test in Opera (as I find it to be the most unforgiving browser when it comes to quirks) to make sure everything is on the up and up, and fix accorindingly. Only then do I consider that section of script ready for production.

    I try to test on macs as much as possible, but, lacking a mac, this becomes rather difficult. I DO test on them at least once or twice during and after development, just not as often. Changes made acordingly unless the issue is on IE mac 5, which I refuse to support (and if you're a web dev I'm sure you understand why).

    Everyone I know does their code testing in something akin to this manner. The bottom line is, IE comes second to more standards compliant browsers.

    All in all, I think this harvard cat needs to do a little more interviewing with web developers. If I could, I would develop with full standards complance only, and lets the devs at microsoft worry about my site not working in their browser. However, we're pretty far off form a perfect world no...?
    • "The article states that web developers are prone to developing for the browser with the greatest market share (IE) over ones that do not. What a fallacy! Personally, I test most of my web development on firefox and mozilla, due to it's superior debuging support."

      You are a web developer, not all web developers. My employer, the largest broadcast corporation in the country, forbids web developers from installing Firefox. They do it anyway of course and check against the site where they can but are otherwise

  • What's the payoff? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OBeardedOne (700849) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @04:23AM (#15137332) Homepage
    I've often wondered what the business model for browsers is. Since they are given away for free then I gather the primary way to make money off them, in IE's case for instance, is to set millions of peoples home pages to the page of Microsofts choice and make money off the advertising. I can only assume that the amount of money they make from this advertising exceeds the cost of maintaining the browers tech etc or there is an expectation of a large future return.

    I figure that MS must be losing out cash wise in the short term. I can't see advertising revenues from their home page being too much in excess of their development costs and I would figure that advertisers would be very weary of taking their site stats for granted. Just because they have millions visiting one of their sites doesn't mean the visitors actually pay any attention to what's on there as I imagine most arrive there because they simply don't know how to set their home page and immediately move on to another site.

    Having the number 1 browser has also hit their brand extremely hard, all of the security holes associated with IE taint their brand image across the board. Sure, windows would still be known for its security issues if IE had never been around but I feel that IE's security problems has seriously compounded the bad image factor. Unless Microsoft is making serious money from IE, or knows they will in the future, I reckon they'd be better of dumping it and leaving the job to Firefox and Opera etc. Is it really that valuable to them that when a computer gets a virus/hacked the finger is often pointed at IE and Microsoft on the whole?

    • I gather the primary way to make money off them, in IE's case for instance, is to set millions of peoples home pages to the page of Microsofts choice and make money off the advertising

      Mozilla makes a lot of money by setting the default search engine to google in firefox.

    • by Baricom (763970) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @05:04AM (#15137415)
      For Microsoft, the primary objective is to keep people using Windows. Internet Explorer is a loss leader: its purpose was to kill Netscape and steer web application development toward Microsoft technologies.

      At the time, Netscape was selling servers and heading in the direction of offering primitive web applications. This was a threat because if people started developing apps for the Web, any platform that ran Netscape could connect to them, and a Linux license is a lot cheaper than a Windows license plus client access license(s) to the necessary server(s).

      Netscape was essentially planning to center their business on Web 2.0. The problem is that Microsoft's giveaway of Internet Explorer was enough to keep businesses on Microsoft development platforms like ActiveX, which Netscape couldn't support. I think the developments we're seeing today in web applications would have come 10 years ago if Microsoft hadn't gotten involved.

      As for Mozilla, I don't think they had a business model until Google fortuitously came along. Now, they get a chunk of the revenue of every click on a Google ad. Beyond the obvious mindshare reasons, Google's motivation is to ensure that there's a stable, cross-platform browser with the necessary functionality to enable their apps. Many people think Apple is going to begin to overtake Microsoft's dominance as the PC platform of choice. Having Firefox around is an insurance policy for Google.

      It also puts Microsoft in the same place they were ten years ago - threatened by a paradigm shift that could render Windows obsolete. Unfortunately for them, there's no revenue stream to choke this time, unless MSN somehow overtakes Google in popularity.

      (For most of the other browsers, their purpose seems obvious to me - Opera is just in it for the money, Safari's around so newbie Mac users can get on the Web, and other browsers are open source projects that integrate with their respective distros.)
      • "As for Mozilla, I don't think they had a business model until Google fortuitously came along. ... Google's motivation is to ensure that there's a stable, cross-platform browser with the necessary functionality to enable their apps."

        Mozilla, like much commercialized open-source, has no real profit-driven business model, they have a negative loss-driven business model. It's simply far cheaper and less fraught with risk for many companies and individuals to chip in on a common project than to drive one on the
    • by makomk (752139)
      Since they are given away for free then I gather the primary way to make money off them, in IE's case for instance, is to set millions of peoples home pages to the page of Microsofts choice and make money off the advertising.

      IE is only free if you've paid for a copy of Windows. The license for IE for Windows makes it quite clear that it's an add-on for Windows, and if you don't have Windows you aren't allowed to use it...
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @04:26AM (#15137340) Journal
    Believe it or not but there was a time when IE was the second browser and all sites were optimized for Netscape instead. The proof of that is still visible today. Just look at IE browser indentification string.

    Yes the mighty MS still pretends that IE is a Mozilla clone.

    So what the fuck happened. Well a couple things. The easiest was that MS started to include IE by default even making it a core part of the OS (we are talking the era around the middle of 90's so this talk includes windows 3.1)

    In those days when you signed up to an ISP it was not unusual to get a CD with browser software for you to install as they could not be certain you would already have a browser.

    This made it much easier for netscape to "sell" its browser to ISP's to include on their installation CD (you most likely needed a bunch of other software as well not included by default with windows)

    Because MS started to bundle the browser (and other network software) with the OS nowadays it is rare for an ISP to have an install CD.

    This means that it is no longer possible for you to get different browser when you hook up to the net. Even if you know about other browsers and want one you will still use IE to download it.

    But something else happened as well. Remember there was a time when every site was build around netscape and it was IE that had to pretend to be netscape.

    So why was this followed by years of IE only sites?

    Well netscape dropped the ball. Version 4 especially was a nightmare with bloat and bugs that made IE seem not all that bad after all. Or at least not bad enough for people to bother downloading a large install over a modem.

    There was a long time when Netscape just wasn't worth it. Long enough for IE to take over. Not because it was that much better but it wasn't any worse either (well not at the time) so why should you download a replacement that is just as bad?

    Some people say there is no similar market effect. I think there is. Car sound installations. While there is a high-tech market for after market sound systems for your car it is tiny compared to the pre-installed market.

    For most of the standard cheap radio and speakers factory installed are apperantly good enough and the cost and time involved in upgrading to a product no matter how superior is just not worth it.

    So does Firefox stand a chance.

    Well perhaps.

    After all a cheapo car radio doesn't kill you. No matter how much the boxes may distort your favorite music they do not allow anyone to drive off with your car.

    IE on the other hand is the car equivelant of a start button in a convertible.

    IF this insecurity ever becomes to much of a risk then in theory people themselves would look for ways to make their OS more secure.

    Yeah right.

    I mentioned cars for a reason. Check the history of safety belts. In all the seats of a car. The dangers of unrestrained kids/luggage/pets in an aciddent are well known (both to themselves and other passengers) yet people actually fight safety measures designed to save their lives.

    So what change does Firefox have of being adopted because it might safe people from some software accidents?

    When american car manufacturers refused to make secure cars did american car buyers enmass buy european/japanese cars instead?

    No. Only when the fuel price became unbearable did this happen.

    As always, money is the ultimate motivator. As long as IE doesn't cost people more then it costs them to install firefox (cost as in time, hazzle, having to think for a second) then IE will not be replaced.

    Personally I switched from IE to opera for just this reason. Opera has the unique feature of being able to resume easily and cleanily from where it left off after a crash. IE cost me to much time by crashing just as I had found the site with free porn eh, the site with really usefull info. Opera saved me time.

    Nothing to do with security. I knew enough to make IE secure. (This was back a few years whe

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thank you for putting a blank line after every two sentences.

      It really helped make it more readable.

      Plus it looks longer, so it doesn't get read and is marked informative.

      Hey, maybe the mods will see I'm copying you and probably being sarcastic and I'll get modded funny... nah.
    • Personally I switched from IE to opera for just this reason. Opera has the unique feature of being able to resume easily and cleanily from where it left off after a crash. IE cost me to much time by crashing just as I had found the site with free porn eh, the site with really usefull info. Opera saved me time.

      For Firefox use session manager. I use both (Opera for automatic reload. Firefox: extensions and multiple windows)

    • Some people say there is no similar market effect. I think there is. Car sound installations. While there is a high-tech market for after market sound systems for your car it is tiny compared to the pre-installed market.

      Is it really that similar, though? Perhaps it's different in the USA, but many cars I've seen are assembled away from the factory. Smaller components such as stereos tend to vary a lot depending on the location where the vehicle was assembled -- they're certainly not provided by or br

      • Smaller components such as stereos tend to vary a lot depending on the location where the vehicle was assembled -- they're certainly not provided by or branded by the car maker.

        Not the case in the USA, which accounts for 1/4 of all automobile and truck sales worldwide. Every vehicle sold comes with a stereo provided by and branded by the car maker. "Premium" stereo options offered by the factory or dealer are also branded (or re-branded) by the car maker, or in some rare cases, co-branded by the car mak

    • Big Fat Lie (Score:2, Interesting)

      Because MS started to bundle the browser (and other network software) with the OS nowadays it is rare for an ISP to have an install CD.
      Between the AOL disks still in my mail, and the ISP disks at the supermarket checkout, you're talking out of your backside.
    • "So why was this followed by years of IE only sites?"

      When Netscape gave away the easiest-to-use web editor at the time we had years of Netscape-only sites; when they stopped and Micro$oft started bundling a free web editor with home installations of Windows we had years of IE only sites. See the connection...?
    • I think what really happened was that once Microsoft included Internet Explorer 3.0 as part of Windows 95 (starting with OEM Service Release 2) it was pretty much all over for Netscape. This was why it was very smart to create the Mozilla Foundation, which finally created a decent alternate browser (for free! People forget that Opera wasn't truly free until only very recently) with the Mozilla 1.x series and now Firefox 1.0.x and 1.5.x series.
    • In those days when you signed up to an ISP it was not unusual to get a CD with browser software for you to install as they could not be certain you would already have a browser.

      A CD?! Hell, I've got setup floppies from my original ISP here, with Trumpet Winsock and NCSA Mosaic. My only choice was 3 1/2" or 5 1/4" ;-)

      Very handy it was too. There was quite a while, in the heady days of IE3, where IE would quite often fail to download Netscape even from the ISP's mirror - usually it'd stall and sit there at

  • by giafly (926567)
    For example, replacing "first mover" by "new regime" and "second mover" by "insurgency":

    "What is interesting are the lessons we can learn about how a fast [insurgency] can upset the normally strong barriers to entry that a [new regime's] advantage in a [country] can create. In short, the big lesson learned is that a window of opportunity exists for a [insurgency] to challenge a [new regime] in this setting early on when [democracy] has not yet diffused through the entire population - the [insurgency] can
  • by aelvin (265451) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @05:39AM (#15137471)

    Not that the article didn't sound all analysis-y and everything, but I think they missed the really important stuff.

    • Netscape gained a huge first-mover advantage because Microsoft (due to its hubris) didn't take the Internet seriously for quite some time.
    • Microsoft woke up, got some code, and began shipping a feature-poor, buggy browser.
    • Netscape maintained its lead for a while, but then (due to its hubris) started spending considerably more time berating Microsoft than meaningfully improving its own product.
    • Microsoft slowly improved its product, and began to leverage its substantial distribution advantage. I believe a federal judge eventually had some strong words about the latter.
    • Netscape seemed to decide that the world really needed a bigger kitchen sink more than a reliable browser. Its product became more and more bloated, less and less reliable, and much larger.
    • Microsoft continued to fix bugs.
    • Netscape decided it really needed to rewrite its whole product for god knows what reason, giving Microsoft plenty of time to overcome any remaining first-mover advantage.
    • Microsoft's product eventually crossed the "good enough for the proles" threshold and was pre-installed on most of the machines they controlled.
    • Netscape, continuing to rewrite its core product, failed to answer.

    I think Netscape ultimately died partly of self-inflicted wounds, and was partly the victim of Microsoft's monopoly abuse.

    Clayton M. Christensen (ironically also of Harvard) foresaw the former about a decade ago in The Innovator's Dilemma. The demand curve for browsers is shallower than the supply curve because once the browser implements the standards, there is only so much more room for it to add value. Pretty soon it ends up oversupplying features that are less and less important to fewer and fewer people; the formerly underpowered latecomer catches up -- not with the other product (it arguably never will), but with the market's demand. No matter what the first-mover does at that point, it's just more oversupply. The latecomer stumbles onto some attribute that nobody originally thought was important (integration into the OS?) which the first-mover cannot match, and suddenly the first-mover's former advantage turns into a detriment.

    Near its zenith, Netscape's best possible outcome was probably to license its browser to Microsoft, let it remain the standard, and get the advantage of Microsoft's OS monopoly. However, Microsoft's hubris, abetted by Netscape's constant attacks, precluded any possibility of cooperation. Netscape's best remaining alternative was probably to ignore Microsoft completely, resist the temptation to rewrite (which also killed competitors to Word), and use their resources to keep innovating in other ways. I think Christensen would have suggested that Netscape spin off as many new ideas a possible, and for the core company to concentrate on maintaining its core product.

    Sadly, this pattern repeats over and over. I hope Java doesn't become the next high-profile victim.

    • I've posted something similar before [slashdot.org]. I think you're largely right about Netscape's self-inflicted wounds, but I think that they were pretty much all survivable except for the initial Mozilla development.

      In the four years it took to go from the public release of the unfinished Netscape 5.x code to the first release of Mozilla, Microsoft released three new versions of Internet Explorer. That's about as close to corporate suicide as you can get. "First mover" is a huge advantage. But "no mover" is a b

    • by Budenny (888916)
      Interesting parallels with Macintosh and Windows in the earlier gui wars... The unbeatable edge there which could not be matched turned out to be discounted open sourced commodity hardware. Good enough, not as good, but good enough for the market, is right and very much to the point.
    • These days everyone talks about how shitty the IE codebase is, but back then there was Netscape 3 and 4 which were even worse. So much so that Netscape had to throw out the codebase and start fresh with Mozilla. No one likes to remember this, but IE was really a lot better than Netscape. IE5 PC and later IE5 Mac basically brought CSS-P to the maintstream (in that it was finally practical). NS4 CSS support was so bad you had to be a masochist to try anything other than basic typography.

      Netscape definitel
    • You glossed over 2 things there:

      1) You dismissed with the trite phrasing "Microsoft ... began to leverage its substantial distribution advantage" the fact that MS cut off Netscape's only chance of competing directly with IE in the "browser installed on shipping PCs" market. Several things came together right at that time - Windows started changing from being a box sold on shelves at the local nerd-shop to being pre-installed on every computer right at the time they brought out IE pre-installed. And their ve
      • Funny, just noticed in passing that IE development somewhat parallels that of MS-DOS - 1&2 were barely useable, 3 was the first fully-working one, 4 was a dog full of fluff and bugs, 5 was better, and 6 the best. Maybe there's a lesson there...)

        You forgot that BOTH DOS and IE were bought from somewhere else under terms that basically fucked over the company that sold it to M$.

        Amplifying your point, not disagreeing with it.

  • Sorry this articule is "Stating the Obvious" and doesn't even analyse the market correctly - Amateur Hour! The real reason why many Firefox users have the browser installed on their PC is because IE 6.0 isn't supported by their operating system and/or hardware, or they are fed up with the poor code and critical patches not being implemented quicky enough. IE, and to a lesser extent Firefox, are only as good as their last critical patch. One day one of them (most likely Microsoft) will get things so wrong
  • by Gleemonex (961772) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @05:45AM (#15137485) Homepage

    What I don't get is why Spyglass didn't sue MS for a percentage of their entire OS business when Microsoft claimed in the anti-trust case that IE is an essential part of the OS.

    -Glee
  • Almost a year after installing Firefox I've learned that you can have a standards compliant browser that doesn't prop it's ass up on a cushion waiting for the next fancy boy to come along. I haven't had a single spyware/malware infection since moving to Firefox from last summer. I got so tired of the scan with Hijackthis, Ad Aware, and Spybot merry-go-round that I knuckled under and installed Firefox.

    Is Firefox perfect? Of course not, and I hear the code base is getting to be a rat's nest and will require a
  • Back at those days, Microsoft had put an unbeleivable effort in IE 4 (its codebase could be compared to all the windows at that time), and was a great success. It's impossible to say that IE 4 had overcome Netscape in every feature. But it was so innovative that they could not compete.

    At that time most of all people needed EXPERIENCE. And IE had given so much power to web developers, as never before and later. (later they restricted some features, after security issues).

    Now, when hand-crafted pages fad
  • I went to do some prints the other day using my favourite browser (Safari); and when I get a "browser incompatibility" page, I ban the company forever... I think these guys get my business by default:

    http://blacks.pnimedia.com/disclaimers/browser_sup port.aspx [pnimedia.com]

    (you may have to view it with a non-IE browser).

    • Unfortunately, your friends at Black's Photography don't support Camino, the OS X native rewrite of Firefox from our intrepid friends at Mozilla.org
    • Haha. This is nice. It tells me...


      The browser you are currently using is not supported by our software. In order to enjoy all of the advanced features our website offers, we suggest that you use our preferred browser.
      ...with a little Firefox banner. Which I am using. 1.5, as a matter of fact. I don't even screw around with user agent strings, they're the default.

      My own website is non-IE only though, should anyone want to check it out. I really need to make it IE-compatible, but I wouldn't even know where t
  • Is that money is not in the sales and distribution of software, but in software related services. So make your product free software (as in GPL) from the beginning and maximize distribution and third party access so that you can place a wedge in the market place to offer value added services

    If Netscape was GPL'd from the beginning, it would have totaly changed their market focus, it would have totally changed their business strategy, it would have totally changed their development style, and they probabl

  • Netscape 4.x... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andrew_T366 (759304) on Sunday April 16, 2006 @01:24PM (#15138632)
    I get a bit annoyed by the incessant criticism of Netscape 4.x nowadays. It certainly wasn't perfect...it WAS a bit bigger and slower than Netscape 3.x, and its user interface seemed contrived, but it really was the best browser around back in its day. Netscape 4.x was one of the first browsers to support dynamic HTML features or any form of CSS. Sure, the support is pretty rudimentary now, but it was pretty groundbreaking back in '97. Furthermore, it was a saint compared to Internet Explorer 4.0. Thanks in part to web integration, THAT had a tendency to slow down the entire system by its mere presence, crash and bring the entire OS down with it, and in terms of rendering capability, it was no better. It was so problematic, assertions that it rendered other browsers unusable and required a reformat to remove were only typical of accounts at the time. The only big problem was that Netscape 4.x stayed viable for far longer than it should have or was originally intended to be. Thanks to badly-maintained code that needed to be rewritten, false development starts, and bureaucracy, the next usable version (6.1/6.2) didn't come out for about four years later. Even then, I was using Netscape 4.x sporadically myself well into 2003! Internet Explorer 4.0, meanwhile, was pushed aside by newer versions far sooner and its deficiencies masked over with the passage of time. It wasn't until Mozilla Firefox came around several years after THAT that they began to give serious attention to improving the user interface and give the browser a badly needed marketing boost.
  • Do we need any special lessons to know that if your product has a lot better availability (preinstalled into Windows) and better quality and standards/CSS support (if you do a fair comparison of NS4 and IE4 you will see) it'll easily grab a lion share in a developing market?
  • I think this video [revver.com] pretty much summarizes the browser wars. Well, at least from the perspective of this flame-baiting post. Wheeee!

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