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GNU is Not Unix

The Battle That Could Lose Us The War 550

Quite a number of people have been writing to us about Dave Whitinger's column that ran on LinuxToday and was sent over here as well. Dave's contention is the browser compatibility is a crucial battle for the success of Linux - and things don't look so good. Click below to read the column, and contribute your thoughts.

By Dave Whitinger, (Temporary E-Mail account)

Linux is quickly becoming the operating system of the future, thanks in part to the advanced type of development that we refer to as Free Software, or Open Source, as well as the rock-solid features that are present in Linux. It is the ultimate server platform.

Linux is also enjoying success as a desktop workstation. My wife, Trish, makes the perfect example of the typical desktop user.

When we became married in August of 1996, she was a complete computer illiterate, having never even used a Windows or Unix machine. I presented her with a choice:

  1. I will give her a Windows computer, but will offer nothing in the way of technical support or training assistance.
  2. I will give her a Linux box, and will give her complete technical support and training assistance.

A New Hope

Not knowing the difference anyway, she chose the latter, and found herself extremely happy with a rock-solid desktop.

She enjoys her Red Hat Linux 6.1 workstation. Coupled with the K Desktop Environment and various applications that I have installed for her, she's ready to go. She has her TkRat E-Mail program, Netscape Navigator, notepad text editor, licq, games, the Gimp, and a variety of other nice applications, all accessed via a friendly interface.

Finding friends in mailing lists and on-line web-based chat groups, she was happy as a clam. She would fire up her Netscape Navigator and hit any web site she wanted, and was constantly bragging to her friends about this great computer operating system that she had the privilege of using.

The Empire Strikes Back

...Until the day that Netscape Navigator, her web browser, her window to the outside world, the major purpose for using the computer, simply disappeared from her desktop while she was browsing.

Trish turned to me, confusion spread across her face, and opined, "Dave, my Netscape has simply vanished from my screen. Perhaps you have telneted in and did a kill -9 on it?"

Dave responds, "Absolutely not! Why would I do that? Let's examine the problem more closely, that the answer to this perplexing issue will reveal itself."

Upon further investigation, it turns out that Netscape apparantly did not "like" the Java code that was being incorporated into one of the websites that Trish frequents. My solution: Turn off Java.

A very important and critical issue is realized here. At this point, Trish's computer is not as powerful as all of her friends' Windows computers. If they can access certain Java-enabled pages that she cannot, she is being left out, all because she chose to use Linux.

Fade to 2 or 3 weeks later.

Trish: "Dave, this website is telling me that I cannot use their services."

Dave: "What's the URL?"

Examining the website, it turns out that it is using some special kind of plugin that is only available for Windows or Macintosh platforms. I explained to Trish that she simply will not be able to access the services on this website, until they decide to make this plugin available for Linux. A short and polite note to the webmaster later, there was nothing we could do, and the issue was closed, and Trish's computer became even less valuable to her.

Fade to 2 or 3 more weeks later.

Trish: "Dave, this website is telling me that I am using an unsupported web browser, and cannot view the pages within."

Dave: "Okay, this is starting to make me angry. The web was initially created as a completely open environment where multimedia can be viewed, regardless of your platform. It's a platform independant medium, yet here are people making platform dependant websites."

Trish: "That's great that you feel that way, but I just want to access this coupon website! All my friends say they are getting great deals, and I'm missing out! Oh, and now my netscape just froze again! Argh, (killall -9 netscape ; rm ~/.netscape/lock) again. I want a Windows computer like all my friends have."

I hung my head in shame, realizing that if she is going to be able to take full advantage of the web, she will need a Windows computer. Trish, who has used nothing but Linux for over 3 years, and is completely happy with her computer, now feels the need to switch to Windows so that she can get the same web-browsing features as her friends.

Does this sound like a big deal to you, gentle reader? If it does, than I have accomplished my mission. If it does not, read on:

In 1994, I hated Netscape Communications, Inc. The way they were embracing and extending the HTML standards was starting to become very disturbing for me. The more websites that I found that said that it uses Netscape Extensions, the more angry I became.

Then Netscape released Navigator for Linux, and everybody loved them again. They were our saviour, completing the picture of a perfect desktop for Linux users. We were all Linux users, browsing any site we wished, enjoying the satisfaction of having a great web browser for our desktop.

Then Microsoft created Internet Explorer. Then Microsoft won the "Browser War". Then webmasters began using some of the "advanced" features of Internet Explorer, shutting out Netscape users.

Problem yet? Still not convinced? Okay, let's fast forward 1 year:

Microsoft owns 99% of the web browser market share, and they control the HTTP protocol. They start adding a huge variety of features to their "Internet Information Server", their competitor to Apache, to offer advanced features to Internet Explorer clients. At this point, sites being served by Apache become useless. Then Linux becomes obsolete as a web server platform. Then Microsoft wins the war, and we're right back to square one, and proprietary technology wins again.

Return of the Jedi

On April 1st, 1998, Netscape Communications, Inc. made one final redeeming move. They released the source code to Netscape Navigator, freeing it to the Free Software community to do with as they chose.

1 and a half years later, this browser is still nowhere near completion. There is a band of rebels working feverishly on the code, trying to bring it to a usable state as quickly as possible. Plagued with problems and set-backs, Mozilla continues forward, currently at "Milestone 10". Will we see a completely usable web browser for Linux in time to save us from seeing a new monopoly for Microsoft be created?

Attention: This is the battle that could cost us the war. If we come together and push all of our might toward a Free Web Browser for Linux, we have a good chance of winning this battle. If we fail, we will lose the war. This is the issue that Microsoft wants us to overlook.

I am making a personal committment to get involved with the Mozilla project. It is the project with the most potential to become this Free Web Browser that we so desperately need. Netscape is NOT going to save us this time. Netscape has failed us, and it's time to take matters into our own hands.

If we fail, we will lose the war.

Add that to your .signature:

If we fail, we will lose the war.

And repeat it every morning to yourself:

If we fail, we will lose the war.

When you are looking over Mozilla, finding items that could use your contribution, remember:

If we fail, we will lose the war.

The truth of the matter, friends and esteemed members of the community:

If we fail, we will lose the war.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Battle That Could Lose Us The War

Comments Filter:
  • this is the same as getting office released for linux. If we can't read M$Office documents perfectly will we lose. For me and for many others there is no war. I'm using linux full time and I don't care what others use.

    If there is enough linux and mac users than many sites will check in those enviroments first.
  • I was using netscape on a linux box for browsing, but you just can't do that unless you want to be shut out of a LOT of sites. You can't even just use netscape on windows, because IE's javascript is different from the specs, etc. So I am stuck using IE on Windows if I want to browse the web. That's just the way it goes.
  • The Phantom Menace

    The problem is that just having a good browser is not enough. The thing we really have trouble with is all the proprietary plugins that are only available under Windows (and some of them for the Mac). While there are some that are available for Linux, what we really need is some portable plugin architecture. Netscape isn't the be all and end all of browsers, but the main problem I have with Netscape under linux is the sites that it doesn't work for, and that isn't because of (the numerous) flaws in netscape. Solutions?

  • Yes, your experience with Netscape points out a shortcoming, but not in Linux. Those of use who want the functionality you are missing are free to code it.

    Mozilla is a dog, but it's open, and the features are coming, I'm sure.

    As for certain MS-Specific extensions that Linux doesn't run: Are you actually surprised? Linux also doesn't run VB. BeOS and AppleOS don't either.

    It is not a fault of Linux or it's developers, it's a fault of Microsoft. They are 'embracing and extending, and innovating' wizz-bang toys that they keep closed. This is the crux of their monopolistic practises that the FTC is investigating.

    I can easily put together a page that excludes all but IE using surfers. I can put together a website that REQUIRES a PIII processor... My doing so does not put the fault on my competition.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @09:44AM (#1559453) Homepage Journal
    Dave is absolutely correct: Mozilla is probably the single most important project for the future of free software. Nearly all technology development for the next decade will be tied to the web in some way, and it's absolutely vital that web technology be kept open.

    Hopefully, AOL realizes this. If Microsoft ends up controlling the web, it's only a matter of time before AOL is reduced to insignifance for most purposes. Perhaps they don't realize just how urgent it is, though. AOL needs to make the Netscape Client Engineering Group a very high priority, and get Mozilla into the AOL client as soon as possible. This alone will shift the browser market away from Microsoft in a huge way. Yes, I know about the bundling deal, and I don't think it's worth it.

    We do need to focus on more than just the browser, though. While Mozilla is absolutely the most important, we still need to have a diverse array of software available, to give the Linux platform some value, both on the desktop and server side. I personally am working on a replacement for MS Exchange [] and hopefully will be able to hook up with the developers of some of the better Outlook clones, in order to offer a nice end-to-end integrated solution. Mozilla tie-in? Absolutely. Everything's gotta work with the Web, and I've already got a good web-based front end in place.

    Heed Dave's call and spread the word. This is very important.
  • It seems that the point of the article is the spread of proprietary to Microsoft extensions on the web -- Java code that will run only in IE, plug-ins that exist only for Window machines, etc.
    That's all true and is a danger. However, I completely fail to see how Mozilla is going to help us here. Unless the author believes that Mozilla will win the browser war on Windows machines (dream on), it will do nothing to stop people from producing Windows-only plug-ins or writing Microsoft-specific code.

  • There's a real market opportunity there, and Mozilla and Netscape aren't there yet.

    And what about all the companies with $200 surfing boxes we keep reading about, do they have some cool browser up there sleeves?

  • by technos ( 73414 )
    He makes a good point, although I see the Apache group doing a RE/RI job on the IIS 'features' as a last ditch effort befor waning into oblivion.

    But I don't see all of the problem residing w/Mozilla. The problem is the Win-centric web developers. They see the 'kewl new sound/graphics service/plugin' and implement it, counting on the fact that 80% of their audience are IE users, and the remaining 20% are used to meing marginalized. Meanwhile, they're serving the content from Apache servers on *nix boxen, and looking like hypocrites.

    Letter writing campaign? 'Give us Shockwave, give you DEATH'? (ex only.)
  • Alright people, let's start a from scratch, no sleep, code till you die, the perfect web browser coding mission let's go, let's go, let's GO!

    (BTW that story is very familiar, main reason why my parent's machine is STILL windows, despite my attempts)

    My new .sig:

    If fail, we will lose the war.

  • Excellent points made here. I think that everyone on Slashdot should take heed of these words of wisdom.
  • Do you think that if linux has a really sweet web browser people will switch to it? - I don't think so.

    Did I switch to Linux 3 years ago because it had Netscape? -- No

    I also think that because people are not going to be switching to linux because it has a cool browser, those same people are still going to use IE and get special bonuses from accessing IIS sites, and linux will never stop MS from doing this.

    Your wife wants a windows box because it sounds like all she does is surf the web. So get her a windows box cuz its what will "work for her".

    btw i dont see a war happening. I see the MS side serving itself, and I see the open-source side serving everyone, a little unfair yes, but we choose to do that so why are we bitching so much?
  • by brennanw ( 5761 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @09:48AM (#1559461) Homepage Journal
    I've never understood why browsers are designed the way they are. Basically, all HTML translation capability is built in to the browser itself, meaning that when new features come out you need to download a new !@#$% browser.

    Why? Browsers are, for the most part, free these days. There's no competitive advantage for that.

    If the browser were _modular_, with the display engine as part of the browser, but the information on all the tags and extras as a series of plugins -- you'd be able to add support for new HTML code ON THE FLY.

    That's how XML is kind of supposed to work, isn't it?

    I think what we need is a plugin-centric browser... one with a basic display engine that knows how to draw/display stuff, but doesn't come with any specific information. Then plugins with that information -- plugins that can be updated on the fly, or replaced when needed -- are added, and voia! Superbrowser!

    So then you get your HTML 4.0, Cascading Stylesheet, XML, and proprietary tag support whenever you need to.

    Oh, and you can have a program that sets your browser identification as whatever the hell you want it to say, or even change it on the fly.

    Just a thought...
  • "what we really need is some portable plugin architecture."

    You mean like Java?

    *ducks and runs away*

  • Dave raises a number of excellent points; but I don't think the situation is quite as bad as he suggests.

    The major plugins RealAudio, Flash are now available for Linux (albeit beta for Flash) and other major plugins WILL be ported to Linux - at least if their vendors/proponents want them to survive!

    Just look at the Netcraft surveys, Apache OWNS the web server space; and Microsoft just took aim at its other foot - if I read the latest Win2k pricing announcement correctly, in addition to an NTAS license you need a $1995 "unlimited web client" license to run a big web site.
  • One of the nice things about IE is its nice extension system. IMHO, ActiveX is superior to the Netscape plugin architecture. Implement something like that for Mozilla, and development of plugins may speed up.
  • When did this happen? Last night while I was in one of my trademarked drunken stupors?
  • I see the story of "Trish" repeated over and over again - we use Solaris at work, and many (many) sites offer "features" which are simply unavailable for *nix users.

    Back when I was still willing to try Barnes and Noble, I remember complaining to them about a broken shopping cart (this after I submitted a credit card number!) - their response at that time was, "well whaddya expect if you aren't using IE on Windows 95??? Go get a life, or at least a Mac!"

    So much for Brenners-Lee and his vision of seamless information exchange... How long before there is a usable, portable Mozilla?

  • I was using netscape on a linux box for browsing, but you just can't do that unless you want to be shut out of a LOT of sites.

    YMMV, of course, but I am using netscape on a Solaris box and don't have any problems surfing the web. Very, very rarely I get some Java I can't handle, but then again, in 99% of the cases it's a site that I don't really need, anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    He makes a valid point towards the validity of Linux as a viable choice for a desktop environment. With the internet becoming completely web-centric, the evolution of the browser continues in only one corner: Microsoft. The Mozilla project is playing catchup, and will be for some time to come. By allowing MS to dictate the development of HTML and extensions, open source users (*BSD, Linux alike) are losing. I, for one, will contribute what I can to Netscape alternatives like Mozilla and Opera in the hope that with a large enough market the standards will become more open and platform independant. Of course, the browser doesn't invalidate Linux's ability to be a server platform.
  • I own two computers that run both Linux and Windows. My modems don't work on either computer in Linux mode. What should I care what browser I'm using on Linux, I can't even access the WEB from my Linux box.

    If you're viewing the Linux issue as an ongoing war with Microsoft, then I have news for you. You've already lost the war. Microsoft already owns the desktop market. Microsoft already owns the browser market. Microsoft already owns the word processor market.

    The Linux advantage is not Apache or WEB Browsers or even the WEB. The Linux advantage is that it offers a choice. As Linux gets better, the choice becomes easier. As more people move toward a Linux environment, and Linux becomes more stable, the choice gets easier. As Microsoft continues to dink with their cost structure, and Linux continues to be free, the choice gets easier.

    Oh, and don't worry about those sites that offer browser specific implementations, in a world where sites make money based upon access, any company denying service because of browser based incompatabilities is shooting itself in the foot.
  • It never occured to me that the "proprietizing" of the Web was a direct threat to Linux. Is there anyone out there who can mount an effective response to the problem?

    Tim and the W3C [] seem like voices in the wilderness -- why doesn't anyone listen to the guy who "invented" the Web?


    Nick Vargish []

  • Yes, your experience with Netscape points out a shortcoming, but not in Linux. Those of use who want the functionality you are missing are free to code it.

    You are missing the point. As the article pointed out - if we don't catch up and start supporting everything that the freakin' microsoftbrowser supports, then people won't move to linux. People will move to windows. Then we lose the war.

    The way to win, is to make mozilla usable for everyone.

    All those who are able to! Go Hack! The rest of us, let's continue to support Linux and OSS.

  • by otis wildflower ( 4889 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @09:54AM (#1559473) Homepage
    ... And while many of us kinda laugh at the idea of linux desktops for the masses, I feel in terms of political freedom it's probably the most critical front.

    All I can suggest is:
    • Send a polite but unambiguous note to the webmaster of any standards-noncompliant site informing them that because of their decision to break standards you will not be able to use their site in any way, and that you will never install a browser or software that supports their standards-noncompliant components. If it's a commerce site, let them know you will be taking your business elsewhere, and if they have a B&M component let them know you'll seriously consider taking your business elsewhere IRL as well.
    • Consider informing various advocate groups for people with disabilities, as if the site can't be used with Linux it probably can't be used with a browser that provides support for sight-impaired netizens. I bet that the junk which breaks Linux Netscape also breaks Lynx...

    The only way we're going to break moron webmonkeys out of using noncompatible junk is to be a large enough audience to affect their planning. If we join forces with our differently-abled brothers and sisters, perhaps we can force the issue! ;)

    And I wonder if a boycott proxy would be helpful?

    Your Working Boy,
  • Hey, while they're at it, why doesn't Mozilla through a couple options in there that M$ doesn't have?

    Because we are the good guys. We follow the standards. Microsoft make their own.

  • Mozilla milestone M11 is apparently due out on tuesday. The milestone M10 was pretty darn near useable - I used it for a few hours until the unfinished state of the text edit fields finally stopped me. I wouldn't be surprised if M11 is a keeper.

    The source code is 20 something Meg. Grab. Download. Build. Fix. :-)
  • I have had the same problems using Linux (and other unices as well like HP, SGI etc.) Netscape is rather unstable (though it is getting better), and you just don't have the plugins to do some of the cool stuff that you can with Windows.

    Linux will not lose the long term war over this short term battle. This problem is largely a desktop market problem not a server market problem. I don't think that there are too many arguements against the fact that Linux just isn't ready for the desktop yet.

    Hopefully sometime in the future that will start to be less true, and then and only then should we even *expect* plugin companies to develop for Linux.

    Mozilla as I understand it is progressing, and if it turns out not to be vaporware, should go a long way to giving Linux a stable browser.

    In short, this is just a symptom of the larger problem of Linux not being ready for the desktop. Never fear. This will resolve itself.

  • Yeah, but you should have seen the End User License that she made him agree to.

    Evan E.

  • Horsefeathers.

    100% of the genuinely useful sites I've visited have worked just fine with Netscape.

    In fact, probably a good 90% of the genuinely useful sites I've visited work just fine in Lynx.

    About the only sites I've had trouble with are the ones that use Shockwave Flash, and I've yet to find anything useful on any of them, anyway. Not to mention that they're not all that common.
  • This feature describes a reaction to Linux that goes far beyond the browser battle. Simply, I don't think the "Browser War" will make or break Linux, but I believe there is a lot to learn about it if we want Linux to continue to grow.

    Let's face it, Linux is fighting an uphill battle. Programmers have to include features in their applications that appear in MS applications, while the reverse is not true: before switching to Linux, people will complain that they'll lose features they're accustomed to in Microsoft Office, for instance. But when you tell them about the features of, say, Star Office, they'll merely consider them carefully and judge their merits.

    This is why Mozilla can't strike back, for instance, by putting features of their own that are not supported by Internet Explorer. People would just hesitate to consider that technology, because they figure the majority out there wouldn't be able to use it anyway.

    So what's the solution? I'm not sure. I think Linux needs to keep fighting the uphill battle until it has common ground. Then, the battle will be one of features, where the best features will win.

    It is true that a very good browser for Linux would be one of these fabled "killer apps". Unfortunately, I don't think it's Mozilla. I think Linux needs more browser projects than it needs office projects right now. I don't know why energy is not being put more into creating a slew of unique browsers, then putting these resources in common.

    It's doable... Linux developpers have done it or are doing it for everything else. I'm sure no one expected the quality Office suites looming on the horizon or already in place for Linux. And I figure it must be more complicated to build a complete, integrated Office suite than a Web browser, no?

    "Knowledge = Power = Energy = Mass"

  • Hey, while they're at it, why doesn't Mozilla through a couple options in there that M$ doesn't have?

    They are. Chat, terminal client, another chat client. What else? there must be more...

  • (The subject says it all.)
  • Yes, it would be good to put more effort into Mozilla. I do hearby promise that when my new (well, used 266-K6, but it's newer than my current P-90) box comes and I get Linux up on it, I will put Mozilla on it and at least help with testing.

    But, if web designers are stupid enough to design pages that only render in one browser, or even worse require plug-ins, I'm not sure that Mozilla will help.

    We need to keep reminding content providers that there are people using other browsers than IE on Win - there's Opera, Netscape, Mozilla and Lynx being run on Macs, BeOS boxes, and various flavors of Unix, as well as the coming PDAs with browsing capabilities. Forty lashes with a cat5 cable for any web author who depends on proprietary extensions - if you want to say something, why in the world would you restrict who can hear it??

    Hopefully, the accessibility lawsuit against AOL will help inspire more broswer neutral, universally accessible web site design.

  • Its all about the standards. Maybe they shouldn't be called that--since nobody treats them as such.

    Any thing used on the web should be open source. That's the only way it will work.

    Although...If /. was only viewable from linux...hey maybe thats an idea. just kidding.
  • by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @09:57AM (#1559486) Homepage
    ... That seem to think that one aspect of Linux can cause us to lose the "war" with Windows. To most of us linux users, its not a war to begin with. I could care less if others use Linux, I know that I can use it, it takes care of my needs, and I never have to reboot my machine. If there is a Desktop war going on, I wonder who's fighting? MS certainly sees us as a threat, but we couldn't care less about them.

    Upon further investigation, it turns out that Netscape apparantly did not "like" the Java code that was being incorporated into one of the websites that Trish frequents. My solution: Turn off Java.
    I have yet to come upon any problems after extensive testing of Netscape with thousands of pages loaded with Java. There was an initial misconfiguration of Netscape, (actually X) wherein a necessary font for Java was not installed by default, but once installed, I haven't hit any pages with Java which were unviewable.

    Then Microsoft created Internet Explorer. Then Microsoft won the "Browser War". Then webmasters began using some of the "advanced" features of Internet Explorer, shutting out Netscape users.
    Again, with the ignorance. MS has hardly won the browser war. The problem with many authors of Tech articles today is that they don't understand the computer market AT ALL. They continue to naively think that just because some particular product doesn't have market share in one particular market, then it must not have market share in ANY market. The fact is that Netscape STILL dominates the Browser war for two reasons:
    1) Companies use netscape on all their UNIX boxes.
    2) Companies use netscape on all their Win95 boxes. IE wasn't free when the majority of companies purchased their licenses, and Netscape continues to dominate the market share in the commercial sector, which is roughly twice the size of the personal or private sector.(After all, everyone who works in virtually any white collar job has at least one machine they have at work, but not all of them have PCs at home.

    If we fail, we will lose the war.
    We're not at war.

    If we fail, we will lose the war.
    We're not at war.

    If we fail, we will lose the war.
    We're not at war.

    If we fail, we will lose the war.
    We're not at war.

    When comparing M$ Windows to Linux, let us consider an analogy. You see Windows is kind of like a Trojan horse. Sure, it looks all big and impressive, and when you bring it inside the walls, it opens up and bites you in the rear end.

    But linux is like a Juggernaut to the Trojan horse. Every day it gets bigger, more robust, and more difficult to stop. Eventually MS will have to bow out to Linux not because Linux will declare war on Windows, but because Windows will simply pale in comparison.

    You see, one of the most important differences between Windows and Linux is that Windows is all smoke and mirrors (marketing) whereas Linux is an product that is actually well made and capable of delivering on its promises. The public will grow tired of the illusion sooner or later, its all a matter of time.
    "A mind is a horrible thing to waste. But a mime...
    It feels wonderful wasting those fsckers."
  • Mozilla, once completed, should provide us with a stable and efficient web browser. But many of the problems described will remain.

    There will still be Windows-only plugins, IE HTML extensions, polluted Java, etc.

    The only way to solve this is to convince everyone that "cross-platform" is good, and that Microsoft is completely proprietary (read: bad) and not a "standard" the way many people like to think MS is.

  • Mozilla has a whole page devoted on how to get involved. Get Involved! []
    I, myself download the milestones and then report bugs I find. It's really easy to do, and most people could probably replace their current browser with Mozilla. (however there is no SSL support -- encryption export problems on source code).

    Don't be afraid to help out for windows either. Mozilla isn't going to release on windows only -it's a cross platform development. So if you report bugs for the windows or mac (others too) versions then you're still helping out Linux as well as the rest.

    Mozilla has a lot of room for helping hands, in paticular bug reporting, testing, and documentation writing. For the more technically advanced: code writing and bug fixing.
    Do your part!
    Joseph Elwell.

  • The first part: Usable is what we are waiting for. The second part (portable) is part of the project and probably won't be a problem.
  • I noticed the Java problem (particularly with Javascript) a long time ago and just accepted it. We can't afford to 'accept' things as status-quo anymore. One question though, is Navigator/Mozilla even worth the effort? Would it be easier/better/faster just to start over? An open source CVS project in the same vein as the kernel itself? One command team controlling it and everybody donating patches? Just some thoughts. I'm seriously considering starting over and writing a open source browser but I'd like opinions first.
  • We do need a way to keep certain standards on the Net from being "embraced and extended" by proprietary code. Here is a hint. If some Linux developer could taken on helping the Mozilla project and get other companies to do Linux versions of their web applications, then we may just stop this war and keep the net an open forum for speech and software standards.
  • Yahoo has been adding a bunch of new features that run only on the Windows and Mac (Yahoo Companion, instant messaging client). Sure, you can get the basic functions with java and html, but I suspect their Windows version has extras that are gradually becoming lockins. I guess this is the MS masterplan - make their platform indispensable, so that even if Yahoo is used on small clients, it can use WinCE or whatever. Basically, Windows everywhere, and they are gradually doing this, mainly coz the alternatives never succeeded (Java isn't hitting the mark anymore.)

    Will making a snappy Mozilla convince Yahoo, excite, and all the other big sites to not use Windows add-ons? I don't think so. Everybody caters to the mom-and-pop market, and unless there's a massively good alternative that will make Yahoo re-think its windows focus and follow universal standards, they will continue to do so, because they know 200 million people use Windows, and it's easier to just build on top of it. Mozilla won't make any difference unless it has an impact on the sites catering to the teenagers, home users, kids, etc. etc. It will just become a lynx like geek toy with us whining about how nobody is following standards.

    I'm not sure what "power feature" alternative there is, but I doubt mozilla will spread all over to mainstream sites at this point.

    BTW, for the netscape crashing on java, I too have java disabled, but an AC provided the answer on an earlier /. post, the star wars ASCIImation thingie:

    Java under netscape in stock Redhat 6 (Score:5)
    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 22, @11:08AM EDT (#330)
    I had the problem with netscape crashing. It seems you need to load *all* the font RPMs.

    rpm -i XFree86-100dpi-fonts-
    rpm -i XFree86-75dpi-fonts-
    rpm -i XFree86-ISO8859-2-100dpi-fonts-1.0-8.noarch.rpm
    rpm -i XFree86-ISO8859-2-75dpi-fonts-1.0-8.noarch.rpm
    rpm -i XFree86-ISO8859-2-Type1-fonts-1.0-8.noarch.rpm
    rpm -i XFree86-ISO8859-9-100dpi-fonts-2.1.2-9.noarch.rpm
    rpm -i XFree86-ISO8859-9-75dpi-fonts-2.1.2-9.noarch.rpm
    rpm -i XFree86-cyrillic-fonts-
    rpm -i chkfontpath-1.4.1-1.i386.rpm
    rpm -i ghostscript-fonts-5.10-3.noarch.rpm

    hope this helps tml

  • Is to alert Webmasters who use these extensions that you would like to take advantage of their services, but they have made a choice that prevents you from doing so. Not all will care. Some will. If enough people say this politely, they may get the picture.
  • IE 5.0 and netscape 4.x do not work the same. Yes that is obvious. But does anyone know how obvious> It goes beyond plugins too. IE 5.0 does not comply with the standards fully. I have code that was created as per documentation on how to use layers. I then viewed this page under Netscape. All was fine eveything showed up just fine. I view it under IE 5.0 and the layers lloose there properties that were set in my style sheet that I took so much time to work on. That sucks!

    The problems do not stop there thou. VBscript is another issue altogether. I have had the same problems mentioned in this article and plain and simplely Here is my feeling:

    If you create a website that is 'browser' specifiic on the web, you have lost my attention.
    It is one thing to require a browser that adheres to newer standards, like table in tables (HTML4.0), but to block out users and redirect them to another page cause they do not have IE adn windows is just wrong!

    Why in a world that is so divers in its cultures and populus, should I be FORCED to use XXX OS with YYY browser?

    Truthfully, I do boycott browser specific sites.

    send flames > /dev/null

  • Before you all start blabbering about why this or that doesn't really matter and how software freedom means being able to choose the best application / platform for each Job. Here is how it works in real life.

    You cannot run an Office without at least a Windows machine for simply reading MSWord docs being sent to you by "Early deployment partners" and other miscellaneous offices that have standardized on "MS Office". As is home users and servers can get around the problem by not doing business with any of those people.

    If the same kind of dominance is brought to bear on web standards then the only desktop useable for browsing will be MSIE on Windows 2000/98. Once MS has the browsing client sewn up then it will be trivial to make that client incompatible with all servers but IE on Win2K.

    that scenario means that all you ISPs ( I know a lot of you read Slashdot ) will have to take down whatever server you like and currently use and install Win2K with it's "browser access licenses" and whatever limitations it may have for your specific application.

    So yes. The browser client is critical, simply for keeping the ground we already have and keeping the web and open platform where some sun starved geek can write a server that actually works without paying licenses for applicable patents/copyrights.

    The MS Office suite filters are the next target but a secondary one since that will be to win ground that already belongs to a proprietary format. It's called leverage and we must get and use it because the other goy ( MS for now, Novel, SCO or AOL latter ) will not accept slicing up the market between "equal players" as any kind of option. They each want it all.

  • I agree. Girlfriend, you probably could have done better.


    Matthew Reilly
  • Wow, I can't agree enough. Talk about a wake up call. I think I'll go to mozilla's web site and sign to do what I can to prevent this catastrophe. This is a war we cannot lose!

    -- If we fail, we will lose the war
  • This is the main reason that I hesitate to install Linux on non-tech people's computers. Personally, if something doesn't work, I just go to another site but most people will not tolerate that.

    I notice that IIS has gained ground on Apache lately but we still have >50% of the market. With Micro$oft's new seat-based pricing on web-server authentication (starting with win2k i think?), IIS may not seem to be such an attractive choice for long.

    We have more and more companies supporting the web through Linux - witness the new server side Java support from Sun for Apache - so these plugins will come for the browsers too. I'm not advocatiing apathy but on the other hand, I think that the swing towards Linux and the backlash against Micro$oft is not even close to being finished yet.

    We've more users every day and if 20 million motherboards are going to have Corel Linux with them, we just may see consumer demand for interoperability reach new heights. Linux was started by geeks and nerds but it's the consumers who will make the companies take us seriously.... Soundblaster Live driver anyone?
  • In agonizing over MS's embrace & extend tactics, there is another important factor: MS Office, Windows, IE, etc. is the standard. They are the standard for no other reason than that they are on just about every consumer desktop. The important moral of this little tale, aside from the Linux/open source community's need to focus more on the complete computer-phobic neophyte's needs, is that to beat MS, Linux, Mozilla et al. must in a way *become* MS.

    Put down the gun, I'm not crazy. Hear me out.

    When the IBM PC came out way back when ('81), there were a ton of other companies making PCs. Most of these PCs were better and/or cheaper than the clunker IBM was hocking. But the IBM name sold so many of those "inferior" machines that soon the "better" ones were so much silicon trash. The market share that IBM was able to grab cemented its place as the standard PC right up until the present day, and it looks like it's going to stay there for awhile.

    Then came Compaq, and by reverse engineering the IBM -- i.e, getting 100% compatibility -- IBM lost its preeminence as the PC hardware maker.

    I think you see where I'm going with this. Since MS is the standard OS, Office is the standard productivity whatsis, etc., we have to prove we can beat them at their own game. I admit I'm not too sure what this means, or how it could be done without subverting the open standards, but one great idea is a full-fledged, kickass web browser. Mozilla might be that browser; we have to wait and see. But open source guys can leverage their stability/adaptability advantages to out-innovate MS. (I think this can be done without breaking standards. Publishing APIs, standard protocol extensions, etc., will keep someone from 0wning the market.

  • I would like to see Linux leapfrog Microsoft for features in this area. Why can't someone code a really cool feature that can used with Mozilla first ("extend" apache to provide the feature). Then, write an open license so that if Microsoft wants to incorporate it, they would have to open up their entire browser (and since that's a part of the operating system, I guess they'd have to open up that as well ;-). It would need to be really cool, like internal collapsing/expanding page sections (that don't use any current techniques), or text-reading voice-synth links. Anyway the point being, what stops open-source developers from "extending" current standards and then depending on the open-source licenses to prevent MS from incorporating these features in their products? They are *not* the true innovators.
  • Do you remember when Netscape OWNED the browser client space? How long did it take for Microsoft to change all of that? I remember when I first heard that IE had tipped over 50% share.
    Joseph Elwell.
  • by um... Lucas ( 13147 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @10:09AM (#1559513) Journal
    Before i was very concerned with making websites that were only viewable in one browser or another. There wasn't that much diffentiation in terms of developing for one browser would making my life that much easier. With Cascading Style Sheets, that's all changed.

    Let me warn you that I haven't upgraded my Netscape past 4.5, figuring they're all "dot" releases and will probably not have CSS support. If I'm wrong let me know ASAP!

    But the fact remains that these days I develop sites primarily with IE in mind, because CSS is easier to develop, and produces much cleaner HTML, in my opinion. I don't know, or care, if MS has extended the CSS standard, but what i do know is that I can't seem to get equivilant functionality from Netscape.

    Mozilla really needs to get it's act together, in terms of releasing a reference release, in my eyes. Just bolt on a usuable GUI and call it 1.0. Then start adding features and call that 1.5. Netscape is withering away because of the lack or percieved development. If we wait til Mozilla is perfect, it'll never come. The world changes, and just as Mozilla catches up to it, someone, somewhere, adds something new...
  • As an internet software developer I think I can answer your question.

    When we begin a development project we put together the requirements for the software we need to write. Over time our customers have started to demand features that are generally only accessable to you via a fat application. Those features are available to you in web browsers but only if you target a particular browser. Example: DHTML -- This is a great step forward in what is possible on a browser but unfortunatly Netscape and Microsoft implement the language differently. This mean we have to make a choice for our first release and many times our first release becomes the only release. In the case of DHTML Microsoft is closer to the W3C standard than Netscape so we choose MS. Better to go with the standard and hope that Netscape moves that way than implement the non-standard version and hope that Netscape doesn't standarize.

    Its a complicated and often argued topic.
  • If I had moderator points right now, you'd have an "insightful".
  • by jabber ( 13196 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @10:13AM (#1559525) Homepage
    Most people with computers (ahem, Windows) use their home PC for web browsing. True enough.

    To compete in this area, Linux needs a stable, solid, full-featured browser. True as well.

    But, IMHO, Linux isn't even ready to take up that challenge. A solid, stable, pretty, glitzy GUI is needed first.

    The OS needs to be usable to a new user - on the same level as Windows.

    Linux needs to be easy to install, easy to uninstall, able to sense hardware without the user needing to open the PC to read numbers off of chips.

    Linux needs to support the latest and greatest hardware, like USB (USB2), firewire, parallel port scanners, WinModems...

    Linux needs to have GAMES!

    Linux needs all these things to displace Microsoft as the king of the desktop!

    But is that what we want? Or do we want the best OS possible. A stable and robust system, architectured to be portable and extensible, to support new hardware easily as opposed to supporting it now. It's the fisherman maxim.

    Write in cool hardware support and you play now, write in extensability for new hardware and you play for a lifetime.

    Unless of course what we want to do is relegate Linux to the function of WebTV boxes, in which case all it needs to do is run a browser, a mail client, and that's about it.

    Let's do this right folks. Let's design it for the future. Let's not get seduced by Microsoft's rapid upgrade cycle of feature glut.

    Linux isn't there yet for the desktop. We have other, more important issues to worry about. 64bit is one. IPv6 is another. Parallel multiprocessing is another still...

    Fsck conformity with M$! Let's beat them, not join them. Linux has always been about technical superiority and building knowledgable users. Dumbing Linux down will not serve it at all.

    If Linux bends over for the lowest common denominator, I'm going FreeBSD, and so will all the people developing for Linux.
  • by Ledge Kindred ( 82988 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @10:18AM (#1559532)
    I think what we need is a plugin-centric browser... one with a basic display engine that knows how to draw/display stuff, but doesn't come with any specific information. Then plugins with that information -- plugins that can be updated on the fly, or replaced when needed -- are added, and voia! Superbrowser!

    And of course 99% of those plugins will all be distributed as .DLLs written with Microsoft Visual Studio. No source, either, because this is proprietary technology, you see.

    Oh, you can't use .DLLs on your platform. Oh well, I guess you can't view our new proprietary content. Sorry.

    No, we don't need a browser that is plug-in based, we have those and they obviously only work if you own the OS platform and browser that uses them as well. What we need are sites that conform to STANDARDS.

    Unfortunately that will never happen.

    I don't think the "war" will ever be over. There will ALWAYS be a company somewhere perverting the standards for their own benefit. If they can convince enough of their users that the advantages of doing something that will never work anywhere enough outweights the drawbacks, it will catch on and you're right back at square one.

    There will ALWAYS be more people willing to go for "Cheap, easy and the WRONG thing to do" than "Less cheap, less easy, but the RIGHT thing to do." People are lazy.


  • I'm a webmaster myself, and it's frankly BS to say that you have to choose one browser over the other, and just give up the other one as a lost hope. It's very easy to make a site that works in both browsers if you know what you're doing.. and although there are extra features like DHTML that aren't consistent between browsers, you CAN find code that works in both, or at least code that degrades gracefully so other browsers can still see it. There's elements of my site that only work in IE, but the site still functions perfectly in Netscape.. netscape users just can't see some of the extra unnecessary glitter.

    As for MS owning 99% of the browser market as mentioned in the feature, I'll check my server stats. from last Tuesday got 112 hits from people using IE, 109 using Netscape, and about 200 using something else (mostly search engine bots). This site is a perfectly typical business site.

    The truth, plain and simple, is that if people rely on features unique to only one browser for their site to work, they're lazy, unprofessional, and shouldn't be in the web design business.

    And if Mr. Whitinger's wife really wants windows, let her have it. After about a week of using Windows and IE she'll realize that only a small handful of Netscape crashes in the last couple months is nothing at all.
  • 1.I will give her a Windows computer, but will offer nothing in the way of technical support or training assistance.
    2.I will give her a Linux box, and will give her complete technical support and training assistance.

    For a user such as her, what is different between training for using KDE or Windows 98? Not much for her purposes of email, web browsing, and ICQ. That's the whole POINT of KDE in the first place.

    Also, how hard is it to support Windows anyway ... the first 3 troubleshooting steps are reboot, reboot, and reboot. *grin*

    Seriously though, I understand your argument and you have some valid concerns, but I'm afraid the way you presented them makes it seem like YOU stifled her choice of OS by refusing to support both platforms at her expense. Who in their right mind WOULD choose the system that offered zero support and training when they are brand new to the technology?

    How much can we blame Microsoft for forcing consumers and OEM's hands regarding OS choice when we do the same thing for no reason other than to spite them?

    Give the people what will best suit their needs ... hell, I would have given her an iMac and been done with it. (And no, I don't own a Mac.)
  • Well, it's been a year and a half, and there is no progess in terms of a shippable product. The reviews i've read all say that it's coming along quite smoothly, has a lightning fast page rendering engine, etc...

    So, if it can:

    bookmark sites
    understand plain HTML (even without CSS)
    handle GIF, JPEG, and PNG graphics
    use at least 40-bit SSL connections
    not crash very often

    I'd say make a usable GUI, ship it, and start adding the parts that didn't make it into the first release. That's all. If it's completely unstable and unusable, then no, don't ship it yet. But from what I've heard, there have been some fairly solid releases.
  • Web designers are not the problem--W3BD3Z1NR3Z [], our version of script kiddies, are the problem. Good Web designers don't alienate large portions of their audience--20% of all users is a HUGE share of the user base.
  • IMHO, the solution is to educate web developers and webmasters.

    Their is not a single web functionality that cannot be realized in both Netscape and IE and under all popular operating systems.

    The problem comes in when a particular web designer chooses to implement a feature on their site that requires a proprietary Microsoft plug-in or a proprietary Microsoft extension to Java to work.

    If we can educate web designers to implement everything on their sites using open standards and protocols this issue will take care of itself.

    I cannot think of a single example of a Microsoft proprietary plugin or extension to Java for which there is not a functionally equivalent open solution.

    Insist that developers stick to open protocols and MS's monopoly power is severely diluted.
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @10:36AM (#1559578)
    Maybe we should stop pretending Open Source can be everything to everyone. If anything this article should encourage a slew of complaints against webmasters who make make incompatible pages and make you wonder to what ever happened to standards.

    So who wants to vote for this month's most proprietary web pages? We'll make a nice webpage and a link to the lucky webmasters.

    Scary thought: Inbox 10,000 emails with the subject, "Can't access your page."

    Scarier: 10,000 emails a month until you fix it.

  • by Jonas Öberg ( 19456 ) <> on Friday November 05, 1999 @10:49AM (#1559607) Homepage
    I am somewhat confused. What war are people talking about here? Browser war? Sure, we could lose that. No big deal really. We've already "won" the war against proprietary software -- we've built a wholly free operating system. I don't think we were ever at war though, not that I could see anyway.

    I think people are confused as to what free software is about. Free software is not about bringing down Microsoft, or any other company creating proprietary software, it's not about getting GNU/Linux on all computers world-wide either. The goal was and still is to create a wholly free operating system. I get the feeling that people in our community feel threatened by proprietary software and I don't understand that reasoning. I use exclusively free software on my systems (except for ssh, but that will hopefully change soon); I have no need for proprietary software, so why should I feel threatened by it?

  • To this one I can only say, "Say Amen, somebody!"

    Work on Mozilla if you want to (how's the license, by the way? Does it meet snuff of can Netscape/AOL take it back any time they want?), but as a developer of web based applications, I think anyone who makes a site that won't work with an HTML 3.0 compliant browser at least to the point of all content being readable is being negligent.

    HTML emphasizes content over form. The web should continue to do so. I have to admit that I wasn't fond of image maps, frames, or javascript. Even so, there are a host of simple techniques for making rich sites play nice with less capable browsers.

    Standards, folks, standards!
  • Isn't that interesting (and insulting).

    My wife, Kathleen, like Trish, probably represents the typical computer user.

    For years she has booted our dual boot desktop machine into Windows and I have booted into Linux.

    She is so sick and tired of relentless, constant "blue screens o' death", and "this program has performed an illegal operation" messages that she has asked me for the following favor: Teach her Linux!

    You see, she sees me hum along in linux crash free on the same damn hardware!

    We plan to buy a more powerful box in the next month or so, anyway. So, what I'm going to do is set her up an account with the newest, slickest, most windows looking configuration of Gnome I can set up, give her a few lessons, install Applixware or Star Office (or both) as her MS Office replacement and see how it goes.

    We both predict she'll like the change!
  • Simply matching the functionality of Windows isn't enough. Even matching the functionality for Free (both beer and speech) isn't enough. If we want World Domination, we have to be BETTER than Windows. WAY better than Windows.

    In general, i think X with modern window managers and KDE or Gnome is already superior to Windows as a desktop. And of course, Linux/*BSD totally kicks Windows' ass as an underlying OS.

    But Linux falls short of (or barely on par with) Windows on two fronts - web browsers, and office productivity applications. We have a mediocre, obsolescent, buggy version of Netscape (how many other apps do you kill -9 on a regular basis?), and Office imitations like StarOffice and Applix. We *can* do better than that; we *must* do better.

    Work on the browser is already in place with Mozilla. They are clearly on the right track, development-wise. If only other Open Source gui apps had such a well-planned design! (are you listening, Gnome?) Don't rush them. Don't insist on some bug-ridden premature 1.0 release to satisfy some artificial market-hype deadline. They're doing it right, and doing it right takes time and patience.

    I hope to see the same fundamental-rethinking wisdom applied to office productivity apps too. The tools are becoming available, in the form of XML and other standard technologies (and maybe Mozilla for a display engine!). I have ideas, but that's another story.

    When the Open Source community is turning out *better* browsers and productivity tools than MS can make with all their zillions of dollars, we will win. But the battle shouldn't be with MS... it should be with ourselves, constantly challenging the community to do better.

    This "war" is pointless. If your goal is simply to beat Microsoft, you need loftier goals. :}
    Maybe that's just the price you pay for the chains that you refuse.
  • More to the point: There is no war!

    It's not a competition. There is no competition. It's about the user's choice. If the user wants to use MS because it supports more websites, then they will. If they want to use Linux because it doesn't crash and it's free, they'll do that too.

    It's about choice for companies too. If they want to develop plug-ins for Linux, they will. If they see a big enough demand for it, they definitely will. Right now that demand just isn't there. Why? Because not enough people have chosen Linux.

    Don't get your pants in a bunch because you think this is a battle. It's not. MS doesn't have to lose for Linux to win. Linux is just an operating system. It's people who win -- and they do so by finding a system that works for them. It would be wonderful if Linux was that system, but for most it isn't. Because of browser incompatibilities and other topics that have been discussed into the ground.

    And if those problems are never overcome? Then Linux doesn't take the average user's desktop. Oh well. I don't care if it does. I like having Linux on my desktop. I don't have to see it on every desktop, just because I don't like MS. I absolutley refuse to make it personal.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • This is the first comment I've seen (including the main story) that is taking a realistic look at things.

    It is Microsoft's market share that is currently being drained away in all areas but browser; when you're on top, there's nowhere to go but down. As for the browser, the numbers that show IE's total dominance in this area these days are well cooked; I would say that > 70% of the people I know who use Windows still use Netscape.

    Considering that a huge chunk of the web browsing populace is still using what is basically a 2+ year old browser despite the fact that a newer one is bolted right into their operating system makes me worry far more for Microsoft's future than Linux or Mozilla's. Don't get me wrong, the ability to go down the drain into obscurity is well within Mozilla's grasp; I don't accept, however, that it's imminent.

    As for Linux itself, it's gone over critical mass. It's not going anywhere, and I don't care what Microsoft has to say about it. I have the ability to look at the evidence myself, and what I see lets me rest easy indeed.

  • Most of the proprietary documents I get are in Lotus WordPro format. Gotta wonder why -- if there's a software company on the planet with lower quality that MS, it's Lotus.

    Our department briefly wrestled with the problem of different document types and finally came down from on high and said that PDF files should be used to transmit documents. That's fine for me, I can use pdflatex in Linux and gs or xpdf to view 'em (Acroread doesn't work on glibc systems yet.)

  • That way, important sites can brag, "This site uses no wonky extensions that aren't in a blessed form of Java, JavaScript, or Shockwave"

    I prefer the works just fine with any browser [] approach. And by the way, Shockwave currently has no Linux plugin. That's Flash.

    But your point about having an attractive button (or set of buttons) for this purpose is a good one. I'm no graphic artist, though, so I can't help there. Perhaps a new Gimp logo contest?

  • XEmacs had that for years. W3 was the first browser to support CSS (or so they claim). It doesn't do Java or JavaScript, but those are pretty useless anyway. The big problem is that w3 is really slow. Netscape is a speed demon in comparison.
  • ... That seem to think that one aspect of Linux can cause us to lose the "war" with Windows. To most of us linux users, its not a war to begin with. I could care less if
    others use Linux, I know that I can use it, it takes care of my needs, and I never have to reboot my machine. If there is a Desktop war going on, I wonder who's fighting?
    MS certainly sees us as a threat, but we couldn't care less about them.

    You should care whether others are using Linux. Without a large user base, there will be nothing to stop the industry from making all hardware proprietary. Today, if you use Linux, you know that you can't use Winmodems, some high end sound cards, some really expansive, professional 3D cards, but that's pretty much it. None of this is something you can't live without. However, if Linux won't have a large user base, there will be no market forces that can force hardware manufacturers to open their hardware specs. If, five years from now, the average PC will have 90% proprietary hardware, with drivers protected by patents, you won't have a machine to run your free operating system on.

    Do you seriously think that Crative Labs or NVidia care about Free Software, or Open Source? As public companies, they care about their bottom lines, and nothing else. If Linux has a large user base, they open up their hardware specs, and you have sound support in the kernel. If nobody uses Linux (or any other free operating system, for that matter), they have no reason to open their drivers, or to publish hardware specs. On the contrary - to be competative, they will obtain patents for every last detail of their hardware and software, effectively preventing any Free code from supporting their hardware.

    This is an important issue, and one that many Linux users fail to understand. A substantial user base is essential, not to us "winning" anything, but to Linux being a viable platform for commodity hardware. Without easy access to affordable Linux workstations, there won't be a Linux.

    As for the "war" with Microsoft, you may not think you're that Linux is at war with Microsoft. That doesn't change the fact that Linux poses a threat to Windows's dominant position on the desktop, and therefore to Microsoft's profits. Call it whatever you want, I'll bet they're calling it War.
  • if we don't catch up and start supporting everything that the freakin' microsoftbrowser supports, then people won't move to linux.

    But can Linux? Realistically?

    Java and Flash should be doable, they're documented. The only potential problem is having to run apps designed for Microsoft "Java."

    But ActiveX? Running ActiveX plug-ins? That's a whole 'nuther ball of wax. I'm not sure you'll ever get those running under Linux. And if you can't, some sites will always be inaccessible.
  • Your understanding of the reality of the Linux community, and of Open Source projects, leaves a lot to be desired. The Linux Community isn't a corporation, no-one has the power to tell others what to work on. Heck, the Linux Community isn't even an orgainsation (as that would mean that there was some order, there's not), it's a community. What gets worked on and what doesn't is entirely up to the people doing the working.

    A charactorisitc of the Linux (OS) software development model is that people work on what they currently need. If someone has a single processor system, they're not going to work on improving multiprocessor support - they're going to work on improving single processor support.

    Linux is a fully functional computer operating system for almost any possible purpoise, wether it be a desktop workstation, a web server, or a node in a beowulf cluster doing major number crunching.

    Linux, as an O/S, has everything it needs to be perfect desktop machine with three or four minor problems. KDE 2, XF86 4, and Mozilla will solve all of these.

    The objective of the Linux movement, if you can even say it has one, is not to build a theoretical perfect O/S. It's to build a usefull, free operating system that can be used for anything that people want to use it for. If people want it to be their pretty GUI appliance desktop O/S, that's fine, and they need a webbrowser for that.

    The FreeBSD project, although more centrally organized and with more specific objectives than the "Linux Community", is also a project to produce a free, usable O/S. Remember that in application space, FreeBSD and Linux are basically the same, they both run X, they both need a Window Manager, etc. An app for Linux will run on FreeBSD, and an app for FreeBSD will run on Linux.

    As you're not doing central OS develpment stuff, no-one could care less wether you're using Linux or FreeBSD.

  • Sorry. The lyrics have been stuck in my head for days now...

    Ok. So. the article is rather inflammatory, and there is some debate on this whole browser war issue. But the points that come out of it are very valid. The key one is this:

    I am making a personal committment to get involved with the Mozilla project []. It is the project with the most potential to become this Free Web Browser that we so desperately need. Netscape is NOT going to save us this time. Netscape has failed us, and it's time to take matters into our own hands.

    To sum up: GET INVOLVED

    Somehow, somewhere you have some free time. Use that time to find a project that interests you, and help out. If nothing else do it to make you r life easier in the long run.

    And if you do go searching for a project, pick one of some significance. We really do not need *another* gtk ICQ program, or *another* mp3 player. We do need a better netscape. An earllier post talked about developing a competitor to Exchange. We do need better UI's.

    What would happen if all the little developers hacking away on exactly the same thing, dropped those and decended in a massive horde of mad programmin' skillz upon the big projects? Mozilla would be done in no time. The desktop argument would fall by the wayside.

    Is there a central website of some sort for project posting? Show up, stick your project idea on the board and get interested people? If so, why haven't I heard anything about it? The apps repositories don't count. Sticking a sentence in a slashdot comment doesn't count either. I talkin' a purely administrative site. or something.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • by Kaz Kylheku ( 1484 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @11:31AM (#1559673) Homepage
    forgot to support bitmap and vector graphics, frames, etc.

    The team who developed Mosaic gave allowed others to embrace and extended to do the obvious things that were missing, instead of putting the software under the GPL. Both Netscape and Explorer have roots in Mosaic. The base code for Explorer came from Spyglass whom Microsoft cannibalized. Spyglass' wares were derived from Mosaic, IIRC. So you can thank the bungled handling of the Mosaic codebase for the current situation, at least partially.

    The W3C guys haven't learned any lessons from all this. They still offer source code that can be embraced, extended and locked away into proprietary machine code. Here is a link to the license [] for libwww and other w3c freeware like the Amaya browser. Their FAQ says this: Yes, we want people to experiment with and improve our software. It can even be used in commercial software. If you make changes for the better, we encourage you to contact its authors. You may not make changes and continue to call it by a trademarked term or misrepresent the origin, capabilities, or liabilities associated with its use. You may make valid assertions, such that it is based on Amaya code, or that it is compliant with a Recommended Specification of the W3C.

    They want everyone to follow the standard, yet they purvey reference implementations that can be molded into whatever proprietary shape that the Microsofts or Netscapes of this world care to dream up. It comes to reason that a reference implementation of a standard should have a license that promotes compliance and prevents it from being used as a basis for proprietary extensions.

  • Linux needs to have GAMES!

    Definitely agreed. Linux (or rather, the open source development model in general), can have a profound and beneficial effect on the quality and innovativeness of games. Games on Linux are great and welcome, but if we're still not able to mold and shape them into new forms, we're losing out on a lot of potential.

    So in addition to supporting GUI development, web development, driver development, et al., don't forget about FreeCiv [], WorldForge [], CrystalSpace [], and the like. :-)

  • It's Dave's time; why should he spend it supporting an OS he doesn't like? I'm sure even his wife would not want him to spend his free time on something so upleasant as fixing windows (taking out the garbage may be another issue.)

    Uhhh .. because it's his wife and he loves her and wants her to have the best experience she can have according to her needs, not his agenda?

    Like I said, she gained no real value from the "choice" he forced upon her ... she actually lost value over time and is now in a worse position than she would have been if Windows was chosen in the first place. This doesn't HELP the linux cause ... if anything, it creates resentment in the same way those who "choose" Windows on their OEM'd PC feel when they have to reboot 5 times a day.

    This is the same reason people call this community elitist ... many are so blinded by their own agenda and can't even see the trees, must less the forest or beyond.
  • ...many pro-Linux people I know have been grumbling about the lack of the latest RealPlayer support and other niceties that people in the Windows world take for granted

    Funny you should say that. I just add/*removed* Real Player from my Windows NT machine today because it has just come to suck too much. As far as a streaming audio player goes it's not particularly impressive, and really it just takes a nice open format (mp3), sticks its own header on it, and tries to pretend it's handling some kind of amazing super-secret format you can't live without. Then, it hits you with the ads you don't want, the channels you don't want, the registration you don't want to do (complete with rectal examination) and provides no way for you to prevent it from starting when Windows starts. So: out it goes. Enough is enough. I'll stick with streaming mp3, thankyou, or use other players for ra-formatted mp3 audio. And I won't have to put up with the file not being saved to disk by default, so you have to download it all again any time you want to rewind. No thanks, Real Player, goodbye.
  • The newest Netscape Navigator release (the one with the Shop button) has limited support for CSS (Aka. Sufficient that I use CSS on all my websites and call them Netscape compatible)

    There are some things that Netscape doesn't do, and when I've wanted to use those capacities of CSS, and I've found other ways to design my sites so that I didn't need to do them.

    Mozilla M10 is sufficently stable that I use it to test all my websites. You shouldn't have any problem doing this eithor. It's CSS implementation is better and more accurate than that of MSIE 4.0

    The Mozilla development team isn't waiting until it's perfect, the're waiting for it's develpment process to be completed. Mozilla's development plan is specific, detailed, and documented. It's based on Milestones, and it's on Milestone 10. Milestone 11 is to be labeled as a "Usable Beta". When the development process is done, 1.0 will be released.

  • Here is some more that I believe, and that I've heard complained about, in Linux that needs to be fixed. []
  • By succumbing to using IE for web browsing, you are shooting yourself in the foot if you want to use linux. Any decent size web site tracks what browsers are used to visit their site, and what OS. If you go to sites with a microsoft browser and a microsoft os, you are fighting for the opposite side than what you claim to be on. If you want a site to make itself (netscape/opera)/linux friendly, start hitting with the choice browser and linux. If any decent webmaster sees a growing percentage of hits from linux machines, he/she will make sure that their site works properly for those users. Fight for the good guys.

  • Please explain how ActiveX is superior to Netscape's plugin system. While you're at it, you should try to explain exactly why a system so insecure it can cause web pages to totally erase your hard drive could possibly be superior to one which did everything else ActiveX could do as concerns Web pages, but didn't let pages erase your drives.
  • (Engage humor mode!) While we're at it, Linux doesn't support the delete client's hard drive and crash plugin either. Perhaps we need to make THE killer website and put it behind a warning page: "You may browse this site with ANYTHING but windows, you have been warned....

  • Let me warn you that I haven't upgraded my Netscape past 4.5, figuring they're all "dot" releases and will probably not have CSS support. If I'm wrong let me know ASAP!

    You're wrong. (I think?)

    I don't know exactly what functionality you're missing, but I'm using Netscape 4.08, and CSS works pretty well. (Although you have to have Javascript enabled in order to use it - I don't know why.) I know that not all of the CSS spec is present in Netscape, but a good portion is, and it works pretty well.

    I agree with the other parts you said though - Style Sheets are a godsend; Ever since I started using HTML, I've been amazed at how ugly the FONT tag is; thankfully CSS was developed, and we can do away with all that.
  • Linux has a clear path to a good market share of servers, I think. It's excellent as a small to medium server, and it just makes too good economic sense not to be successful there. It's server capabilities are also increasing rapidly, especially from the commercial contributions to the kernel. So I think Linux can be an extremely successful OS while failing to achieve total desktop domination. But if Microsoft controls HTML it won't happen.

    Unix always has, and probably always will, be the most appealing to students, developers, engineers, and scientists. Take it apart and figure out creative new ways to put it back together people. MS Windows on the other hand tends to appeal to businessmen and home users. Don't tell me about it -- I'm not paying to learn -- just make sure it works and all I have to do is push a button people. These are quite different sets of people and *both* have a realistic notion of their needs. The problem is in either Microsoft or *nix trying to force one set to use the other's tools. That should only be possible by satisfying the underlying needs responsible for both choices -- something neither side is fearfully close to yet. All I want to see is that those 10-30% who prefer Unix have that choice, and are supported with drivers and plug-ins.

    Now, I'm optimistic about the Linux desktop personally. I'd always been a DOS command line person anyway, GUIs have never impressed me as powerful enough, though I use them. For my money, if you develop software, the best place to do it is in something Unix-like like Linux. It's entertainment like the web and games that keep me dual booting.

    The bit about lack of plug-ins is true, but hardly fair. That sort of thing follows desktop success, it doesn't precede it. As hardware drivers are now coming thru for Linux, so I expect plug-ins to follow.

    Having to recompile your apps? Well, yes, *having* to can be a pain. Being *able* to can also be wonderful when it's needed. No worse than having to re-install Windows occasionally surely.

    The desktop standards thing is interesting. Do you remember when Norton and another company sold competing Win3.1 desktops? Much the same problem there. Microsoft of course settled it in their usual fashion by driving both, though superior, out of the market. I think in the Unix world, there is a possibility for something better, choice of desktop with full interoperability of apps. It won't come soon, but it will NEVER happen with Windows, Microsoft wouldn't permit it.

    The issue is one of critical mass. There have to be enough Linux desktop users to make supporting them commercially attractive, or at least feasible. I would like to see fixes for the problems you mention, but I have to agree with the article, the lack of a browser is the most critical problem at the moment on the desktop front and standards front both. It's not an attempt to dominate the desktop, it's an attempt to maintain a foothold in the client space for fear of being embrace-and-extended out of the server space.
  • Okay, I have a strange idea that might be able to work.

    I noted that recently on Freshmeat, someone had found a way to play VQF files in Linux, even though the only way to get a player is through getting a Windows .dll from the Sony website.

    How? By using Wine. The plug-in talks to Wine, and Wine passes that on to the (Linux) music player.

    Could the same principle be employed for this? The API for Netscape plug-ins is surely basically the same between Linux and Windows. Give the plug-ins a way to be able to execute in the new environment, they may never know the difference.

    I suspect this could be achieved through a "wrapper" plug-in, that translates between the plug-in for Windows and the browser for Linux. Even sound could be made to work, I suspect - Wine is pretty nifty these days.

    The main problem I see is that only x86 Linux people will benefit from this. This is, however, the main market, and at least having it there will help "win the battle".

    If only I knew more about Wine... or had some spare time :) - I'd really like to see this happen, if at all possible.


  • by .pentai. ( 37595 ) on Friday November 05, 1999 @01:02PM (#1559786) Homepage
    Yes, make that requirement, and watch the companies all flip their collective fingers at the person who says they have to.

    Companies will never give up trade secrets. Why? Because the second they do they lose their edge. The second they lose that edge, they're on their way to death. Atleast, that's how they see it.

    If people have to do something they don't want in order to support you, it's simple, they won't support you, unless you're microsoft who has a stronghold on the market and multiple billio...err, never mind the buts...
  • First, the release will generate massive quantities of good publicity for OSS.

    Then AOL will get out of Microsoft's bed (or MS will have court-imposed changes as a result of the antitrust suit) and integrate Mozilla into their client. As it filters down to their members, a huge number of IE users switch to Mozilla -- many without even realizing it.

    As I understand it, Mozilla's policy towards standards-compliance is "we'll honor the standards, and if you don't we can't guarantee that we'll handle your crap correctly and it's your problem". Suddenly, a large percentage of the audience of noncompliant sites is using a compliant browser.

    The noncompliant crap is fixed when a large number of people can't use it.

    End result? Return of the Standards.

  • This is why.
    Every day it gets bigger, more robust, and more difficult to stop. Eventually MS will have to bow out to Linux not because Linux will declare war on Windows, but because Windows will simply pale in comparison.

    Eventually no one (outside the hardcore geeks) wil l use anything other that IE because that's what works on all the web (if current trends continue and they ARE moving this way). A computer without the 'Net is fairly useless (IMHO), the best way the access the 'Net is through a browser. The browser becomes the most important part of the machine. M$ has realized this and is pushing hard to make the browser the OS and build special hooks so that IE/IIS/Windows is the only way to really access the 'Net.
    Having surfed the 'Net extensively on both browser on both platforms there is No Question that M$ has a superior product with VASTLY superior third-party support.

    You see, one of the most important differences between Windows and Linux is that Windows is all smoke and mirrors (marketing) whereas Linux is an product that is actually well made and capable of delivering on its promises. The public will grow tired of the illusion sooner or later, its all a matter of time.

    Every TV show/Movie you have ever enjoyed is mostly smoke and mirrors. Most people DON'T CARE and are more than happy to use smoke and mirrors. Besides, windows (despite it's very many flaws) does work most of the time. I'm a gamer and the doze does games great.

    The article illustrated a very good point, people want stuff that "just works", when sites don't they get frustrated and will go back to the herd. Having the pre-eminent browser is the first huge step to desktop acceptance. If you don't want that, then this argument is moot anyway.
  • But the whole point is moot because if you want to listen to something that uses Real Player, you're SOL. It's just like once site I can't view in Linux because it uses Quicktime extensivly.

    No, the point is that I personally don't care about Real Player any more because it's gotten way too commercial and annoying to use. Wait for it - Real Player will be superceded soon by something more to our taste, and with the added benefit of being open source and running under Linux.

    About 2 years ago I stopped using Hotbot because it got just too annoying, for the same reason, even though it was still the search engine with the best query interface. This year, miraculously, along comes google and is the answer to all (or most) of my prayers. Worth waiting for. In the meantime, I slummed and used altavista (fast seach but horrible interface and lousy presentation of results).

    I can see Real Player is headed the same direction - don't get too attached to it. I guess at this point I'll just surf around and find something that can decode streaming ra files. Or I'll wait. It's not that we've got so much time on our hands we have to spend it all listening to ra files ;-)
  • 1) Companies use netscape on all their UNIX boxes.
    2) Companies use netscape on all their Win95 boxes. IE wasn't free when the majority of companies purchased their licenses, and Netscape continues to dominate the market share in the commercial sector, which is roughly twice the size of the personal or private sector.(After all, everyone who works in virtually any white collar job has at least one machine they have at work, but not all of them have PCs at home.

    You're missing something key here: the Web is increasingly become a consumer mainstay. what companies have at work will only be relevant for business-to-business transactions. The consumer has traditionally ruled the markets. Look at how hardware companies have twisted themselves into a pretzel to attract the first time consumer buyer.

    We're not at war.

    Tell that to Bill Gates.
  • What war are people talking about here?

    The war on proprietary software, what else?

    [The] [b]rowser war? Sure, we could lose that. No big deal really.

    Uhh no. To ~99% of the people, the browser is the main way to access the Internet. It's your HTML viewer, it's your FTP client, it's your USENET/mail reader. Hell it's even enables people to chat (with appropriate plugins). If you give up the browser, you're giving up one of the most strategic pieces of software on the planet. Microsoft realized this (eventually) and that's why they licensed Spyglass Mosaic to jumpstart IE.

    We've already "won" the war against proprietary software -- we've built a wholly free operating system.

    Builing a Free operating system is just showing up for the fight. That's not victory at all. Victory is total anilation of the enemy. Who's the enemy? Currently Redmond, but more generally anything that's proprietary. (Of course we can take the war further, turning on Whoever-is-Not-Us. That's competition, it's a war. Kill or be killed.) What's the penalty for losing? Complete marginalization.

    I get the feeling that people in our community feel threatened by proprietary software and I don't understand that reasoning. I use exclusively free software on my systems (except for ssh, but that will hopefully change soon); I have no need for proprietary software, so why should I feel threatened by it?

    The fear is marginlization, and marginalization == death in this industry. If we allow ourselves to be marginalized we'll be no different than the Amigans. ("I have an Amiga, I have no need for the PC. Why should I fear it?" Uhh you can't do anything modern with it today?) That is the price of failure.

    You use Free Software. That's great. So do I, but would you still use if advancements passed it by? Why doesn't anyone use NCSA Mosaic anymore? It was Free. It was the best thing out there for years. Now if you try and use that you're out in the cold.

    To make Free Software worthwhile, it needs to be at least comprable to it's proprietary counterparts. Sure we get lots of times we get close (GNOME, KDE, Gimp, Gnumeric, ...) but they are not professional grade tools. (Gimp lacks the ability to draw cricles, lines, and rectangles. (Or at least every installation of Gimp I've seen.)) Only then can we we say we're in the competitive. Proof of Concept != Viable Alternative.

    Most people don't give a damn about ideals. They want what works. When The Movement has the best product in the market, and so many people uses it,that The Movement gets to set the agenda then we would have won. That is victory.
  • by Daniel ( 1678 )
    Ok, I very nearly said this on LinuxToday, but I've decided to be flamed by a wider audience ;-)

    Let's assume that the author's "nightmare" scenario comes to pass: IE suddenly becomes the dominant browser and all major websites decide to lock out users of non-IE browsers.

    Will gcc's backends all suddenly commit electronic suicide in despair? Perhaps Emacs is going to decide it's Lisped its last? I assume that Linus, Alan, Andrea, and the thousands of other people who've worked on the kernel will pack up and leave. X, of course, will stop working when the Microsoft takeover alters the fabric of reality, as will FTP, SSH, and CVS. And of course every bleeding window manager will suddenly suffer a fatal heart attack (except wm2 which no-one uses anyway) apt will spontaneously combust, ext2fs will cease to function, the RFCs will self-destruct, Python will be a dead parrot, mpg123 will be silenced, GnomeI-See-You won't, and Freeciv as we know it will cease. All SMTP traffic will immediately halt; Exim, Postfix, and Smail will be outlawed; mutt and all lesser email clients[1] will start requiring stamps to be inserted into the floppy drive; and everything will be a general mess. Plus Microsoft will send people over to my house to demagnetize all my disks.

    Yes, I can see how this will affect my life in a very significant and direct way.


    [1] Everything else.
  • > Hey - you just described IE5. Hate to admit it but...all the components of IE are just generally available COM objects.

    AND you can script those components with Perl. Or Python. Or Javascript, C++, Delphi, VB, or even freakin Haskell []

    Unix can only claim superior scriptability at the moment because it has a passable scripting language as its command shell (some better than others, ksh has better typing for example). But what it can't do is script individual components of a program in any language that has a native interface. Want to embed a browser component in emacs and remote-control it with elisp? Fat chance.

    Yes, yes, this is all promised with gnome and bonobo and corba corba uber alles. But so far, like mozilla, it hasn't produced any deliverables. I'm not even impressed with the stability of mozilla under win32.
  • Holy crap if I were a webmaster I wouldn't read past sentence 1 of such an insufferably superior attitude.

    How about: "I'm trying to read your page with on . It's broken, such and such doesn't render properly. Looks like you have an unclosed table tag [or whatever is the problem]. Could you please fix it? Thanks from a potential paying customer."

    Just because you're right doesn't mean you have to be righteous.
  • > not crash very often

    You lose. I had the displeasure of running M10 on win98. First immediate annoyance: mousewheel doesn't work. Reflow is decent, a damn sight better than netscape, but not as smooth as IE. Some images got placed slightly off, I could actually see the placeholder and a piece of the ALT text where the image should have been.

    But when I selected several items off menus, it was always crash, crash, crash. And not from failed assertions, mind you, but invalid page faults. Meaning this thing has null or stale pointers all over the place, possibly even buffer overruns. Does expect that these are just going to all get fixed so long as we just chase 'em out and patch 'em as we hit them? If that kind of ad hoc methodology is driving Mozilla, it doesn't have a prayer.
  • Let's just go over some of these, ah, "improvements".

    > Totally drop the command prompt, or at least make it so you can do ANYTHING without it. Like Windows is right now.

    Ludicrous. Fragmenting a unified interface into a dozen GUI interfaces spread across a dozen dialogs each taking, yes, an icky TYPED text option, is not getting rid of the command line. Doing automated complex things in NT still requires typing up some kind of perl script.

    > Graphical installation screen for programs (similar to StarOffice, I myself would LOVE this too)

    Joy, then we can see a burgeoning market in programs like CleanSweep that "really uninstall programs for real" thanks to idiodicy like InstallShield, which keeps its install information in the directory of the program, so if you erase or just plain move the install directory, you can't uninstall the program. Or get rid of it from your add/remove programs menu without special tools. The sheer bureacracy of installshield is something I hear no end of griping about, from novices and experts alike.

    > Make it easier to use. Most of it has to do with the heavily text nature of Linux. My dad finds it easier to click some button then type in a bunch of acrane commands and options.

    My experience at the helpdesk is that windows requires you to click a bunch of buttons, then type various arcane things, then click on some more buttons, type arcane things, and so on. Are you sensing a theme here? The GUI in Windows ain't so graphical.
  • > Permanantly mount the floppy and cdrom? How do you plan on ejecting? Personally, I'd just remove the floppy from the write cache.

    He just doesn't have the correct terminology, which is hardly a crime. He wants volume management, something I take for granted on Solaris and Windows both, and have yet to see on Linux. Truth be told, most intuitive volume management I've seen was on the mac, back in 1992 or so (though it was a bit aggressive about asking for floppies when ejecting them).
  • > As far as the browsers, it would be nice if there were a shockwave player for Linux.

    I'm using it now. What would be nice would be Macromedia Director for Linux.
  • > Please explain how ActiveX is superior to Netscape's plugin system.

    Technologically, they're almost exactly the same. Netscape Plugins on Win32 use OLE2, whereas ActiveX is simply a marketroid word for the same thing (sort of, OLE2 is an ActiveX "technology" that adds on a late-binding dispatch layer, one that isn't strictly necessary now).

    Netscape can now autoinstall plugins for you when you hit pages that require them. They can run arbitrary code that can do anything they want to your system. This is *exactly* like ActiveX controls, without the benefit of code signing! Yet why isn't Netscape being nailed to a cross for this? Oh, because they have to be accessable from Netscape's site, giving them more control over the content than Microsoft, which doesn't require the middleman. Why isn't Netscape in the stocks now?

    Because they're not Microsoft, that's why.

    War this, war that. I'm really sick of these childish games. Real innocent bystanders die in real wars, sometimes millions are slaughtered in the efficient machinery of murder. The War on Drugs, the War on Crime, the War on Poverty, the War on Microsoft. I'm really god damn SICK of the war metaphor, dig?
  • I have been telling you guys here at /. for over a year now that linux could die if ms rules the internet.

    You all laughed me off or called me a troll.

    I'm still laughing, and I still think you're a troll.

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