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« 1995 and All That | Main | In Praise of Kenneth Tynan »

Thursday, 11 August 2005


Celestial Weasel

Interesting... I knew of Newtscope when it came out and, ISTR, switched from whatever I was using (which was not, I think, Mosaic). However I never believed they had a business model. My thoughts at the time was reinforced much later by reading High Stakes, No Prisoners.
I felt (in, I guess, around 1996) that their only chance was to join with (either merge or as a partnership) with one of the then Linux distros (Caldera struck me at the time) and come out with an OS. I imagined Tux, who was created around then, using the Netscape ship's wheel. I thought of the name Caldera Network Desktop for it.

In short, it was a marginal business that needed to make good decisions to survive that then made bad decisions. Not least
a) anything to do with Java e.g. Javagator
b) stupid 'net appliance' nonsense.
Then, because so much money was involved, their failure had to be because of nasty evil Microsoft rather than them fundamentally not having a business.

Obviously I would not have minded some of the money...


Netscape certainly didn't help themselves. In 1995, it wasn't clear that we wouldn't all be using NCs in the future with all applications accessed through a Web frontend - hell, it's still not clear that we won't all end up that way. So, there initial valuation wasn't as off as it seems now. They didn't turn out to be Google or Yahoo! or eBay or Amazon or RedHat - but they might have done. Whichever way, they were the first. But first isn't always (or usually) the most best or important.

Celestial Weasel

Hmm. It was (and is) clear to me.

I remember (and this is probably around 96) downloading and printing off the road-map and some documents concerning Netscape's platform ONE (Open Networking Environment?). This was a bizarre mess of their plug-in API which essentially had a handful of methods to slot in your C program which used the real API for your platform. Javascript and IIOP which they then thought was The Answer To Everything. It was not a platform so much as a bunch of wishful thinking.

When I see things about the Google API I get a profound feeling of Deja Vu i.e. lots of hype but it doesn't really do anything.

This is not to say that I am not impressed by Google - when I saw Google Earth I got the tingle in the hairs on the back of my neck I have got about 5 times (the other ones for the record are:

1 MS-DOS (for being enough more than CP/M and enough less than a mini-computer OS that I could see it was going to take over the world)
2 Graphical web browser across 'the internet' (i.e. SLIP on Trumpet Winsock over dial-up to Demon)

1 Psion 3
2 Mac (I was more impressed by the consistency of the UI and the concept of the resource fork than the actual GUI which I had seen before on a decent number of DOS programs)
3 The BBC's use of the ironically titled OpenTV platform on DSAT

Obviously Google Earth is in the minor category - I would expect it to be a platform for lots of news / adverts, although it does need a better API and better resolution pictures.

Hmm. I ramble.

Anyway, I have profoundly mixed feelings about 'the web' as a platform. It is good that it is a platform for searchable / indexable documents with a certain degree of presentation (although there were of course things like Archie, Veronica, WAIS, gopher etc. so the Web was, as things often are, something that succeeded because it hit the right balance not because it was unprecedented), and it is good that there is a platform for light-weight applications (e.g. like this, a few text boxes, a few buttons), but it is bad that programming it is such an unpleasant kludge. The difficulty of producing vaguely pleasant software compared to, say, Visual Basic, is profoundly disempowering - the fact that to produce something like Google Maps, which should be easy, but involves this AJAX bollocks and all sorts of table / CSS / Javascript kludges as well as some server software probably written in a different language is awful.

However, it would be worse if there were only a closed platform, and there are, I guess, advantages to the technology for presenting information and the technology for presenting applications being the same.

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