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Fighting the Good Fight
Mar 04, 1996 :: Michael Sippey

Editor's note: I never tire of writing about the ongoing battle between Microsoft and Netscape. Many of you, however, may be tired of reading about it. Get over yourselves.

The web was chock-full of FTP traffic last week, thanks to two enormous pieces of software that people just had to have. Microsoft's Internet Information Server and Netscape's official release of Navigator 2.0. It was a great battle: whose freeware could cause the most delays in packets carrying Spotmate diary entries.

The jury is still out on that one. But we know for sure that big bad Bill's Internet Information Server (IIS) brought to its knees, keeping web surfers from their support notes and personalized MSN home pages. The word on the web site is that every 30 seconds someone downloads a copy of IIS. 21,000 people in just over a week.

Microsoft obviously wants to bump Netscape off the server throne, and they're playing rough. Microsoft responded to a Netscape white paper with one of their own. In an example of corporate doublespeak which would be frightening if it weren't so damn amusing, Microsoft actually had the audacity to attack Netscape on platform. "Netscape ships pieces of their product line across a confusing array of operating system platforms," states Microsoft. Windows-drenched Bill and company it looks like any number greater than one is a "confusing array."

You'd think that the First Amendment would be free from NSCP v. MSFT clashes. Nope. The Communications Decency Act was just another battleground for Bill. You see, on February 8th, Netscape took their site black and painted themselves in blue. It was elegant -- an empty black page, one blue ribbon. And a leader sentence on their home page which said "Netscape supports open standards, including First Amendment rights to free speech."

(I love it -- freedom of speech as an open standard. What next -- an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing everyone equal access under the law to TCP/IP?)

Well, Bill wasn't about to be one-upped by a simple black page. He had his writers gather around and contribute an essay to Dave Winer's 24 Hours of Democracy thing-a-majig. Or was it just a chapter pulled from The Road Ahead. I couldn't tell. Especially with inane passages like this one: "The Internet can raise the quality of political debate, the quality of education, the quality of life.... The Internet's potential is enormous, and the stakes are high."

Wait a minute. Or was that quote actually from the announcement that Microsoft is reorganizing and forming an Internet Platform and Tools division? Now I'm really confused...

Remember back in December, when Microsoft made their big strategy announcement re. the Internet, and Bill said that "You will hear from us that we're not forming an Internet division. To us it's like having an electricity division or a software division. The Internet is pervasive in everything that we're doing." Well, he lied. Now they've got an Internet division, and it's got something like $1.5 billion in R&D budgeted for the next 12 months.

I don't fault Microsoft for shaking things up a bit. They probably discovered that their Internet know-how was spread too thin; that they didn't have the right teams in place to fight the good fight against those young upstarts at Netscape.

The thing is, I actually liked the old strategy better. It was a bit more...holistic almost. "The Internet is pervasive in everything we're doing." It's a nice vision. Imagine it -- having the Internet being pervasive in everything you do (well, almost everything).

Quick -- picture life at your job. Now picture life at your job if you could really take advantage of the collective brainpower of your coworkers. Picture life at your job if you had searchable access to every memo, report, document, presentation or spreadsheet anyone had ever created. Maybe that's a little far fetched. But the vision is powerful, isn't it? The Super-Intranet. The Supranet, maybe.

It's that vision that Microsoft and Netscape are both banking on. Microsoft with their new Internet division, a billion and a half in R&D money, the Info Server and Windows NT. Netscape with their server, their best-of-show browser, Collabra Share, a nice bankroll of their own and the very core of their being.

Man, this is fun.



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