Escaping Microsoft's Dominance
Tue, Jul 1, 2003; by Dave Winer.
Microsoft in Vietnam
When Microsoft took over the browser market, they turned all Web developers into Microsoft developers. It was one of the most selfish acts ever in the software business.
But it didn't happen in a vacuum. In order for it to work, Netscape had to completely miss the developer opportunity. Instead of serving people who built websites and coded in HTML, their natural constituency, they courted C developers (with Java), who were strongly connected to Microsoft -- and stranded Web developers without a leader, with Microsoft.
Now Microsoft is like the US in Vietnam, except they won. They have no business here, they don't understand the Web, they're an occupying force. The sad thing is that Microsoft is now clearly foreclosing the Web, they're not upgrading the browser, they're not fixing bugs, they simply don't care about the Web. If they tell you they do, tell them actions speak louder, and their lack of action speaks loudest.
Hanging with John Doerr?
A couple of years ago when I was still in California I ran into John Doerr on the street we both lived on. We had a talk about lessons we learned from Netscape. Doerr was their lead investor, and a member of the board. I was a developer who tried to get a conversation going with Netscape and failed.
Here's what I think we learned -- a simple principle: "We must hang together or surely we will hang separately," as Ben Franklin said. It's rare for a technology fire to get going. Most times you try you fail. But Netscape should have worked, it was just huge, and if they had loved the Web it would have worked.
Now we're at the same place with Google. It could be the foundation for a platform, but this company is even less prepared to compete, imho, than Netscape was. I say this publicly not to embarass anyone, or to create trouble (although it certainly will), but to get a message out that it's not too late.
John, let's not have another of those sad conversations about what could have been. Once was enough.