Did Microsoft ruin the Web?
CASE AGAINST MICROSOFT
Microsoft's sudden decision to make the Web a priority in the mid-1990s meant that it went out of its way to pummel the competition for Web browsers -- as the judge concluded in his 'Findings of Fact' (November 1999) for the Microsoft trial (in which the US Department of Justice has taken Microsoft to court over its alleged unfair practices).
Up to that point, the world had been perfectly happy with Netscape's effective, and free, Web browser Navigator. But Bill was not happy about that, because he didn't own it, and Microsoft not only set about making its own browser, which would be fair enough, but also used its dominance to force companies to say they would distribute Microsoft's browser (Internet Explorer) instead of Netscape's.
Perhaps more disturbingly, Microsoft has stomped on the nice ethos of the Web that there would be agreed standards which mean that no one company can gain controlling power over the Web. Now that lots of people are using Microsoft products to browse and create Web materials, Microsoft have started adding bits to the Webpage language HTML, and to other web-based technologies such as Java -- things which were meant to run on any computer with any browsing software, which is undeniably a good idea -- so that other people have to be running Microsoft products to make sense of them. Microsoft says that these things "add value" to their products, but by adding bits to agreed standards they knowingly spoil the whole universal ethos of the Web.
SOME OTHER PEOPLE THINK
software that we will never see,
by Jason Cranford Teague in The Independent (15 Nov 99): "If you consider
the history of the Web and the promise that browsers had in the mid-Ninties, you
will see that Netscape had a very different picture of the future of the Web than
the shopping mall mentality that pervades it today. Instead, Netscape was working
on initiatives that would have radically altered the way that we interact with
computers. Would this have improved the way we use computers? We will never know
because Netscape's plans could have potentially endangered the need for the Windows
operating system. Microsoft acted decisively to head off this threat and its actions
have for ever denied what could have been and stifled true innovation."
McIntosh in The Guardian (11 Nov 99): "In Judge Jackson's
findings there is example after example of the bullying tactics Microsoft has
Schofield in The Guardian (11 Nov 99): "It's a typical case
of somebody walking onto a bloody battlefield and bayoneting the winners".
(You have to scroll down to "The merits of having a monopoly," where
this piece starts).
Jackson's Findings of Fact: Released in November 1999, this is but the
first stage in the resolution of the trial which has seen Microsoft put in the
dock by the US Government. It's 60,000 words long and is surprisingly frank and
gossipy... but it no longer has the status of mere gossip -- it's got the weight
of the US Judiciary behind it.