phil wilson :: a geek commodity

12:52 PM

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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Netscape is dead. Everyone’s shouting it from the rooftops, and if it wasn’t such a major thing I’d assume it was covered well enough in other places.

Comments like this though, just make me worry. Netscape closing is a big, big deal. Whether people like it or not, or think that it makes sense or not, Netscape is the name the public identifies with. It’s the name managers and support staff in I.T. companies know. Nobody outside of the web development or open source worlds knows what Mozilla is. Really. They know even less what Phoenix was, Firebird is, or will be (Mozilla again, I believe).

Netscape provided a good base for distributing Mozilla by virtue of being a company that people had heard of, one that they trusted to provide a usable application. You mention “open source” or try and explain who writes Mozilla to a normal person, and they’ll think it’s shit. “What? Made by some guys in their free time? How good can that be?” I honestly don’t see this changing unless Mozilla is licensed by or used in another, branded product.

I have a lot of computer literate friends (i.e. people who aren’t developers of some sort), like techs, and people who like to think they’re computer literate (like sales and support staff ;) – none of them care about Mozilla, even if they know about it. Whenever I try and evangelise, they just say “Yeah, but I like Internet Explorer”. Despite all its horrendous faults, which are so obvious to all the web developers, IE is “good enough” software. It works, it’s easy to use – why should a normal person move from that?

The first thing one of our designers at work said when I mentioned the Netscape closure was “But that’s good isn’t it? Now you’ve only got to support IE”, and that is exactly the attitude of anyone outside of the web dev and OS communities.

Firebird is Mozilla’s best chance of success and market penetration – a low weight, fast, standards compliant web browser, but if it doesn’t a) settle on a name and b) get to 1.0 c) get an official installer (as opposed to the unofficial installer ) soon, then it’ll have scuppered its own chances.

I love the fact that on the front page of the new is a quote by Joel Spolsky – if you read the whole article he goes on to say:

Now, if you’re a programmer at AOL working on Mozilla, and you like your job, you might want to think about what it’s going to take to make your happy little division actually useful to AOL so you aren’t jettisonned. ... Yo, Netscape employees! ... Wake up.