Netscape 6: At Long-Awaited Last - HTML with Style | 6 | WebReference

Netscape 6: At Long-Awaited Last - HTML with Style | 6


Netscape 6: At Long-Awaited Last

We Have the Power

Until Communicator 4 is reduced to obscurity and lost in oblivion for the rest of time, developers need to decide whether or not to take advantage of Netscape 6's new features, which are not, of course, compatible with Internet Explorer.

The real worry on every developer's mind is not that Netscape 6 won't be a nice platform to develop on, but that not enough people will use it to make it a viable platform. What's funny about this situation is that, as before, it's the developers that really have the power to change the situation.

You see, I have no doubt that all serious Web developers will download and install Netscape 6, and use it to make sure their pages are compatible with it. They will probably like it more than IE. But unless a large number of end users also start using it, it won't catch on.

In the old days, people used to stick "Netscape Now!" or "Best viewed with Internet Explorer" buttons in their pages. This is not a nice thing to do of course, locking your audience in to a single browser. However, if people start designing standards-compliant pages, the same effect will occur; people will use Netscape 6 because it works with pages better than IE.

This vicious circle, of more users leading to more developers and more developers leading to more users, is hard to control by any company. Sometimes it works for you, sometimes it works against you. When Netscape 1.1 offered background colors and fonts while nobody else did, it worked for Netscape, as developers put these in their pages and users installed Netscape in order to use them. When Microsoft gained the majority of the market, it worked against Netscape as developers didn't bother to support its browser and people switched to IE in order to view pages as the developer intended.

To a certain extent, this is a PR trick that Netscape has to pull off. Microsoft is famously expert in developer relations, giving out free software, using training programs and certification to make its developers loyal to its products, even giving practical business benefits to developers that stick to its technologies, such as when it offered prominent placement in its Internet Connection Wizard for ISPs that, amongst other things, used IE-only features on their Web sites.

Netscape has to convince users that it's worth the effort to switch from IE (very difficult), convince companies to provide Netscape pre-installed on computers (relatively easy now that Microsoft is under such public scrutiny for strong-arming these companies into ditching Netscape), and convince developers to write pages that take advantage of its features and hence render IE obsolete. This last bit is a bit of a gamble. Nobody really knows which way developers are going to go, and it's the critical point.


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Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: November 30, 2000
Revised: November 30, 2000