FC: Netscape should stop whining about Microsoft dominance --S. Richman

From: Declan McCullagh (declanat_private)
Date: Thu Mar 14 2002 - 10:02:40 PST

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       Netscape Gets the Green "W"
       by Sheldon Richman, March 2002
       Imagine the nerve of a company that gives away its product in an
       attempt to knock off the dominant firm in an industry. I have one such
       company in mind right now. It went all out to make it easy for
       consumers to have free access to its product. You couldn't turn around
       without being handed, gratis, this company's goods. When the dust
       settled, the new company was No. 1, the old leader relegated to
       also-ran status.
       No, I am not thinking of Microsoft and its effort to dethrone the web
       browser Netscape Navigator with Internet Explorer. I'm thinking of
       America Online's (AOL) move against Compuserve as an Internet service
       provider. It's more than a little ironic that AOL Time Warner now owns
       Netscape and has just filed an antitrust suit against Microsoft for
       doing what AOL did to Compuserve.
       AOL Time Warner Netscape should be given the Green "W," the award I
       just made up for the biggest corporate whiner in the country. (The
       competition for that distinction is fierce.) The American business
       ethic today is this: Those who can do; those who can't, cry to
       What is Microsoft's grave offense? Netscape says that Navigator lost
       favor with the market because Microsoft began to give away Internet
       Explorer as part of its Windows operating system. Did Microsoft blow
       up Netscape's facilities? No. Did it infiltrate Netscape's operations
       and sabotage them? No. Did it stop anyone from using Navigator rather
       than Internet Explorer. Well, no; Microsoft didn't do that either.
       All it did was make Internet Explorer a feature of Windows. That's it.
       In America today, that might be an offense for which one can be
       assessed treble damages. At least Netscape hopes so.
       What makes some people think Microsoft did something bad is that it
       supplies the market's most popular operating system. That enables
       Microsoft to bundle Internet Explorer with Windows and gain a supposed
       unfair advantage over competitors.
       The devastating question for Netscape: so what? Why is it unfair? To
       whom? Certainly not to consumers. They apparently like the convenience
       of having the browser integrated with the operating system. It surely
       reduces the hassle. Had Internet Explorer not been a good browser,
       Microsoft's strategy would have counted for naught. Netscape had
       nearly the entire market to itself even after consumers received
       Internet Explorer for free. Earlier versions of Microsoft's product
       were not impressive, and consumers were able to use Netscape with
       Windows. (They still can.) Only when a later version of Internet
       Explorer began to impress software reviewers did consumers give it
       another look and turn to it in great numbers. (In Contrast, Windows
       has not helped Microsoft bring its own Internet service provider, MSN,
       to dominance.)
       Netscape lost the market on the merits, not because of any "unfair"
       Think of what it would mean if Netscape gets its way: government would
       be the ultimate judge of what can go into a computer operating system.
       Where's it written that a browser is not part of the operating system?
       There was a time when disk, video, and printer drivers weren't part of
       the operating system either. Should we be forced to live by the
       standards of the early days of personal computing?
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