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Microsoft Tried To Buy Netscape: Suppose They Had?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the alternate-e-history dept.

Netscape 246

Glyn Moody writes "In an interview, Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript and currently CIO at Mozilla, reveals that Microsoft tried to buy Netscape at the end of 1994. They were turned down because the offer was too low, but imagine if Netscape had accepted: no browser wars, no open Web standards, no Mozilla, no Firefox. How might the Web — and the world — have looked today if that had happened?"

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Who Cares (-1, Troll)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873660)

By now it's just not important.

Re:Who Cares (1)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873826)

By now it's just not important.

Agreed

Re:Who Cares (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873992)

Learning from the past by asking "what if?" is important.

Maybe not to you. So ignore the story. But to others. Whose insights contribute to the world you live in. Sure, you're a freeloader, but at least don't get in their way.

Some nerds are really dumbdowners.

Re:Who Cares (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874032)

Slashdot is the 4chan of tech sites. Don't let it get to you.

Re:Who Cares (1)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874126)

Slashdot is the 4chan of tech sites

It's a bug and a feature!

Re:Who Cares (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874132)

Thanks. But I've been letting it get to me just enough to righteously flame numbskull nerds since about 1998.

Re:Who Cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874216)

I've never seen child porn posted here....

Re:Who Cares (2)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874436)

It's usually modded down to -1.

Usually.

Re:Who Cares (1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874484)

im sure links to it has, after all ive seen shock sites here

Re:Who Cares (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874254)

It isn't learrning from the past. It is making stuff up and then launching into wild conjecture from that fictional starting point.

Re:Who Cares (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874330)

No, you just don't know how to ask "what if?" questions about the past. Try looking at some of the actually insightful comments in this thread.

Or don't. If not, at least stay out of the way while the rest of us do something useful here. Play with some porn or something 100% reliable.

Re:Who Cares (4, Insightful)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874390)

The problem is that this "what if" is extremely dumb and started from a flawed premise "no browser wars, no open Web standards", At the time this all started up there was a miriad of browsers out there, however between the 2 propriety browsers of Microsoft and Netscape they killed them all off, the truth is we will never know whether the browser wars were beneficial or detrimental to the web eco system, perhaps without that war all the other browsers would have have flourished into a vibrant and stable eco-system bringing about a web nirvana instead of withering and dying, we will never know and don't have enough information to make usefull "what if" statements to learn from the past in this case.

Doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873676)

We still would have had Google Chrome.

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873858)

We still would have had Google Chrome.

Do you think Microsoft would have allowed Google to flourish?

May have allowed them to start up, but then would have bundled search engine into the OS, so Windows would have been even more bloated.

Re:Doesn't matter (4, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874242)

"Do you think Microsoft would have allowed Google to flourish?

"
You can't control the market of search providors like you can with Word. MS would have to rewrite w3c and lock html, encrypt it with proprietary protocols not based on HTTP, and do crazy shit to kill all competition. It is not like controlling the .doc formats in Word to force Office. MS excells at this (no pun intended) but the WWW is a different beast. As long as something is somewhat open alternative will pop out and once that happens the monopolists no longer writes the rules and controls the market.

There would be another browser if it were not for Firefox.

In 1994 there were 4 browsers out there. Some were as good as Mosaic too and I used one that I can't remember the name of which was made by a lawyer organization. Anyway, Netscape was the best one and it didn't win until the late 1990s.

What would have happened is another browser would have come by. IE 6 was ok in 2001, but security holes, and terrible development efforts to get anything done in it created the fuel for Mozilla Phoenix (later Firefox). Konqueror was created on Linux that was starting to become popular which is what webkit is based off of (engine of Chrome).

Mac users also would have used a different browser altogether as IE did not exist on the mac until 1998 if I recall. Was there even a MacOS8 or MacOS9 version before MacOSX? I do not recall as I was an NT user then. Someone can correct me if I am wrong as I didn't use macs then but it stands my point. Linux was more popular and so was Unix 10+ years ago in the workstation market and they would have used a different browser or a Gnu based one would come about that would be ported to all operating systems such as Konqueror. Universities were not all NT and Windows based like today and these CS and engineering students were most of the internet users anyway in the mid 1990s. Not the general public.

When MS had 90% of the market in the dark days of 2004 - 2006 demand for a way out corrected it. Many people do not like control by one company. Firefox was born. I just remembered Opera does exist and is popular in Russia and Eastern Europe. Perhaps, that would be the new norm? Demand exists outside of the workplace who do not want one company, one standard, one way of doing things etc.

IE 6 did make much of the web proprietary and started the intranets that can't be upgraded today that we all loathe, but MS attempts at proprietarization failed. Too many people need the net on many devices which means standards and more browsers hence the race for HTML 5.

Re:Doesn't matter (-1)

monkyyy (1901940) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874510)

a well thought-out, and insightful post, but

-1 tl;

Re:Doesn't matter (3, Insightful)

qubezz (520511) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874456)

We would have had a $50 web browser with web technology protected by 73 Netscape [uspto.gov] patents acquired by Microsoft (including blatantly obvious patents they could exploit elsewhere, such as one for just making a menu bar hide [google.com] , or showing how complex a password is while you type it in [uspto.gov] - used by many sites right now)

Re:Doesn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873872)

Parent clearly does not know history.

Re:Doesn't matter (2)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874052)

KHTML=>Safari=>Webkit=>chrome

What exactly would an analysis of history lead us to believe that it wouldn't have happened?

Re:Doesn't matter (2)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874012)

And we would still have Safari running on iPads.

The trenders these days are Chrome on computers [hitslink.com] and Safari on tablets [hitslink.com] (and to some extent Android Browser). IE and Firefox are on downward slopes.

Re:Doesn't matter (2)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874050)

It's only possible today because of the current state of the Web. A web locked-down by Microsoft from 1994 up to today would have resulted in a locked-down network where only Microsoft products are allowed to access it, ActiveX everywhere, etc.

Heck, don't people remember those IE-only websites? That wasn't even a decade ago!

Just be glad that Netscape didn't sell out.

Re:Doesn't matter (3, Insightful)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874234)

It's only possible today because of the current state of the Web. A web locked-down by Microsoft from 1994 up to today would have resulted in a locked-down network where only Microsoft products are allowed to access it, ActiveX everywhere, etc.

Heck, don't people remember those IE-only websites? That wasn't even a decade ago!

Just be glad that Netscape didn't sell out.

A decade ago? How about an hour ago while I was in the office..... IE only websites are definitely NOT a thing of the past yet.

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874186)

1. Chrome trend is at a whooping 20% http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/07/01/google-chrome-has-20-market-share-firefox-in-its-sights/ [thenextweb.com]
2. I have yet to see safari on a tablet, name one that ain't an ipad
3. Nobody uses the Android browser LOL, firefox or [there's one more good one somewhere] are the popular choices.

If MS bought Netscape, I think this might have gone different... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft [wikipedia.org]

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874258)

1. Chrome trend is at a whooping 20% http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/07/01/google-chrome-has-20-market-share-firefox-in-its-sights/ [thenextweb.com] 2. I have yet to see safari on a tablet, name one that ain't an ipad 3. Nobody uses the Android browser LOL, firefox or [there's one more good one somewhere] are the popular choices.

If MS bought Netscape, I think this might have gone different... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft [wikipedia.org]

I use the android browser. Mainly because when I hit sites with firefox I get the full version usually and with the android browser I get the slimmed down "mobile" version. Wish it wasn't the case, though.

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874420)

2. I have yet to see safari on a tablet, name one that ain't an ipad

Er? Since Safari is an Apple product why would you expect to see it on a tablet that isn't an Apple product? WebKit which is at the core of Safari is used by other tablets like Xoom, PlayBook, and Galaxy Tab.

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874232)

And we would still have Safari running on iPads.

Sorry, but that is a remarkably naive statement. If Microsoft had cornered the market on the primary interface used to access "the Internet", it is very possible, likely, even, that "the Internet" would be a very different place. Easily different enough to have had a profound impact on all the technologies that use it, and by extension, on those entities that developed those technologies. To suggest that this or that client application would have evolved unchanged by such a different reality is, well..., naive.

Fallacy (5, Insightful)

Literaphile (927079) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873682)

no browser wars, no open Web standards, no Mozilla, no Firefox.

That's a pretty slippery slope. Obviously there probably would have been no Mozilla or Firefox, but who's to say that another browser wouldn't have emerged to start a war, or push open web standards? This is why "what if" scenarios are inherently stupid and pointless: they force you to suppose that nothing else will have changed, but that's not true. Likely another browser would have emerged to fill the void and encourage competition.

Re:Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873814)

The "no browser war" thing is pretty shallow, because the factors that lead to the browser wars would not have disappeared. *Maybe* this would have bought Microsoft some time alone, but I think that's a best case (for Microsoft) scenario. The submitter is not suggesting nothing else changed, but that *everything else* changed, which is why it seems silly.

But "what if" as a general tool let's us see things from different perspective so we can get a better understanding of what actually happened. It can be done very well and quite terribly, as evidenced by some of my favorite Marvel comics. :) In quite a few of them, most things that happened still happened in one form or another and the alternate present looks very similar to the "actual" present with only a few changes.

In any case, as a geek, I enjoy my imagination immensely and "what if" scenarios let me use that imagination. It brings me enjoyment. So I don't consider it pointless. :)

Re:Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873832)

This is why "what if" scenarios are inherently stupid and pointless: they force you to suppose that nothing else will have changed,

While they are inherently pointless by definition, a what if scenario certainly does not force you to think that. The entire point of a "what if" scenario is to guess at what else you think would have changed, you can look at it from any angle you chose. Just because TFS suggested one scenario doesn't force you to use that scenario as your basis.

Re:Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874332)

You might want to look up the meanings of "pointless" and "by definition".

Re:Fallacy (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874010)

Well Microsoft really kicked Netscape butt. But at the time Netscape wasn't about Open Web Standards, It was two sides trying to win their own priority web standards.
A new browser would have came up with more force if Microsoft killed the Linux ports of the browsers. Probably Konquer (that both Google Chrome and Apple Safari is based off of) would have became more used then Mozilla and got a big community support to make it on par and better then IE, just because the Linux users needed a web browser.

Re:Fallacy (4, Informative)

Scoth (879800) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874350)

This is the point so many fans of modern Firefox and other open source browsers forget. Netscape wasn't about open web standards and cross-browser compatibility until relatively recently - probably after the fall of Netscape itself and beginning of Mozilla/Gecko. Way back in the mists of time, Netscape 2.0 was roundly criticized for introducing a bunch of proprietary tags (many of which were later adopted but at the time weren't) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 1.0 was praised for adhering to standards. I can't find it now but recently I stumbled on an ancient page that urged a boycott of Netscape 2.0 and explained in great detail what proprietary tags it had and which were safe to use.

Re:Fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874164)

I totally agree. Same point can be made with all the hoopla about how we would be living in caves if it weren't for Steve Jobs. No one else would have innovated anything.

Re:Fallacy (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874178)

Emerged? In 1994, there were half a dozen web browsers, and HTML was simple enough that writing one was a relatively easy task. WorldWideWeb itself was about a weekend's worth of work. HTML 2 made it a bit more complex, but a competent coder could have easily written an HTML 2 rendering engine in a couple of weeks. It wasn't until about 1997 that the choice for browsers on Windows was typically reduced to IE or NS (or Opera if you were weird). Mosaic, OmniWeb and a host of others were very common.

Re:Fallacy (1)

bloodhawk (813939) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874270)

There were already multiple other browsers at the time, there was no need for another to emerge.

Wouldn't matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873692)

Everyone would still use Chrome. ;)

But they didin't (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873702)

So unless something happens, like a T-800 knocking on Bill's door to force him to buy it (and we'll not know). This type of speculation seems like a waste of time.

Another browser would've shown up (1)

muncadunc (1679192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873708)

This is kind of a silly conjecture. It's not as if some other browser wouldn't have arisen to challenge MS-Netscape.

Re:Another browser would've shown up (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873836)

had to check my time line but i was right Opera existed before Netscape did.

Re:Another browser would've shown up (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874068)

Opera existed before Netscape did

"Netscape...was originally founded under the name, Mosaic Communications Corporation, on April 4, 1994... The company's first product was the web browser, called Mosaic Netscape 0.9, released on October 13, 1994"

"Development of Mosaic began in December 1992... Marc Andreessen, the leader of the team that developed Mosaic, left NCSA and, ...started Mosaic Communications Corporation."

"Jon von Tetzchner, the CEO of Opera Software, and Geir Ivarsøy began coding the original desktop Web browser in April 1994."

"Opera began in 1994 as a research project at Telenor, the largest Norwegian telecommunications company. In 1995, it branched out into a separate company named Opera Software ASA. Opera was first released publicly with version 2.0 in 1996"

emphasis added

Re:Another browser would've shown up (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874140)

Source? Wikipedia has them starting about the same time. Netscape did release publicly available versions before opera ( Nov 94 for Netscape vs 96 for opera)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_Navigator#History_and_development [wikipedia.org]

VS

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Opera_web_browser#Version_2 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Another browser would've shown up (1)

gomiam (587421) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874410)

Where does your timeline come from? AFAICS Netscape was founded on April 4th, 1994 [wikipedia.org] (as Mosaic Communications and just two years and a bit after the first HTML specification [wikipedia.org] came into being) and Opera was founded on Augst 30th, 1995 [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Another browser would've shown up (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874308)

This is kind of a silly conjecture. It's not as if some other browser wouldn't have arisen to challenge MS-Netscape.

Spyglass Mosaic perhaps?

No Browser Wars? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873716)

If they had bought Netscape, then they wouldn't have bought / licensed Mosaic and would have ended up with a different browser war. There were half a dozen browser makers around at the time, Netscape was just the biggest.

Re:No Browser Wars? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874374)

Not only that but in 1994 the majority of web users were Unix geeks or those with PCs in there dorms who telneted or dailed into their unix servers on campus. If netscape for Unix was killed they would have used something else and these students marketshare would have mattered in those days signficantly.

There were 4 other browsers in the early 1990s and Ars Technica has an article on it (too lazy to look up). My guess is those would become popular and be developed to catch up to Netscape and be cross released to the Mac and Windows platforms from the then strong Unix community. If I recall in 1991 - 1998 Netscape/Mosiac was the only way to get on the web for the Mac. IE for macs came later. Didn't Apple make a lame one? If MS killed Netscape the mac that would add demand for the alternative browser too.

There would have been someone else....... (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873726)

How might the Web — and the world — have looked today if that had happened?

There would have been someone else that would have filled Netscape's shoes. Someone would have built the better mousetrap to compete.

Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873728)

They were turned down because the offer was too low

...and how did THAT work out for Netscape the Company? History suggests (Yahoo, ahem) that Microsoft is happy to overpay to remove competitors from the landscape.

imagine if Netscape had accepted: no browser wars, no open Web standards, no Mozilla, no Firefox

The browser wars would have still happened. Remember Opera goes all the way back to 1994 and it was possible to crank out your own web browser in less than a year at that time.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873800)

Mod parent up.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

Zan Lynx (87672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873880)

Yeah. Everyone was writing web browsers.

Then there was KHTML and GTKHTML. GTKHTML always kind of sucked, but it did display web pages. And we all know what happened to KHTML. It turned into Webkit, the base code for pretty much every good web browser except IE, Firefox and Opera.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874102)

every good web browser except IE, Firefox and Opera.

In other words, Safari and Chrome (and chrome-based browsers like Iron)?

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

Zan Lynx (87672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874220)

You are missing all of the little Webkit based mobile browsers. The iOS browser is not exactly Safari and the Android browser is not exactly Chrome. I believe the browser that the Nokia N900 runs is a Webkit based not-Chrome, not-Safari browser too.

Valve's Steam client uses Webkit, built right into Steam.

The next big version of the Evolution email client is using Webkit for HTML mail rendering.

Webkit gets used in a lot of places.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874236)

That's a good point. I'd forgotten about the mobile market.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874240)

Nokia's S60 browser and the Blackberry browser also use WebKit, as do the Android and WebOS browsers. Recent versions of OmniWeb also use it. There are a lot of small browsers for various platforms written using it as well, for example the AROS browser. There used to be quite a few Gecko-based ones, but WebKit is a bit more modular and easier to embed so fewer people are writing new ones and minority browsers have a habit of becoming abandoned after a few years.

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874106)

How did it work out? Instead of taking Microsoft's lowball offer, Netscape had a $half-billion IPO, the biggest of all time, and the one that still defines "big IPO" a decade and a half (and two or three bubbles) later. Then Netscape was bought by AOL for even more scads of money, which let AOL do to Netscape what Microsoft wanted for less money. So, given the equivalent other results, turning down Microsoft made Netscape's shareholders (including the corporation itself) a lot more money.

But the results were not equivalent. Instead, Netscape forced the Internet to be cross-platform in ways that outlasted even Netscape Inc. According to its own agenda, not Microsoft's (extremely limited and lame one). And Netscape Inc lasted years longer, producing major innovations like Netscape Commerce Server and Netscape Directory Server (among others). Which again set the direction of the entire Internet for at least the next decade and a half (and counting).

In every way you can consider Netscape did the right thing. What could you possibly have been thinking was bad for "Netscape the Company" by turning down Microsoft?

Re:Too low? Wars would have still happened. (2)

Thuktun (221615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874532)

But the results were not equivalent. Instead, Netscape forced the Internet to be cross-platform in ways that outlasted even Netscape Inc.

The Internet and the Web were cross-platform before Netscape. What do you think Netscape contributed, out of curiosity?

Wouldn't have changed (1)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873734)

Netscape wasn't the only player in the browser market. In 1994 linux users had to use something, whether konqueror, opera or any other browsers rose, a niche existed to be filled for a better web browser. Microsoft was doing a terrible job, with little competition they had little concern and left themselves wide open to be overtaken. The FOSS community would have backed a different project, and a different browser would have had to have made the same move. Everyone assumes if X company didn't exist no-one else would ever have developed something. That is a completely inaccurate assumption doubly so for FOSS projects.

Whoa (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873752)

Whoa, then I wouldn't have my Redhat Directory Server!?!?! (previously Netscape Directory Server)

too low? (1)

sneakyimp (1161443) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873782)

Um, I think you mean "the offers was erroneously considered to be too low." Last time I checked, Netscape did not exist.

Re:too low? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873838)

because AOL purchased them?

Re:too low? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874146)

For $4.2 billion worth of AOL stock. Even accounting for inefficiencies in converting AOL stock to cash, it is probably still way more than Microsoft offered in 1994. Wikipedia tells me Microsoft only paid $2 million to get Spyglass Mosaic the next year. So it seems unlikely they would have been willing to pay even 1% of $4.2 billion for Netscape, at a time when the user base was still tiny.

Re:too low? (1)

pthisis (27352) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874342)

Exactly. Netscape held out and got $4.2 billion from AOL; it seems like they held out pretty well and sold nearer to high than they would have by selling in 1994.

Re:too low? (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874424)

Not only did AOL purchase them, but they bundled IE 6 with custom AOL artwork instead even though they owned Netscape! That was a slap in the face and I believe Bill Gates owned 10% stock of Time Warner. hmm I smell a rat.

That only worked for 5 years anyway. It is funny by 2009 when IE 8 came out it was obvious MS was panicking realizing they were asleep due to Firefox. IE 9 is still catch up

Re:too low? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874282)

Netscape had one of the biggest IPOs of all time, and was eventually bought by AOL for a large sum. So, no, it was not erroneously considered to be too low. Unless it was more than three billion dollars (the Netscape market cap at closing on the day of their IPO in 1995 was $2.9bn).

Too low *for the time* (1)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874524)

Um, I think you mean "the offers was erroneously considered to be too low." Last time I checked, Netscape did not exist.

Was Microsoft willing pay $75/share? That's what Netscape hit a year later at IPO. The final outcome is most irrelevant. A price is "too low" if it is more profitable to hold on to the shares and sell at a later date.

We'd have had Opera! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873792)

The initial release of Opera was 1996. It makes sense to think they'd have done so anyways; with or without two competing browsers at the time. Perhaps, Opera would be having the userbase it deserves... >1%

Who says no Firefox? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873794)

Why wouldn't having Microsoft be the only browser player in town (allowing them to charge for it!), cause people to basically start the Firefox project? Probably people would have just started with the Mosaic codebase instead and worked from there. Back in 1994 you didn't have to do that much to have a fully featured web browser. Those were the days before Javascript, before frames, before tables, back when inline images were a big deal. That offer would have been around the Netscape 1.0 timeframe, back when Netscape was a commercial product you were supposed to buy.

And there's one thing that's clear: There was a need for browsers that operated on platforms other than Windows.

Psychohistory (1)

flabordec (984984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873796)

no browser wars, no open Web standards, no Mozilla, no Firefox. How might the Web — and the world — have looked today if that had happened?"

Hari Seldon would disagree. Even without Netscape, the web would have eventually realized that the healthier state was open standards and the movement would have started, maybe it would have taken more time, but sooner or later someone would have thought: "Know what? Things would be a lot better around here if instead of one big company changing the way things work whenever it wants we just decided on something and stuck with it."

Re:Psychohistory (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874192)

I'm pretty sure the secret team of psychics that Microsoft setup just outside of Redmond would have prevented anyone from thinking that.

Re:Psychohistory (1)

flabordec (984984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874214)

Damn, my plans foiled again by Microsoft's secret psychics!

Re:Psychohistory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874372)

Nice Asimov reference, thanks for mentioning it. Must dig those books out again!!!!

Opera? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873870)

Maybe Opera would be a much bigger browser today. Opera got its start in 1994 in an Norwegian telecom company, so it likely would have continued to grow if Mozilla was removed as a competitor. And perhaps would have been far more successful if it didn't have to compete against a free product.

Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

CHK6 (583097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873900)

If Netscape was purchased, then the field would have been wide open for another browser to support Java. I recall Sun and MS weren't the best of buds at the time. So if Netscape was taken off the market, my guess Sun would have helped produce a browser written in Java. I wonder if a real browser from Sun that had the backing from the FOSS community would have maybe changed Sun's fate?

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874118)

Back then swing basically didn't work.

So any browser written in Java wouldn't work ether.

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874360)

Back then Swing didn't exist (well, Java didn't exist, but Swing didn't exist until Java 1.2 in 1998). Java used AWT, which wrapped native controls in Java classes, rather than doing all of the rendering using Java2D (which didn't exist initially either). Java 1.0 did launch with a browser written in Java, although its name escapes me at the moment, but the main focus was on embedding Java in browsers, not browsers in Java.

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

CarsonChittom (2025388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874130)

Sun did put out a browser [wikipedia.org] written in Java. It's even technically still available [sun.com] .

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874144)

So if Netscape was taken off the market, my guess Sun would have helped produce a browser written in Java.

Perhaps Java on the desktop would have turned out differently. I still think the outdated and never updated VM in the old Netscape killed Java on the desktop before it even had a chance to take off. Everybody remembers seeing "Starting Java..." on the status bar, followed by the inevitable crash of the browser. Even when it worked, we had to target JDK 1.1 for years even though far better versions had been released.

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874158)

"In 1994, a team of Java developers started writing WebRunner, which was a clone of the internet browser Mosaic. It was based on the Java programming language. ... WebRunner's first public demonstration was given ... in 1995. Renamed HotJava, it was officially announced in May the same year ... It was the first browser to support Java applets, and was Sun's demonstration platform for the then new technology. ... HotJava had somewhat limited functionality compared to other browsers of its time. More critically, HotJava suffered from the performance limitations of Java virtual machine implementations of the day (both in speed and in memory consumption) and was consequently quite slow."

Re:Sun would have taken up the cause (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874492)

I believe it was called Hotjava or Hot something. That was the name of their browser for their failed JavaOS project for the Network Computer. It supported HTML 3 when it came out in 1999 or 2000 and Java 1.3. Unfortunately, they didn't market it outside of JavaOS. I did run it on Windows and I played with it and it was ok, but didn't support HTML 4 and back then loading Java sucked.

Who knows if it would have become more popular, but I forgot Sun did have that browser back then and it would have been multi platform.

The web would (4, Informative)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873934)

<marquee behavior=scroll width=100%><blink>SUCK</blink></marquee>

hrm.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873940)

On July 17, 1924 a butterfly flapped it's wings in Lanzhou, China, but imagine if it hadn't, maybe Katrina and Fukushima wouldn't have happened, maybe it would have prevented the Gulf spill.

No one knows WHAT the result of the absence of just this one butterfly is, let alone an action like described.. hell maybe my butterfly caused Netscape to refuse.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873950)

We would have slightly more malware.

Or maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873966)

Firefox would have started a lot sooner when the people at Netscape got canned and replaced by Microsoft employees?

Somebody would have developed another browser, seeing how Linux wouldn't have ever had a version of Netscape if they were run by Microsoft.

Visual Basic please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37873988)

I'd rather use Visual Basic than Javascript.

Re:Visual Basic please (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874066)

Man, that's harsh!

There was another browser (2)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37873998)

My first reaction was to think that MSN (as they originally conceived it: a Microsoft-owned alternative to AOL and CompuServ) would have dominated end-users' online experiences in the 90s.

But Netscape was not the only other graphical browser available in those days. There was still NCSA Mosaic, which (despite its family connection to Netscape) would not have fallen into Microsoft hands and would have remained available for users. Even though in the real world Mosaic quickly stagnated, got licensed to MS after all, and died; in this alternate reality it could have become the nexus for development of the web that Netscape was. Or perhaps Opera might have, coming along shortly after.

What did the web look like when IE was dominant? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874034)

And there's your answer. The fact is, IE was completely stagnant before there was "real" compitition, slow, unstable, a security nightmare. *SOMETHING* would probably come, eventually, and dislogdged IE as Mozilla did, probably Google Chrome or some such, (Yes, I know Opera has been around for QUITE a while, but they just weren't in the race until *after* the IE grip was broken) but how many years did it take for IE to loose enough market share that coding *for* it's broken standards instead of to the actual standards made sense?

My guess is it would have delayed the maturation of the web by another 5-10 years. Even worse, when the US was going through the initial Patriot Act happy-fun-time and every telephone company was tripping over themselves to hand over private data, if IE had been unchallanged then, would we (being the US Public, not the Slashdot/Geek-fu public) all have gotten used to Authorized Government Reporting, logs of our browser use auto-transmitted to MS or some "secure" agency?

A bit tin-foil hat, I agree, but still...

Long-Comment-Short, I can't see the Web having ditched the IE stagnation if the code for what would become Mozilla had been sold to MS before it had a chance to be set free.

Mozilla/Firefox Anyway (2)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874042)

Microsoft was buying Netscape just to screw it and shut it down. M$ evidently decided it was more profitable overall to just kill Netscape the way it did, with all monopolist crimes M$ was convicted of in 1999 - by which time Netscape was dead, because it worked.

But if M$ had bought Netscape in 1994, by the late 1990s the same people in and around Netscape would have been inspired to start a free, competing project like Mozilla - which would have produced something like Firefox as Mozilla did.

These "single turning points" are no match for the overwhelming flow of the rest of events. Which pressure the global Internet for alternatives to the main choice. That diversity and low barrier to entry are the main advantages to the Internet.

Even Microsoft isn't big, powerful or evil enough to stop that.

Exactly the same (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874090)

If not Netscape, then Notscape. There were plenty of other companies ready to take the space of Netscape, had Netscape vanished. It would have been a three-week delay.

Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874100)

In a world where Netscape was bought by Microsoft?

NAZIs on Dinosaurs fighting sword-wielding sexbots!

MS heavily influenced the web anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874112)

It was Microsoft that brought a lot of the really big innovations to the web like DHTML and XmlHttpRequest. The question is would they have still done that if they didn't have a big competitor. It's been proven over and over again that Microsoft isn't motivated to improve a product unless under external pressure.

Actually, the browsers wars would still have happe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874208)

There was Opera out there... Maybe it would have arose to challenge MS if it hadn't consistently been drowned out by the noise those two made...

Crystal Ball Implosion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874212)

The BLINK tag would still be alive and well, and css margins would be backwards. Oh, and and it would probably use a bastardized version of VB rather than java.

Also, Richard Stallman would be leading a small band of hearty outlaws and revolutionaries, seeking the downfall of the Forces of Evil. In other words, business as usual.

Microsoft got MOSAIC instead (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874224)

I guess some people must have short memory. The competing browser to Netscape was MOSAIC (free). First versions of IE stated they were based on MOSAIC if I remember correctly.

Microsoft Tried To Buy Netscape: Suppose They Had? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874260)

Chrome would Rule the Browser World if MS had bought Netscape.

How might it have looked? That's easy! (1)

xerxesVII (707232) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874262)

Imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

IE on UNIX (1)

jazman_777 (44742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874358)

Anyone else remember MS putting out IE 5 for HP-UX and Solaris? It was grotesque.

Re:IE on UNIX (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874438)

Netscape was no less grotesque in that environment.

I still have occasion to use it on an old Solaris box. It is one of the most painful parts of any day.

BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37874412)

Another useless story
Who cares ?
Hey the world could have turned out to be flat! So what?

Over the top. (1)

flimflammer (956759) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874444)

I think the web would look a little different now had Netscape sold to Microsoft, but I don't believe we would be as completely fucked as the summary would like us to believe.

stupid (2)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37874460)

1994 had more browsers than 'Netscape' - far more, and the web was completely open at the time. Yes, things would have been very different if MS had bought Netscape then, but the web != Netscape, even back then.

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