I thought I would share a recent experience with members of this list,
since, though the topic strays somewhat from the list's theme, I know
many of you in person, and know that this might interest you.
Jim Clark, CEO of Netscape, recently (10/26) gave a talk here at
Princeton University about the "future of the Web." Mr. Clark took
great pains to differentiate his company and its flagship product,
Netscape navigator, from his rival and its latest browser juggernaut.
Unlike Microsoft, he intoned again and again, Netscape is commited to
the idea of "open standards" - not just because they are better for
competition, but because they offer a healthy antidote to the
monopoly-by-propietary-API infection that has led to so much sclerosis
in the desk-top market.
Mostly the talk traced the ups and downs of Netscape's glorious solo
bull-ride in the stock-market rodeo, but Mr. Clark's earnest insistence
on the importance of open standards did prompt some questions along that
line from the audience. One, which I had difficulty hearing (no
microphones), asked for clarification on the role of the IETF (Internet
Engineering Task Force) in these matters. Mr. Clark had his answer
ready: "in the real world, standards don't make money; _money_ drives
standards." He went on to explain that Netscape had better things to do
than twittle its corporate thumbs while the IETF debated the merits of
this or that extension to this or that protocol.
A short while later I asked Mr. Clark if, given his impression of the
intractability of the IETF and his commitment to open standards, it
might not be easier to move in the direction of support for multiple,
extensible flavors of HTML, and any other document format; to move, in
other words, towards full support of SGML. "I'm sorry," he replied, "I
don't know what that is. You'll have to ask Marc."
Gregory Murphy, Text Systems Manager
CETH (The Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities)