The Browser Wars

The Internet: “you don’t know you need it, until you start using it”-Browser Wars

Download: The True Story of the Internet- Browser Wars, documents the birth of the worlds first internet browser and its consequential battles with the power-hungry Microsoft. Aside from the extensive use of cheesy metaphors and over-dramatic use of music, this doco presents a simplistic view of the events that occurred during the 90’s browser wars.

Over-emphasizing every word, whilst continually bobbing his head, the presenter of this series; John Heileman, does become an irritating force. Often distracted by these elements, one might also be distracted by the plainly bias stance the text takes. Constantly demonizing Microsoft, with dark reenactments and suggestive comments, the documentary appears more like a Hollywood production, than anything else.

All criticisms aside, I do have to admit that the simple lay-out and over-glorified editing did spice things up a bit. I’m assuming that telling a story about guys who sit at their computers all day, whilst making it engaging, is an arduous task. Especially if the audience isn’t lingual in either html or javascript.

Essentially, the internet was created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. Recognizing its revolutionary nature, students at the University of Illinois created the original web browser; Mosiac. Seeing its potential, Entrepreneur’s Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen joined forces with the creators of Mosiac and created Netscape in 1994. Monopolizing around 87% of the web browser market in 1996 (Journal of business ethics 2005), Netscape was quickly becoming a recognized brand-name. No longer were consumers searching through a web browser’, they were searching through Netscape. Netscape had therefore achieved what every company hopes to achieve, making their brand name a propriety eponym.Just like Hoover, Coke and Astro-turf, consumers associate the original word with its brand-name.

Wholeheartedly Netscape believed that their web browser “had the potential to become a universal interface that would tie the networks of the future together”, but unfortunately Microsoft was not going to let this happen.In the bitter feud that resulted, Microsoft created its own web browser; internet explorer. Yet its questionable tactics ultimately led to the governments antitrust lawsuit.

The Supreme Court Economic Review (vol.7 1999) outline that the Department of Justice believed ‘Microsoft has unjustifiably bundled its internet explorer (IE) web browser with its windows operating system and entered into unlawfully restrictive contracts with internet firms. In the process it has allegedly prevented the evolution of Netscape’s browser’. Even more interestingly, the review states that ‘The case poses fundamental questions about the role of antitrust enforcement in technology markets’. With Microsoft owning 95% of the intel-based PC processors (The Supreme Court Economic Review ,vol.7 1999), this monopoly disregarded the fundamental principles of a competitive capitalist market.

Controversially, Microsoft seemed to escape from this hearing, relatively unscathed. Yet its creator, Bill Gates, did not have the same fate. Rumored to have suffered from a nervous breakdown, Gates began to dedicate more of his time,energy and money into charitable organizations.

Conclusively, this series is extremely relevant when examining the current economic market. With Apple now holding the monopoly of the market, ‘the monopoly has become the rule rather than the exception'(Foreign Policy,1999). But is Apple any better than Microsoft? probably not. If anything their worst, if such a simplistic comparison can be made. What’s frightening about Apple is it’s advertising and marketing schemes. What makes Steve Jobs so extraordinary and inspiring? yet makes Bill Gates appear so power-hungry and manipulative? Marketing. Where the Apple brand is associated with words like ‘innovative’ and ‘trendy’, other companies haven’t been so lucky. Think of the common conceptions of McDonalds and Coke for example, and compare them with Apple.


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