This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

This Is War?

Apr 27 2001 08:28 AM PDT

The tech press hypes the next round of Netscape vs. Microsoft.

In the aftermath of Browser War I, a soundly defeated Netscape was humiliated and reduced to poverty. It reached out for a strangely compelling new leader to guide it back to greatness. A pact with its erstwhile conqueror, Microsoft, bought it time to re-arm. Now that pact has ended, and it's time to launch ... Browser War II.

Or so some of the recent press coverage would have us believe. War always makes for a great headline. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley dodged the military analogies under the headline "AOL, Microsoft air their dirty contract laundry." Grok figures that if there's a war on, it's a war of leaks during tense negotiations.

The sound of distant cannon was first heard on Wednesday when CNET and Betanews ran stories possibly originating in leaks from inside AOL - neither outlet named a source for its information. Betanews mentioned an AOL memo implying that AOL, which owns Netscape, is "seriously considering" ending its use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Both stories prominently featured AOL's "Komodo" project (apparently code-named for the Komodo Dragon lizard, in the spirit of Mozilla, the mascot of the original Netscape browser, according to a later MSNBC story). The aim is to enable AOL users run any browser they please.

Many outlets quoted Microsoft spokesman Jim Cullinen confirming that the contract under which Microsoft has pre-installed AOL software in Windows, in exchange for browser preference by AOL, ended on Jan. 1.

ZDNet's Anchor Desk editor David Coursey eschewed the military analogy for a pugilistic hook. Speaking of boxing, in the PR game nobody lands an unanswered blow on Microsoft. Today's Washington Post ran a short note paraphrasing Microsoft's Cullinen: "The current prerelease version of Windows XP ... does not include AOL or any other third-party applications on the desktop." Cullinan declined to say whether XP would include AOL when it ships in the fall.

MSNBC and ZDNet ran complementary stories about recently announced schedule slips in both Mozilla 1.0 (on which AOL's Netscape 6.0 browser is based) and in the next version of Internet Explorer. Get your logistics together, guys, there's a war on out there.

AOL, Microsoft Air Their Dirty Contract Laundry

AOL, Microsoft Rift Expands

AOL Considering Dropping IE

AOL Re-Ignites the 'Browser War'

Is Netscape Stepping Back Into the Ring? Maybe, Thanks to AOL

Windows May Shut on AOL
Washington Post

Microsoft, Mozilla Browsers Hit Snag

New Microsoft, Mozilla Browsers Hit Snag