U.S. Senate demands end to Web browser development

At the rate Netscape and Microsoft are slugging it out, this might not be far from truth someday!

WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP, Sept. 2, 2002) - Senate Majority Leader Ray Noorda (P-Utah) today demanded that the Department of Justice order Microsoft and Netscape to cease development of new Internet browsers, saying the ever-escalating battle for Internet dominance had sapped the American economy of its vitality.

In an impassioned speech before the Perotista-controlled Senate, Noorda-- once a key figure in the information technology industry--claimed American workers and shoppers are so consumed with downloading new browser versions, Netscape plug-ins and Microsoft ActiveX Controls that they no longer have time to produce anything of value or to consume products. "We have been transformed from a nation of thinkers and doers to a nation of downloaders worried about whether we are keeping up with the technological Jones'es,'' Noorda said.

Noorda's comments came only a day after Netscape released Version 407 of its Navigator browser, which includes the ability to listen to AM radio from any laptop. Version 407 had just completed its 37-hour beta trial, while versions 408-441 are in development. (Microsoft, which has been criticized of late for slipping behind Netscape in the browser race, vowed to deliver Version 405 of its Internet Explorer "before the next major religious holiday,'' though company spokesman Jim Manzi declined to specify which religion the company was referring to.) Mark Gibbs, author of IDG Books' bestselling Deleting Old Browsers for Dummies, said the continuing instability in the Internet market has virtually halted development of new applications. "How can you build to a platform that only lasts 51 days?'' asked Gibbs. "The only apps being developed now are crossword puzzles and 3-D, rotatable crossword applets.''

According to research firm International Data Corp., the average PC user now has 62 browsers installed. That has significantly limited the usefulness of the desktop machine because each "browser/operating system/object bucket/API repository" consumes a minimum of 1G bytes of storage and requires 256M bytes of RAM to operate (somewhat less if the touchscreen option is disabled). Intel Corp. recommends the use of at least a 757-MHz Decadium processor to support current browsers.

"There is no capacity left to run any other application," said IDC Chief Executive Officer Bob Frankenberg. "Our PCs, in essence, are simply containers for browsers."

In the late 1990's, it was hoped that the browser model of accessing information would actually allow for the development of simpler, less- expensive desktop devices that would rely on applications and data housed on Internet servers. But the dream of the so-called Internet device died with the release of Internet Explorer Version 231, which cracked the 800M-byte storage requirement and supported some 250,000 ActiveX Controls.

"It's a shame, really," said former Oracle CEO Lawrence Ellison, who was a vocal proponent of the Internet device idea at the time. "We could have been freed from the Web of Microsoft control, no pun intended. But Bill outmaneuvered us again," added "Big Larry" Ellison, who now runs the Used Cars 'R' Us operation on the Auto Mile in Redwood City, Calif.

In response to Noorda's call for federal intervention, the Justice Department issued an electronic press release available on its Web site (www.bookem.com). "We firmly believe the free market is the best arbiter of whether development should continue on Web browsers and servers." (This statement best viewed with Internet Explorer Version 396.)

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