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Interview with Rick Chapman

The interview with Rick Chapman ( was interesting and informative. One question though.
"[Rewriting Netscape from scratch] They couldn't add new features, couldn't respond to the competitive threads from IE, and had to sit on their hands while Microsoft completely ate their lunch"

Perhaps I've forgotten recent history, but hadn't MS already eaten Netscape's lunch, and that was why NS began to rewrite the browser -- to try and get back into the game that was, at that point, essentially lost?

David Fischer
Saturday, December 1, 2001

I was under the impression that Netscape had decided to rewrite the browser from scratch soon after the launch of Netscape 4.0 (if not before then). In the IE4 timeframe, IE's marketshare grew considerably for various reasons, but Netcape was still viable. It wasn't until after IE5 and IE5.5 came out that Netscape's marketshare plummetted to the 20% range it's at now.

Dave Rothgery
Sunday, December 2, 2001

>but hadn't MS already eaten Netscape's lunch,
>and that was why NS began to rewrite the

The way I see it, they didn't have too much choice. IE *plugged into* Windows via COM in a way that was a win for 90% of users/developers out there.

And Communicator was hoisted on its own petard of 'platform independence', since they didn't have a cross platform component arch to begin with. Now *probably* they could have released a COM-enabled version of Communicator just for Windows. So they decided to ignore 80% of their then marketshare and re-write.

(Offtopic) Maybe we could seen a IE/NN catfight over who "plugged" into Windows better. Netscape chose instead to go the purist, "platform-independent" route. That action alone robs them of any legitimacy in my eyes when they moan about evil MSFT. You can't talk about monopolies etc while not showing due diligence towards the market in question.

OHTO, I'd be very interested if anyone here could suggest some scenarios: suppose you were NSCP mgmt in 96/97, faced with IE3 and the coming IE4, what would *you* have done? Would you have asked for a rewrite?

Ranajit Ray
Sunday, December 2, 2001

When Microsoft was faced by the threat of Navigator 3 and beyond, they decided to rewrite a substantial portion of IE from scratch!

The HTML engine in IE4 is a complete and total rewrite of the engine IE3. 

(BTW, the rewrite was initially lead by Adam Bosworth, a guy how gets frequent mentions on these pages.)

Sunday, December 2, 2001

Thanks for the comments. I didn't realize the decision to rewrite NN had come so early (relatively speaking).

David Fischer
Sunday, December 2, 2001

I think it was a corporate pathology.  As I understand it, large portions of NN were re-written from scratch with every version.  For some settings, it's nearly impossible to find things in the same registry keys from version to version.

Makes it very tough when you're trying to create thin-client technology that works with NN.  In my last position, we had some thin-client components that worked with the browser.  We put in a lot of hours to support IE and NN, however when a customer wanted to pay us to add new features, we had to abandon NN for those features because the time to get it working with every version was jut not cost-effective.  Major things changed from .x version to .x version.  Where with IE, everything from 4.01 and up worked fine.

One of the few things I'll give MS credit for is that backward compatibility is practically a religion with them.


Bob Crosley
Sunday, December 2, 2001

Just stumbled onto this site, interesting.

What about SQL Server 7 (which, I understand, was a substaincial rewrite)?  In my mind, this was a big leap forward.  I believe there was substancial rewrite in Oracle 8i, too (although I'm less sure of this).

Perhaps Server/enterprise software is different.  SQL Server 7 had to get to SP2 before we could support it where I was working then (software co), but IMO, was a much better and more marketable product than 6.5.


Scott Kuykendall
Wednesday, December 5, 2001

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