Last week, as Microsoft agreed to remove its Internet Explorer from the Windows 95 operating system and Netscape Communications announced it would begin giving Navigator away free, a NEWS.COM Poll asked readers what difference these developments would make in the increasingly bloody browser wars.
Respondents were split almost exactly down the middle when asked whether these developments will result in more browser software choices in the marketplace.
Forty-nine percent of respondents answered "yes"--the combination of moves by the two browser companies will result in more options for consumers. Most readers noted that both consumers and corporate users can now base their browser decision on technology, not financial issues.
"The recent events have given users far more choice," wrote Brian Merrell. "Now price is no longer a concern, but features and performance are."
Many readers felt that Netscape's decision to release its source code is a boon to developers that Microsoft cannot match. "Netscape's graphics engine is phenomenal, always has been," responded Chris Johnson. "Now people can take bits of it and incorporate it into their own projects."
Many of the 51 percent of readers who voted "no," that the developments would not affect the browser marketplace, noted that there are just as many major browser choices this week as there were last week: two.
"I don't see the settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department actually offering the consumer more choices in browsers," wrote Lloyd Winter. "For there to be more choices, there would have to be another alternative to Netscape and Microsoft, which at this time there isn't. "
Other naysayers pointed out that the whole concept of the browser is evolving so rapidly that last week's decisions are already outdated. "Navigator free? Too late, the game is already over, and Navigator will be useless when Win98 will be out," wrote Luc Masuy.
Then there are the cynics who will never trust what a software giant says. Most of those who took the time to explain their responses were skeptical that Microsoft's removal of the icon from the Windows desktop constituted the unbundling of Internet Explorer.
"The idea that removing the IE icon from the desktop will allow more browser control is as farcical as the Department of (in)Justice's case," concluded Mason Gravitt.
There is more choice now for consumers
"The recent events have given users far more choice. Now price is no longer a concern, but features and performance are. Also, the release of the source code is something Microsoft can never match; it is against its very nature. Netscape now has the advantage of thousands, if not millions of developers, for free. "
"Now that both browsers are free, this places [Netscape] on equal footing pricewise. The only thing now is which of the two can give users a browser that does not rely on proprietary HTML coding and features, but W3 standards...and leave it to us to decide which we want."
"In an increasingly value-driven Internet marketplace, the only way for Netscape to maintain its hold on the browser market is to give it away for free. This should prompt the undecided to at the very least consider Netscape, in spite of the fact that the OEMs and resellers will continue to bow to the enormous pressures being exerted by Microsoft to maintain an exclusive IE policy."
"I certainly believe that the browser market will have more competition now that it would have had. Other browsers are now coming on line that did not previously exist. With no restrictions on Microsoft, they would surely fail. You have to have reasonable access to the market to succeed."
--Jerry L. Rowe
No, there are no more options than before
"Your poll question seems to be off the mark. According to your news articles, all that has been agreed to is the removal of the desktop icon. Big deal! It will be in the start menu...Besides, every current MS product on CD-ROM tries to force you to install Explorer and gives you a dire notice if you decline."
"This was a near-total victory for Microsoft. Given the convergence of computers with HDTV and set-top boxes, in the next three to five years there will be 10 million to 25 million people surfing the Web from their TVs. Microsoft will be providing that browser and operating system."
"I don't see the settlement between Microsoft and the DOJ actually offering the consumer more choices in browsers. For there to be more choices, there would have to be another alternative to Netscape and IE, which at this time there isn't. I don't see any new browsers really standing a chance, especially now that Netscape also is giving its browser away for free. Who else can afford to play this game?"
"Nothing has really changed. I can't see some start-up or any company wanting to go head-to-head with either Microsoft or Netscape, regardless of no IE in Win95 or free source code. Neither company makes the majority of their profits from their browser anyway, so giving away Navigator is really no big loss."