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Don't judge the Net by its browser

A reader writes that just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you shouldn't judge the Internet based on which technology you're using to access it.


Don't judge the Net by its browser

In response to the Aug. 29 column by Gary Hein, "Microsoft.Net--a new monopoly?":

The article could be summed up in these three sentences:

"As a society, are we willing to cede control of the Internet to Microsoft for the sake of usability and convenience? Success is far from guaranteed, but Microsoft will do everything in its power to win. Our eternal vigilance is the only barrier between Microsoft and its next monopoly."

The phrase "control of the Internet" is a popular one and has been bandied about for years now. The problem is that it is a phrase so sufficiently vague that no one understands what it means--even the people who use it.

However, it's a great sound bite, isn't it?

Do the companies who make paper and bindings and covers for books "control" the book market? I think not. Generally, sales of books are dependent on the content of the printed text within the pages of those books and how that content resonates with the book-buying public.

The same is true of the Internet. It can be argued that Microsoft is helping to form the vehicles and standards for the presentation of the information that is disseminated throughout the Internet. But Microsoft has no more control over what that information will be than the companies that make the pages, bindings and covers for books have on the content that will be printed on their products for the eventual sale of those books.

Is it particularly disturbing that all paperback books, for instance, have their informational value printed and presented almost identically, regardless of the book or publisher? I think not. People don't judge books by their covers, after all, but rather by their content.

The same is true of the Internet. It's the information available through the Internet that gives it value; whether one accesses that information via Internet Explorer or Netscape is utterly irrelevant. Microsoft no more "controls the Internet" by virtue of the fact that more people now use IE than any other browser than Netscape "controlled the Internet" when more people accessed its content via Navigator and Communicator than any other browser.

I will jump for joy when people at last understand "the Internet" well enough to discern the clear difference between the software we use to access the Internet and the actual informational content of the Internet itself. It's the same as knowing the difference between a book and its cover, it seems to me.

Walt Covington
Savannah, Ga.