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IE 4 play makes Netscape rash

As two historic rivals wage a fierce battle with weapons named Explorer and Navigator, perhaps it's natural to think of the Netscape-Microsoft Browser Wars as a Geek, rather than Greek, version of The Iliad and The Odyssey.

    As two historic rivals wage a fierce battle with weapons named Explorer and Navigator, perhaps it's natural to think of the Netscape-Microsoft Browser Wars as a Geek, rather than Greek, version of The Iliad and The Odyssey. Or maybe the simple fact that two of the story's protagonists are named Homer and Gates brings the Trojan War to mind. At any rate, there was certainly something very Greek--as in fraternity--about the prank perpetrated yesterday by a cadre of radical Microserfs hyped up on Cheetos, Razzles, and Diet Coke after their IE 4 launch party in San Francisco.

    For the uninitiated, a Skinopsis: At approximately 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at Netscape's Mountain View encampment, a few 24-7 engineers

    E prank
    Battle of the browser icons: Netscape's HQ site of prank
    observed a flatbed truck pull up in front of their building. Quicker than you can say "Janet Reno on line one," several Microsoft henchmen hopped out and proceeded to lean a 10-foot-tall letter "e"--the logo for the new Internet Explorer 4.0 browser, of course--up against a nearby tree. Adding insult to injury, they had even attached balloons and a sarcastic greeting card to the offending vowel.

    Quick to remedy this blow to their honor, an equally caffeinated Netscape troop promptly rushed outside, toppled the "e," and positioned on top of it their own Mozilla mascot--a 13-foot-tall, thumbs-up-giving Godzilla- style creature. As a final touch, some bleary-eyed wag affixed to the beast a sign reading "Netscape 72, Microsoft 18"--a reference to the relative market shares of the companies' two browsers. A few hours later, dawn broke--and the industrial-strength spin-doctoring began.

    Netscape dismissed the episode as some sort of "college fraternity prank," pointedly remarking that--come to think of it--they do live on a campus up there, don't they? MSpokespersons allegedly smirked, "It was all done in a spirit of FUD--I mean, FUN!"

    More Mozilla counterattack: One MS insider cried foul about Netscape's questionable recruiting tactics. The Netscape consulting division, which professional services VP Randy Favero promised to beef up at the company's strategy day last month, has allegedly been cold-calling individuals in the Microsoft NorCal consulting division. Of course, Microsoft should be the last company complaining about aggressive recruiting tactics.

    Now, just in case the above has you thinking that, compared to the Netscape/Microsoft crew, the whole Apple/Steve Jobs/MacFanatic camp has become a bastion of sanity, we submit the following entry from Planet Cupertino, entitled "Mac Pravda: The Official News Organ of the Central Committee of Apple Computers." This broadsheet--written in the insanely optimistic prose that Kremlin PR flacks used to churn out when trying to spin that day's Chernobylesque disaster--starts with a Sovietish picture of "Chairman Steve," and goes on to offer such headlines as "Chairman Jobs Marks One-Month Anniversary of Great Patriotic War Against Clone Imperialism." Steve may be a hit with the media, but clearly, there are some unhappy campers out there in the Mac Balkans.

    From Russian history to Earth's future: despite its current travails, I have some reason to believe that Apple will survive and thrive well into the 21st century. It came in late Wednesday night, from a Hollywood insider, who says that the next Star Trek film has the crew going back in time to witness the building of the first Starship Enterprise. The lights are dim, everything's ready to go, and when the techies activate the computer, what's the very first thing it says? "Welcome To Macintosh."

    Movie tie-ins--what a brainstorm! I guess Apple's marketing team is content to boldly go where Gil Amelio has gone before. Whether Trojan or Greek, remember to send your best leads to Skinny at the Rumor Mill: The place that launched a thousand tips.