CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Tech Industry

Microsoft calls Netscape on standards issue

As Netscape Communications prepares to give control of a key technology, JavaScript, to a standards organization next week, rival Microsoft is crying foul, saying Netscape's standards efforts are long overdue.

As Netscape Communications (NSCP) prepares to give control of a key technology, JavaScript, to a standards organization next week, its chief rival Microsoft (MSFT) is crying foul, saying Netscape's standards efforts are long overdue.

The debate between the two companies illustrates the growing contentiousness over Internet standards and whether Microsoft and Netscape are fostering truly open, rather than proprietary, technologies in their products.

Next week, Netscape and several other Internet players, including Microsoft, Apple Computer, Borland International, IBM, and Sun Microsystems, will meet to discuss Netscape's proposal for turning stewardship of JavaScript over to ECMA, a standards group based in Switzerland.

JavaScript is a scripting language originally invented by Netscape under the name of LiveScript that is meant to add some intelligence to Web pages. Bearing almost no technical relationship to Java, Sun's full-fledged programming language, Netscape nevertheless christened its technology JavaScript in December of 1995, promising to turn the language over to a standards body and to freely license the software to other vendors for inclusion in their products.

But Microsoft has long contended that it never received source code for JavaScript from Netscape and was thus forced to create its own version of the language, called JScript, for Internet Explorer 3.0. As a result, the two versions of the language contain inconsistencies that can frustrate Web surfers when they visit sites that use either of them.

Today, Microsoft also accused Netscape of failing to deliver the technology to any Java licenses, something Netscape promised to do in December of 1995. "It's been an unfortunate detour for JavaScript that it hasn't had a formal process," said Thomas Reardon, a program manager at Microsoft. "Netscape has failed to follow through on the standards process. We have multiple implementations of JavaScript as a result."

Netscape maintains that it is freely licensing JavaScript through its Netscape ONE (Open Network Environment), but the company does admit that its plan for delivering JavaScript to other companies has changed considerably since it announced the technology.

"As our strategy evolved, we realized that the best way to support it was through Netscape ONE," said Andrea Cook, a Netscape spokeswoman. "There's very good evidence that we have in good faith followed the standards process."

However, Microsoft officials expressed concern that Netscape is trying to keep its JavaScript cards close to its chest. "If they want to call it part of their platform, they should call it part of their platform and not try to sprinkle open dust on it," said Reardon.

Meanwhile, ECMA officials today said that Netscape will have to commit to freely licensing JavaScript, even to competitors such as Microsoft, if the technology is to become a true standard.

"ECMA will start a standardization project on JavaScript on a request by Netscape," Jan van den Beld, the secretary general of ECMA, said in an email today. "This implies that Netscape is contributing JavaScript to ECMA and declares that it's willing to provide licenses on a reasonable and nondiscriminatory way."

The debate over JavaScript closely resembles the controversy surrounding Microsoft's effort to turn its ActiveX technology over to The Open Group, another standards organization. In that case, Netscape and other vendors have questioned whether Microsoft has retained control of certain key elements of ActiveX.