To developers, a single standard for Internet scripting could avert incompatibilities between the two leading Web browsers. But Microsoft's announcement also points to the increasing role that standards support is playing in the marketing messages of both companies.
In recent months, such rhetoric has reached a fever pitch as both companies attempt to position themselves as purveyors of Net standards. Microsoft has been particularly aggressive in recent months, touting its work with the World Wide Web Consortium to establish channel definition format (CDF) and Dynamic HTML as standards. Earlier this month, Microsoft and Netscape achieve a rare concordance on an Internet privacy technology called the open profiling standard (OPS).
"Microsoft wants to be the good Net standards citizen because they were accused of being proprietary and closed for so long," said Clay Ryder, an analyst with market research firm Zona Research. "For Netscape, defining standards is very important because they are supposed to be the Internet brand."
Netscape acknowledged that it was not able to support ECMA Script in its Communicator and SuiteSpot 3.0 products, both of which shipped earlier this month. Rick Fleischman, group product manager for tools at Netscape, said that the next versions of both products would support ECMA Script, but he would not offer a date for the release of those products.
"I'm excited that Microsoft has announced very aggressive support for this new standard," Fleischman noted. "They are at a point in their product cycle where they are actively introducing new product features."