mieke gerritzen (by way of geert lovink) on 27 Oct 2000 23:57:35 -0000

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> new browserwars?


Browser Wars, the Sequel
by Michelle Delio

2:00 a.m. Oct. 27, 2000 PDT

NEW YORK -- Do you remember the Great Browser Wars?

Three years ago the Internet's hottest story centered on the combat between
Netscape and Microsoft. Back then it was believed that Web
browsers would soon replace operating systems, and the battle over who
would control the browser market seemed to be a crucial one.

See also:
IWorld's Exuberant Rationalism
Honoring the Dearly Dot-Departed
The Spy Who Geeked Me
AOL Targets Anywhere Access
Consumers Seek a Stealth World
Check back for continuing coverage

The browser wars were also the Princess Diana of tech media -- whenever a
reporter or editor couldn't think of something to write about, he or she
would trot out a detailed analysis of the latest shots fired by spunky
upstart Netscape or monolithic, deep-pocketed Microsoft.

But then it ended. Microsoft won. Netscape was sold to America Online. And
the glory days of easy news stories seemed to be long over -- until
this week.

Now it seems that the War has begun again. And there's even an interesting
twist: This time the combatants have adopted each other's battle

On Wednesday, at the Internet World Fall 2000 trade show, America Online
released version 6.0 of its online service. AOL 6.0 packs a plethora of
new and -- since the service has always been targeted to Internet beginners
-- surprisingly sophisticated features.

Microsoft, not at all by coincidence, also announced an upgrade to its MSN
Internet service on Wednesday. The new MSN is heavily focused on
making the Internet easy to use, a concept that has long been a core part
of AOL's marketing.

"MSN and AOL do seem to have adopted each other's strategies," said Scott
Shiver of Anderson Consulting.

"MSN used to market itself as the alternative to AOL for people who wanted
something a little more refined," Shiver said. "And AOL has always been
the service for the common man or woman. Now they seem to have reversed
their focus. How strange."

MSN features a new Internet browser dubbed the MSN Explorer. Not to be
confused with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the MSN Explorer includes
free Web-based e-mail from Hotmail, an instant-messaging client, multimedia
presentations pumped through the Windows Media Player, and quick
links to services such as shopping, personal finance and travel.

"It's an alternative to AOL," said Mike Nichols, a product manager for MSN.
"MSN Explorer brings all the MSN services together in a usable way for
new users up to advanced users."

The MSN Explorer browser can be used without a subscription to the MSN

"Boy, is this cluttered!" said Glenn Oakes, a student at Columbia
University who was testing the browser at Internet World. "And look at all
cartoony icons. You know, it sort of reminds me of AOL. I expect it to
start downloading art at any minute."

Microsoft plans to invest $150 million in marketing the new MSN service.
And, in 16 selected cities, part of the media blitz will include
up-close-and-personal promoting by people on rollerblades, who will hand
out MSN disks and chat about the MSN mobile service.

AOL 6.0 also offers mobile services, allowing its users remote access to
e-mail and AOL core services both over the Web and via the new AOL by
Phone voice feature, which will read e-mail, stock quotes, weather reports
and other informational services to users over the phone.

"I wonder how long would it take to listen to 200 triple-X spams over the
phone?" wondered Kathy Ellison, an AOL subscriber and freelance tech
writer who was visiting the AOL booth.

AOL 6.0 also offers full support for DSL, cable and satellite access with a
built-in "speed detect" feature that automatically engages the AOL Plus
Media Tower when a user with a high-speed connection signs on. The tower
will serve up full-motion video and streaming audio that complements
its standard services.

"Say what you will about AOL, they certainly did a good job of making
'online' easy," said Jerry Cummings, a software-interface consultant with
Mindreps. "And now, oddly, AOL seems to be moving towards attracting more
sophisticated users, and MSN is heading towards appealing to the

Cummings thinks that in the long run the switch is more likely to pay off
for AOL.

"People seem to get addicted to the AOL interface. They don't want to
switch to another service, because many really believe they won't be able
to find things on the Internet without AOL holding their hand."

Cummings says that MSN should focus on appealing to the sophisticated user,
instead of trying to woo AOLers.

"AOL actually has a better chance of tempting new users into the fold with
their new features then MSN has of grabbing AOLers away from the

John Roberts, a professor of communications at New Jersey's Rutgers
University, agrees with Cummings.

"The one thing MSN has going for it at this point in time is that it's
trendy for more savvy Internet users to eschew AOL," Roberts said. "The new
MSN could have been the thinking person's AOL, but instead they chose to
appeal to the raw beginner audience that is already so well served by

Copyright  1994-2000 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net