There's gold in them thar hills...
Web War will escalate -- casualties expected
From PC Week for February 20, 1995 by Jesse Berst
The last few months have seen a glut of next-generation Web browsers from companies large and small. Trouble is, these companies are fighting over a market that will soon disappear, leaving some startups badly wounded.
Browsers help users navigate the Internet's World-Wide Web and interact with graphical home pages. The first browser, Mosaic, was developed by students and distributed free on the net.
Web War II.
Now several dozen for-profit companies have created second-generation browsers. All of them sport valuable improvements. For instance, Netscape Communications' Netscape Navigator has a browser, an E-mail front end, and a newsgroup reader. It is multithreaded, so it can retrieve a graphic in the background while you read a document in the foreground.
BookLink Technology's InternetWorks is also multithreaded and comes with an excellent interface plus a suite of Internet tools (TCP/IP, Winsock, and SLIP/PPP). Because it is OLE 2.0-compliant, it can work seamlessly with other Windows apps. Then there is Frontier's WinTapestry, with its tabs for grouping by subject matters. And the Quarterdeck Browser, with its file cabinet metaphor. And California Software's InterAp, an integrated Internet suite designed for business users. And ... well, you get the idea. There are far too many competing products for me to describe.
Web War III.
Third-generation browsers should arrive this year or early next.
But it really won't matter, because there isn't a viable market for stand-alone products. Companies such as Microsoft, Netscape, IBM, and America Online will be giving away browsers to secure customers for other products and services. Companies that sell only browsers simply won't last.
How the Web will be won. So how do you make money on the Internet? I see at least four markets worth fighting over.
As the war of the Web browsers progresses, note that it is just the first -- and probably the least important -- skirmish in what will be a long, fierce struggle to profit from the Internet.
- Short term, there should be an interesting business for just-add-water Web servers. Netscape, Oracle, and Quarterdeck are among those already promoting products.
- I expect a growing market for Internet publishing tools.
- And then there's the business of creating content for the Web. This market is in its infancy, but it will be huge someday.
- Long term, I predict a market for products that help people deal with Internet info-glut. Microsoft and Oracle have backroom projects devoted to what I call the "mother of all databases" problem -- how to store, index, browse, and retrieve huge data stores distributed across multiple sites. We won't see such products any time soon, but some company is going to get rich solving this problem with agents, filters, indexes, or read-and-condense technology such as that in the works from Oracle.
Response of the week: From Michigan consultant Nick Holland: "You accuse Microsoft of being stupid for choosing the name Windows 95. I think MS chose the name to keep people from buying OS/2 Version 3, a technologically superior product. Stupid? No, brilliant. I don't think their Hall of Shame award should be revoked, but reissued for slime, not stupidity."
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Last update: 23 Feb 95.
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