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Strong opinions, weakly held

Bye bye Blackbird

Mike Shaver comments on the recent spate of tool announcements that seek to lure developers to abandon open Web technologies in favor of proprietary platforms. As he notes, these platforms are about selling tools. He dismisses that with a wave:

I don’t think you should need to buy, or even use-for-free, any given tool to build the web, and by using and helping to drive open web technologies Mozilla lets people choose the tools they want to use.

Couldn’t agree more. And more importantly, here’s the bottom line:

The web can eat toolchain bait like this for breakfast.

These latest announcements are a continuation of the great history of vendors trying to get people to abandon HTML in favor of the proprietary flavor of the month. The most successful attempt has been Flash, but it hasn’t made significant inroads against HTML. Most Web sites built using Flash are derided as useless and idiotic. Java Applets, ActiveX controls, and all other attempts along those lines have been failures. The title of this post refers to one of the original threats to the Web — Microsoft Blackbird. Back in 1995, everybody was talking about it as a richer, more powerful platform to replace HTML. (Check out this Byte article for a breathless preview that contrasts it with Java.)

Needless to say, I’m still betting on the web. I imagine the latest generation of proprietary web-based platforms will wither on the vine just like their ancestors.

1 Comment

  1. I don’t think this article is as pro-Blackbird as you remember it: it bears all the marks of a wrestling match between the man who wrote it and whoever commissioned it on the basis of a plug from Microsoft. In particular, the following paragraphs say very plainly that it is a crock, and going nowhere:

    All of Blackbird’s wonders come at a cost: There’s no security in the Blackb ird client. A developer can send you an application that scans your disk for sensitive information (as the original Microsoft Network client was rumored to do) or that even vandalizes your machine. As the saying goes, let the buyer beware. Blackbird was still unavailable at this writing, but it will clearly deliver a lot more than current Web servers and browsers do. Microsoft has promised a Blackbird client for the Macintosh; however, portability for embedded controls is unlikely. Developers’ willingness to invest in Blackbird applications will depend on how sensitive they are to security and whether they believe Windows is the only OS they will ever need.

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