RE: Working Within the System

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Mon May 01 2000 - 14:07:13 MDT

Adrian Tymes wrote:
> HTML was not made by a company. It was first written by a scientist
> looking for a better way to share information, and freely given away.
> There was no commercial incentive - at least, not until Netscape came
> along. A number of other widely-supported computer standards - HTTP and
> Linux, to name a couple of the more popular ones - similarly had no
> corporate backing before they became popular enough for companies to
> take notice.

And your point is?

> > Portability standards, like Java, HTML or POSIX, are essentially
> > efforts launched by coalitions of companies who do not have enough
> > share to be viable competitors by themselves.
> > Interoperability standards, like TCP and HTTP, are another matter.
> > their purpose is to allow products from different vendors to work
> > it is usually in everyone's best interests to fully codify and support
> I submit the up-and-coming Wireless Application Protocol as a
> counterexample. It's an interoperability standard that, at its start,
> was launched by Unwired Planet (now and whoever it could beg
> into supporting. WAP is sufficiently unstable that, aside from
>, practically everyone who officially supports WAP also
> supports WAP's competitors - for instance, UDP/IP.

How is that supposed to be a counterexample? I never said that all standards
efforts are automatically successful. I simply said that interoperability
standards often succeed because it is in everyone's best interests to make
sure that they do, while portability standards tend to become useless
political footballs because it is in the best interests of their promoters
to do things that ultimately undermine the standard.

> > No one is *entrusted* with anything in a free market. Commercial
> > can only control a vital technology if they are actually doing a decent
> > of managing it, because the moment they begin making mistakes they
create an
> > opportunity for rivals to make big money by fixing things.
> So long as the screw-ups haven't placed so many barriers to leaving -
> for instance, holding the domain name they bought for you even after you
> send notice to NSI that the ISP no longer has your business and thus no
> longer has a right to your trademark, or just plain buying up the ISP
> you were going to switch to - that switching becomes financially
> infeasable.

What on Earth does a random litany of service complaints about some ISP have
to do with the general issue of control of technologies?

I hope you aren't going to try to convince me that some government agency
should take over managing IP addresses (oh, I'm sure they'd be ever so much
more responsive - NOT!).

> > Ten years ago this remark would have been on target. Five years ago the
> > matter would have been arguable. Today it is simply ignorant prejudice.
> > Microsoft's current performance in both these areas is in the top 25% of
> > industry, and still improving at a steady rate. They aren't the best in
> > world, but they are much better than average, and unless the Unix
> > get their collective act together they *will* be the best in another
> > years or so.
> virtue of having bought up or run out of business all competition
> that did have their act together.

As was demonstrated way back in the 19th century, it is not possible to
drive competition out of a market simply by buying your competitors. If all
you've got going for you is a big wallet, the smart thing for a
newly-bought-out competitor to do is to use the money you paid him to start
up another competing business. Then you buy that one, giving him an even
bigger bankroll to use invest in his next business, and so until you either
wise up or go broke.

No, the buy-out approach only works if the people getting your money don't
want to be competing with you. Now, how do you convince people that they
don't want to compete with you? Certainly not by throwing money at them! No,
you do it by being a tough business rival - you have to be good at giving
customers a product that they want at a price they are willing to pay. If
you do that so well that your competitors don't think they can match you,
they may just take their money and go play elsewhere.

Billy Brown

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:10:05 MDT