September 09, 2002
Why So Many Things Went Right with the Internet

From Dan Gillmor's Sunday column in the San Jose Mercury News: 10 choices that were critical to the Net's success By Dan GillmorMercury News Technology Columnist In our modern, corporate culture, the rise of the Internet is a happy accident. In its roots and growth, says Scott Bradner, the Net never had a business model. How did technologists, government officials and a host of other early players turn something with no obvious business model into a system that has become so intrinsic to the new century? A series of decisions proved critical -- choices that helped turn data transport into a commodity business and put the power in users' hands, not in the centralized telecommunications companies' controlling grasp. At a telecom conference in Massachusetts last week, Bradner, senior technical consultant at Harvard University and a longtime leader in the formation of Internet standards, listed 10 crucial decisions along the way. (You may have other candidates; send them to me and I'll list them on my Web page). Here are Bradner's picks: 1) Make it all work on top of existing networks. Designers deliberately didn't try to build a single, new über-data network -- it was about ``networks, not a network,''...

Posted by DeLong at 11:43 AM

July 03, 2002
Google Doesn't Worry About Stickiness

Jason Kottke meditates on how Google understands the web--how it is eager to make its website an elastic place that you use to trampoline to the rest of the web, rather than a sticky place that it is hard to get away from. :: Elastic, not sticky | Google now has this bit of text on the bottom of each of their results pages now: "Try your query on: AltaVista Excite Lycos Yahoo!" Click on Excite (for example) and it takes you directly to an Excite search results page for whatever term you were searching for. What's going on here? Google linking directly to competitors' Web sites? Have they gone insane? What Google is doing here is instructive for most companies offering online content or services. Google knows their search results are good and displayed in a useful way. You want to wander off to Excite? That's ok because they know you'll be back soon. Google doesn't care about stickiness (which is a nearly unattainable goal unless you're AOL or Yahoo!)... they know that you're not going to spend all your online time at their site. They care much more about making their site elastic: vistors aren't stuck in...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM

May 15, 2002
Freedom to Innovate?

Lurking behind the legal case that is now Unsettling States v. Microsoft has always been a whispered sotto voce claim by Microsoft that competition--in the market for PC operating systems, for office productivity suites, for browsers--is a bad thing. Technological innovation needs a single, strong, dominant, monopolistic firm to set the standard, and to tell the industry when it is time for the standard to change. Whenever I make this (possibly true, possibly false) point, I refer to UNIX-on-micros in the 1980s, when an operating system technologically superior to MS-DOS went nowhere because the lack of a dominant standard-setter prevented growth and allowed the emergence of enough small incompatibilities to fragment the market and discourage applications development (which led John Doerr to once say that I knew nothing about UNIX in the 1980s, applications development, or software markets.) I have never been able to evaluate this argument satisfactorily. But last week something happened to one of its biggest boosters. Keith Teare, CEO of Real Names, who had favored the maintenance of Microsoft's monopoly in web browsers as pro-consumer because "without Microsoft [to set the standard, and make sure that Real Names's products are included in the standard set of browser...

Posted by DeLong at 02:54 PM

October 30, 1999
Getting a Head Start on Writing an Important New Category of Software

Review of Charles Ferguson, High Stakes, No Prisoners by Michael Froomkin and Brad DeLong Charles Ferguson has written a very honest book. That honesty is one chief reason to read it: he dishes the dirt on Netscape, Microsoft, his lawyers, his venture capitalists, and not least himself. But his very honesty gives the reader some critical distance--and gave us the tools to question how long the core conclusions of the book will continue to apply. In 1993 Charles Ferguson--MIT-trained engineer, consultant, and high-tech industry analyst--had a brilliant idea: the world needed a visual development software tool to create online information systems. The tool had to be visually-oriented to be useful to the non-programmers who knew the information. Yet the tool had to be sophisticated to allow organizations to structure their data in useful ways. Ferguson sunk his then-life savings into his idea. He created his software corporation, Vermeer. With his partner, Randy Forgaard, he assembled a very good programming staff. He raised venture capital. He pursued the enterprise with monomania mixed with paranoia. And by the end of 1995 there was code that was more sophisticated than the code of potential competing programs like NaviPress, Netscape Composer, or PageMill, and...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM