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More on Microsoft’s Rift With the Web

Posted by Bob Warfield on October 23, 2007

My post on  Microsoft’s Rift With the Web generated some lively commentary including a blog post from Tim Anderson and a similar-sounding comment from a confessed Microsoft employee.  The problem I have with both is they’ve painted my original post with the same brush that has gotten Microsoft into trouble.  There seems to be a tendency to want to make it a totally black or white conclusion.  Here are some choice quotes:

“Microsoft had little-to-nothing to do with Java’s demise; and Java is not “the web”.  Java was rejected by the web because it was antithetical to the web.”

Wow!  Who knew Java had met it’s “demise” and had been “rejected by the web”?  Why wasn’t this on TechMeme?

“since enterprises did not want to bet on a single language/runtime that was controlled by a single vendor. Again, MSFT gave people a choice; you can’t blame us for them choosing open standards and interop.”

There is giving a choice, and there is forcing people to make a choice.  Microsoft favors the latter strategy because if you invest totally in their choice they lock you up.  They’ll play for the long term assuming they can add to that locked in base over time.  But having a choice is much different than forcing a choice.  Forcing a choice is black or white.  Having a choice is, “I want both, I want gray.”  Lots of folks out there are mixing lots of the open web tools together including Java.  Most of these tools are built for it.  I know very very few that mix .NET with that world.  Shops tend to go all .NET.  The exception would be for example SQL Server, but that’s a pretty weak counter example.

“MSFT was a good-faith promoter and participant in the relevant W3C standards sinc day 1.”

My recollection is different, but forget recollections.  Let’s look at the present and Microsoft’s standards-based activities around OOXML.  Apparently, Microsoft tried to stack the committee to get their way, which brought progress to a grinding halt and had Tim O’Reilly writing:  This is a great victory for advocates of openness.  Now is this any way to behave as a good-faith promoter? 

“Warfield does not quite say, but strongly implies, that .NET is failing in the market.”

Failure is a strong word, and not one I would choose.  What I did say is that Microsoft is making themselves an island, and on that, the writer evidently agrees:

“Now, I do partially agree with Warfield. Microsoft is an island…”

 .NET hasn’t failed, but Microsoft’s insistence on .NET to the exclusion of the other platforms is what’s placed it on an island.  The web at large is actually a pretty forgiving place, notwithstanding the frequent flame wars one sees.  The latter are just good-natured barroom fisticuffs.  But the web is intolerant of too much dogma, and in particular, it is intolerant of walled gardens, which is exactly what Microsoft wants from .NET.  You can’t blame Microsoft for trying to create a walled garden, only for misunderstanding the ramifications of doing so in a world that is well aware of what walled gardens are and what they mean.  By insisting, they’ve been banished to this island.

Tim Anderson (and others) dislike my use of Google results to bring perspective.  He presented some interesting data that shows IIS gaining on Apache.  The trouble is, if we read the fine print on that page, netcraft conclude that the apparent improvement in IIS relative to Apache is due to the fastest growing sites being MySpace, Microsoft, and Google’s Blogger.  MySpace and Microsoft Live both run IIS.  But is the number of servers in use a meaningful metric to this discussion?  No, not really.  The fact the gap closed because of just 3 sites, one of them Microsoft’s own site, only emphasizes my point even more strongly.  The island has a couple of great big peaks out there and one is home to Microsoft itself, which is surely another source of skew, and a worse one from my perspective if you’re talking about community and developer mindshare.

Tim makes a couple of other comments on my Google statistics:

“so by the same logic PHP is vastly more important than Java.”

I can live with that, and in fact, I’ve written about it.  I’m not sure why it would be controversial.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t a whole lot of folks who love Java, nor that Java isn’t a far better tool for many uses.  But PHP is a great tool too, and the world has proven that a number of times now.  The Lamp stack has become extremely successful among web startups.

Here is another:

“we must conclude that MySQL is far more important in the Enterprise than Oracle”

Tim has gold plated his case by inserting the word “Enterprise” there.  Not a word I used in my analysis.  In fact, it seems to me we were talking about the web, not the Enterprise.  Turnabout would be for me to say, “Tim Anderson says Oracle is much more important to the web than mySQL.”  In fact, if we add the word “enterprise” to the Google search, we get the following:

Oracle+enterprise:  10,500,000

mySQL+enterprise:  1,940,000

Oracle beats mySQL 5:1 in the Enterprise by this metric.  Tim, are you sure you don’t like this Google diving approach?  It seems to agree with your points of view.

Last point of clarification involves this statement:

“Should Microsoft drop .NET and embrace Java or PHP, as Warfield kind-of implies?”

We are again attempting to force a black and white choice instead of offering choices.  My exact recommendation to Microsoft was this:

“Microsoft needs to repair their rift and start embracing some of the other technologies out there. “

Frankly, things were pretty good before Microsoft went to war over Java.  I’m not interested in eliminating Microsoft or .NET!  I want to seal the rift because a bigger, more unified ecosysem will be good for all concerned.  I read where Sun is now increasingly using Python in lieu of Java  on apps they are shipping.  Sun has “cultivated and vigorously supported” Ruby.  When will we read something similar to either announcement from Microsoft, instead of reading things like they’re going to quit shipping the JVM at the end of the year?

It’s really not that hard.  It won’t hurt .NET, honest, and it will improve Microsoft’s ability to engage the ecosystem that is the web.  It means giving up on having a monopoly on web development, but come on, that just isn’t going to happen.  Move on.

Or, to paraphrase a famous Cold War era quote:

Mr. Ballmer, tear down this wall! 

(And stop the monopoly building foolishness: it won’t work, it’s hurting you, and it’s making your enemies grow stronger.)

12 Responses to “More on Microsoft’s Rift With the Web”

  1. More on Microsoft’s Rift With the Web

    There is an interesting post over at

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  4. pixolut said

    I posted a commentary on Tim’s article, but I would extend on it here – namely, I am really failing to see how Microsoft is any different to Sun when it comes down to the crux of your argument; how is Microsoft a walled garden and Sun not? Microsoft has released source code of their .Net framework as has Sun. There is an open source version of the .Net framework as there are multiple flavours of the JVM. There are multiple language/compiler efforts for both platforms – Eiffel, Python, Ruby, C#, VB.Net – all are available for both JVM and .Net framework.

    The key differences you pointed out about .Net (C# or VB I don’t know) being smaller in user base than Java (comparing .Net to Java is not quite apples to apples) would be more indicative of the maturity (in years) of the platform. This is also the case with the maturity of projects like Mono – Open Source takes time and relative to Java, .Net is an infant. Its not really a fair comparison.

    The doom of Microsoft terminating their JVM implementation is not really a bad thing. It was a carry over from days gone by where Microsoft had serious issues with conformity to industry standards and no concept of security – I thank the Lord that the Microsoft JVM is finally toast. Just because Microsoft is not shipping a JVM anymore does not mean that Java and .Net don’t play nice – in fact Java and the Microsoft JVM play quite poorly together.

    Whilst Microsoft will probably not make a Java implementation for the .Net framework, there are already other open source projects which are such as IKVM.NET ( which aims to provide true Java compatibility on the .Net framework.

    To clarify my position, I am now a .Net architect (language neutral) for four years and have been an Enterprise Java architect for five years before that. At the end of the day, I really took issue with your apparent lack of understanding of the environments which you are critiquing – .Net has really got zip to do with Java – its like flaming BEA for not making a .Net application server; its not their business. Microsoft have become much more open with ECMA language ratification, CodePlex initiative and their own Framework source sharing initiatives. I really fail to see your point of view.

    Joe Cincotta

  5. smoothspan said

    Joe, welcome, glad to have your perspectives.

    Please understand, this is not a Sun vs Microsoft or a Java vs .NET battle. Those are just examples, and to focus on them is exactly the mistake I wrote the above post about–too much black and white thinking. Rather, this is a “come join the open community” invitation. Even Tim Anderson in his blog admits Microsoft has created an island for themselves, so is it so impossible to see my point of view? You’re welcome to disagree, but not to see it as all seems a bit much.

    Why is this island beneficial to anyone, least of all Microsoft? Why would you keep Java and .NET so separate in your own professional life? And why should .NET have zip to do with Java?

    About the Sun walled garden, what commercial benefit is Sun extracting from Java versus Microsoft from .NET? Radical differences there. Sun’s been criticized for being almost too philanthropic with Java, yet they continue. Microsoft may be involved in some way with the various CLR projects you mention, but Sun is shipping products written in tools outside their “walled garden”. This is like the old joke about the relationship of the pig and the chicken to breakfast. The pig is much more committed.

    The idea that these two worlds are one is problematic for me, and I think ultimately for Microsoft. Remember, the two worlds are not just Java and .NET, they are Microsoft’s chosen versus the Rest of Web. Sun and many other shops are becoming Polyglot shops that can roam the web searching for components to build in and companies to buy without much to fear.

    Perhaps Microsoft is already aware there is a problem and are at work changing. If so, that’s great. But it’ll take a pretty strong change before it’s felt after years of the typical Microsoft hyper-competitive “it isn’t enough I win, someone must lose” mentality.

  6. […] smoothspan wrote an interesting post today on More on Microsoftâs Rift With the WebHere’s a quick excerptMore on Microsoft’s Rift With the Web My post on  Microsoft’s Rift With the Web generated some lively commentary including a blog post from Tim Anderson and a similar-sounding comment from a confessed Microsoft employee.  The problem I have with both is they’ve painted my original post with the same brush that has gotten Mic… Read the full post from SmoothSpan Blog Tags: Business, Strategy via Blogdigger blog search for web site marketing strategy. […]

  7. […] More on Microsoft’s Rift With the Web My post on  Microsoft’s Rift With the Web generated some lively commentary including a blog post from Tim Anderson and a similar-sounding comment from a confessed Microsoft employee.  The problem I have with both is they’ve painted my original post with the same brush that has gotten Mic… […]

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  9. pixolut said

    Thanks for your further clarification – it must feel like flogging the donkey, but to be honest it really took a while for me to get your point.

    Microsoft technologies are not an island by any means, the confusion I was really having in understanding your point is in realizing your argument was really about the business model they have vs the tools they make.

    Cases in point; Microsoft Windows Server and IIS can run an ‘AMP’ stack (minus the L of course!), .Net does Python and Ruby and also handles web services interop like its Java counterparts. As far as integration for the integrators – its there, it can be done and there is no barrier to entry – certainly not an island. Microsoft products intgrate with Rest of World – however Microsoft as a business DOES NOT –

    they do .Net

    (pause for aha moment.)

    To be honest, you’re right (if that was actually your point) about the Microsoft island as far as Microsoft as a business entity is concerned – but that is their business model and a successful one – they do not do what Sun does, they are not in the hardware business – just software – and in this regard Microsoft is less of an island and more of a continent; Microsoft server penetration in the many markets in which it plays is no “one palm tree with two coconuts” affair, its big by any measure.

    Further to that, Microsoft did something very interesting with .Net – and made it a first class citizen with their next generations of operating systems. For all the talk of web2 applications removing the need for the desktop, Windows is still here and will be for some time before the paradigm truely shifts with critical mass.

    The impact of this is that as the next generation of Microsoft operating systems gain traction (which inevitably over time they will) the native language of all Microsoft desktop AND server applications will be .Net … this is a rationalization strategy within Microsoft for a divided developer base as opposed to some kind of adversarial decimation for which they have been renowned in the past.

    I think you’re correct about things taking time with the Microsoft behemoth – cultural change is slow and it took years for .Net source to open up and for standards to be adhered to. I think it finally clicked over the last few years but it still takes time when you are talking about languages and platforms such as Java which have been established for nearly 14 years.

    Ultimately, once you explained your argument more clearly, you were right about their business model – wether you love it or hate it, Microsoft continue to provide ‘alternatives’ to platforms as opposed to integrate directly with the establish industry players. It is usually only after the community becomes involved that the direct integration with those players occurs. Cases in point are the new directions in VoIP which they have taken after watching the rest of the industry go that route – but you have to understand that this is still (wether you agree with it or not) a strong business strategy which they can afford to do; they do it by absorbing R&D companies through strategic acquisitions and also leveraging the existing armies of development teams from within.

    When all is said and done – I do not see their strategy failing any time soon – even if they are only successful in the new areas in which they endeavour 25% of the time, the follow on revenue from those channels is enormous and they are big enough to harness and exploit them as revenue streams.

    The ultimate losers in this strategy are developers who need to create artificial lag in implementing new technologies/platforms to determine the ‘final’ industry standards and platforms to choose when deciding on .Net as their foundation – its not always Microsoft and when it is, their platforms are in a state of flux for some time.

    Joe Cincotta

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