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9 September 1997
Is Microsoft's Browser Philosophy Flawed?
As reported in today's Aardvark Daily, yet another potentially fatal flaw has been found in Microsoft's latest browser product.

This time a malicious Web designer could effectively corrupt critical system files on your PC if you used MSIE 4.0 to access that site.

Okay, so all browsers have problems - and some of them are potentially very serious indeed, so what's my beef with Internet Explorer?

Well, the next version of Microsoft Windows (98?) will reportedly have Internet Explorer integrated into the shell.

Why is this so bad?

Well up to now, if you felt nervous about Microsoft's track record in the area of browser security and if you were not prepared to risk opening up your system to attack by ActiveX components (which have nothing like the level of security-control that Java offers), you could simply not install MSIE. Indeed, I suspect this is the very reason that Netscape still owns 60% of the browser market in the face of Microsoft's huge marketing muscle.

So what's going to happen when MSIE becomes a "like it or not" part of your operating system? What happens when your very desktop is based around parts of the Internet Explorer internals?

A million dollar idea for Netscape
I have my fair share of good ideas (although some might argue that point) and here's another one that I hope Netscape have already thought of.

How is Netscape going to avoid losing its 60% share of the browser market when Windows 98 launches?

Simple... all they have to do is build a replacement for the Windows 98 desktop that replaces Microsoft's functionality with their own code.

I only hope they don't fall into the trap of trying to integrate their browser into that functionality. It would be a much smarter idea to keep the shell and the browser separate. This way they'd certainly grab the attention (and support) of a lot of people who simply don't want to take the risk of having a browser tightly bound to their operating system.

If Netscape's strategists have their thinking cap on they won't try going head-to-head with Microsoft, they'll look to exploit the weakness in their tight-integration plan. I think the fact that 60% of the people aren't using MSIE at this stage is an indication that there is a weakness there to be exploited.

Another possible benefit to this move on Netscape's part would be that they'd actually be making inroads into Microsoft's own home territory - the desktop itself. As they say, attack is often the best defense.

Attack is the best defense

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Rest In Peace
Enough already!
Unlike just about every other Net publication - I'm not going to say anything about the recent demise of Princess Diana. I feel that this story has been flogged to death by all the media and it's now time to let it rest. I only hope some of the other publishers have the sense do the same.

The New-look Xtra
In case you missed it last week I did a short review in Aardvark Daily.

As promised in that article, this week I'm running a survey to get some public opinion on the changes that have been made, please have your say.

After trolling around the site a while longer I find that most of my original comment remains unchanged. This really is an interesting exercise in pushing the limits of Web design aesthetics.

Such risks are a double edged sword and when you engage in this sort of thing you're likely to polarise people either strongly for or against - there's often very little "middle ground".

Overall the effect is good - but let down a little in a few places such as on the LoveMan page and those that link from it where the text in the blues box has no padding - leaving it hard up against the margins when viewed with Netscape. A very small point, but perhaps all the more reason why it should be fixed.

Looking at the rest of this page though the graphics are clean and clear and the layout is fine. Perhaps the only other complaint I would have to make is the unimaginative use of fonts. Instead of using a courier font in the Bitstream section where it simply looks ugly - why not use it to make the "readers' letters" stand out and look like a typewritten letter??

As has been the case for some time - there's a lot of good stuff on that Xtra site and they've made it a little easier to find, certainly having regularly changed links from the front page is a good idea - I'd probably never have even noticed that there was a "LoveMan" section without this feature.

The bottom line? The site isn't as "pretty" as Clear's but some pieces are stunningly innovative and at least you can be pretty sure that every time you come back there's something new awaiting you. ClearNet has relied on having the same content recycled over and over again - a strategy which is now pretty "old hat", somewhat akin to the pile of magazines at the doctor's surgery. You if you don't go there often then you still find them interesting because you've forgotten what you read last time - but if you visit often enough - you keep seeing the same old stuff and it gets boring. ClearNet also seem to have a problem in keeping their links up to date. In the Magazine section the links to TV1 and TV2's programme listings are hopelessly outdated - something I've already pointed this out to them several times.

Content is king on the Internet and it seems that Xtra have twigged to this - now if they can just fine-tune their presentation and find out which bits "work" and which bits don't.

Let's give them a 9 out of 10 for bravery, 8 for creativity, and 7.5 for implementation.

Xtra risky or Xtra good?

All set to be number one
Yellow Pages revisited
Okay so how's Telecom's Yellow Pages site stacking up?

I don't know who designed the database on which the site is built but it seems silly that if you buy an enhanced listing - you still get the basic free listing as well. Instead of just adding the "Web Site" link to the free listing - the system displays both. No big deal but something that wouldn't take much to fix - surely?

I also notice a lot of the computer companies listed have obviously coughed up the extra dough and bought a web-link and/or headline option. Not a silly idea, I've never contested the fact that this site will probably become THE definitive Net resource for those seeking products or services.

There are also a growing number of Web pages hosted on the site and the URL isn't too convoluted - although I think I'd rather have something shorter than http://www.yellowpages.co.nz/for/emslie/dp104.html printed on my business cards and letterhead. And just as a matter of interest - if you understand HTML, take a look at the last section of the source code for that page - spot the error? Perhaps Yellow Pages ought to check their page-generation templates for errors!

The only other criticism of the site would have to be the applet on the front page. It takes forever to load - gives no indication that it is loading and I doubt that it will be seen by many people at all. Lose it and at least the page will load more quickly.

It has to be said - this will be a killer site thanks to unbeatable content and a pretty slick implementation by Webmasters. Although I have picked some holes - they're only small and nothing that can't be fixed pretty easily. I think everyone else planning an online business directory better start searching for a niche or some killer advantage - you aren't going to win any market share without it.

Would you believe....?
Yea, yea... I know I go on about wanting a smaller, faster, more reliable browser in the face of the megalithic offerings from Netscape and Microsoft, and I was pleased to see Netscape stripping Navigator from their full suite - but how about this.

Hands up all those who believe that you can fit a full Web browser with all the normal HTML 3.2 stuff such as frames, tables, animated GIFs, etc onto a single floppy disk? You know - just like the good old days of Netscape 1.1.

Any takers????

Okay, what if I said you could not only fit the browser on the disk but also a multi-tasking, multi-user operating system, GUI windowing system, TCP/IP, PPP and modem dialer AS WELL?


Drop in to this site and take a look. If you really want proof - download the software (it's only 1.44MB) and try it out for yourself. It will run on any 386 PC with 6MB of RAM, and a modem - no hard disk required!

Oh yes... I forgot... they had so much space left on the floppy disk that they threw in a Web server as well - HONEST!

When you've had a play - compare this to the size of disk, memory, CPU and software you're currently using to do your Web browsing.

Now THAT'S IMPRESSIVE and I think it shows just how bloated and inefficient software from the big-name players has become.

Netscape, Microsoft eat your hearts out

Please fill out the survey
This Week: How do YOU rate Xtra's New Site?

Last Week's Survey
Last week's survey yielded the following results:

Where do you get your NZ PC World: I Subscribe: 9%
Buy Regularly: 18%
Buy Occasionally: 25%
Don't Buy it: 48%
Do you regularly read someone else's copy? Yes: 22%  
Where do you get your US PC World: I Subscribe: 2%
Buy Regularly: 2%
Buy Occasionally: 20%
Don't Buy it: 76%
Do you regularly read someone else's copy? Yes: 8%  
Have you ever been in a survey that included PC World? Yes: 4%  

The most noticeable result was that just 22% of respondents read other people's copies of PC NZ PC World. With earlier AC Nielson McNair surveys claiming a hand-on rate of nearly ten to one the results of the Aardvark survey should have been significantly higher than just 22% in order to to corroborate those earlier figures.

The results of the Aardvark survey would tend to indicate that the actual readership of NZ PC World may well be significantly lower than that indicated by those earlier surveys and that perhaps the testing method was flawed. It should however be stated that Aardvark readers may not be truly representative of the majority of PC World readers and that the total number of respondents was just 78 which means that there is likely to be a fairly high margin of error.

I Can't Believe It's True!

So, what's going to happen to all those "other" online business directories now that Telecom's Yellow Pages site is up and running?

Well here's a site with that "killer advantage" I spoke of earlier. It's really hard to build a site that is both powerful and easy to use so the online help is extremely important. Check out the help offered here (link at the bottom of the page) for the ultimate online help experience

Try the online help

Careful you don't get distracted by the fancy graphics or comprehensive database!

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