Net software, like a runaway train?
Copyright © 1997 to 7am News
There's a disaster looming in on the Net and it's all to do
with the runaway pace of software development.
There are a growing number of battles being fought on the Internet battlefield. Microsoft versus Netscape for dominance of the browser market. Sun versus Microsoft for ownership of Net-wide distributed processing technologies. Pointcast versus several others for the much prized "content push" market, etc, etc.
Sound's like a consumer's paradise!
Surely such heated competition must result in better products, lower prices and a faster pace of development?
Perhaps... but at what cost?
As would be the case with a runaway train, things are happening at an increasingly rapid pace, but the level of danger is also growing at an alarming rate.
Just look at the seemingly endless list of security flaws that have been uncovered in Microsoft's browser and server products over the past few weeks. Of course they are not alone, Netscape, Shockwave and Sun's Java have also had their share of bad press, all caused by the way that these companies are now so focused on "one-upmanship" that they are forgetting to pay attention to some of the small but very important details. Too much effort is being put into stoking the boiler, leaving nobody to check that the wheels of this speeding juggernaut aren't about to fall off.
Of course this isn't a new problem, graphical Net browsers have always had a reputation for being "flakey" at best and it's not uncommon for the hard-core Web surfer to have their browser crash several times a day, something that certainly would not be acceptable in other types of applications such as accounting or word processing.
If the developers of a word-processor or game program get caught up in the "rampant featuritis" trend, the effects on the user are fairly minimal. Buy a word-processor that keeps crashing and you'll soon swap it for one which doesn't, in the meantime, the worst that's likely to happen is that you may lose some typing if your work isn't saved when the program falls over. Net software however is a whole different story.
A slip-up in a browser or server product could effectively make your entire system vulnerable to attack by anyone with a little savvy and malicious intent.
It's about time the sofware development and marketing departments got together and put a stop to this trend - before users revolt and turn away to smaller, faster, simpler products that are safe and reliable. While powerful "bleeding edge" multi-media and distributed processing features are fine for some, there is a huge, increasingly ignored core of Web users who just want to be able to surf the Web in comparitive safety, using a browswer that handles the latest HTML standards and insulates them from those malicious elements.
To draw an analogy with the humble automobile, the vast majority of us simply want a Toyota, Honda or GM that starts every time and gets us to our destination in relative comfort and safety. We're not interested in a poorly tested exotic prototype that will do 300MPH, but which has no seat belts, spikes on the dashboard and has a tendency to burst into flames every 50 miles or so.
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