Forgot your password?
Netscape The Internet

Netscape Founder Says Web Browsing Innovation Dead 895

Posted by timothy
from the 640k dept.
mattOzan writes "Marc Andreessen told Reuters today that browser innovation ended five years ago (which would put us at about Navigator 4.5 beta -- what was so innovative about that? The "What's Related" button? Beatnik integration?) "Navigation is an embarrassment. Using bookmarks and back and forth buttons -- we had about eighteen different things we had in mind for the browser." Well, pass me the NDA and tell me what they were!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Netscape Founder Says Web Browsing Innovation Dead

Comments Filter:
  • sounds like (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:55PM (#6345577)
    a sore loser to me...
  • Internet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Luigi30 (656867) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:55PM (#6345579)
    Browser innovation died with the rise of spyware/adware/etc. That caused browser innovations to be used against the end-user, so the innovations are negated.
    • Re:Internet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by The Analog Kid (565327) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:08PM (#6345688)
      Only on Windows, not only Linux and the other OSs, sometimes its great to be the minority. Maybe there will be some innovation that sends it back to the adware company and blows up their computers.
    • Re:Internet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sniggly (216454) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:28PM (#6346223) Journal
      Try mozilla firebird and all the great plugins available for it, tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, popup blocking...

      And no spyware/adware, and it runs on windows and more platforms.

      I guess Andreesen when talking about all the innovations he "had in mind" he meant tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, popup blocking... I guess he was lucky to be in netscape at the time, most of what he did afterwards kind of failed miserably.
      • Re:Internet (Score:5, Insightful)

        by __past__ (542467) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:42AM (#6347624)
        I guess Andreesen when talking about all the innovations he "had in mind" he meant tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, popup blocking...
        My guess would be he had stuff like popunder ads, flash and cute furry animals running over you desktop even after you leave a page in mind. At least considering the kind of "innovations" netscape introduced, like "blink", frames and JavaScript - all of which didn't exactly help making the web a better place.

        I mean, this guy and his team basically took a horribly broken tagsoup interpreter and added proprietary extensions to it. It was certainly an important step in the evolution of the WWW from a low-tech hypertext information system to a distributed advertising platform, but I fail to see why he should be met with any kind of respect.

      • Re:Internet (Score:4, Insightful)

        by osgeek (239988) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @07:41AM (#6348058) Homepage Journal
        I guess he was lucky to be in netscape at the time, most of what he did afterwards kind of failed miserably.

        I know people from NCSA who knew Andreesen fairly well. The guy is no great oracle/wunderkind. He just got lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The rest was all marketing by Netscape to try to push the value of their company.

        I'm not trying to put him down or anything -- I'm just saying that posting everything he says to the front page of /. is probably an idea of questionable worth.
    • What?! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by autopr0n (534291) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:09AM (#6346737) Homepage Journal
      That dosn't make any sense at all, adware/spyware run totaly seperate of the browser. Sure, they can be installed by ActiveX, but only if you're stupid enough to click 'yes' on those random installs.

      Adware is usualy bundled with shareware anyway
  • It just happens to coincide with the time he left Netscape to go start his own failed company LoudCloud.

    5 years ago was a great time, though. Good times.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56PM (#6345590)
    They seem to work fine. If someone can think of a better system for navigating the internet, yay, but I can't think of one, and am efficient with this one.
    • by Revenge013 (679793) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:48PM (#6345951)
      It is stumping to try and reinvent the browsers as we know it, or even to innovate. I compare browsing to the mechanics of reading a book: Book -> TOC -> Chapters -> Pages... if ya wanna get fancy, then throw in an index or bib.

      With that mindset, viewing web pages are the equivalent to turning pages... not many different ways to absorb the content.

      There is more room to innovate on the web-design level than with the browsing software. Sounds like he was pissed off because he couldn't reinvent the wheel.
      • by krumms (613921) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:20AM (#6346531) Journal

        I compare browsing to the mechanics of reading a book: Book -> TOC -> Chapters -> Pages... if ya wanna get fancy, then throw in an index or bib.

        With that mindset, viewing web pages are the equivalent to turning pages...

        Right, except that if the average web site was a book, a third of the pages would be ripped, another third pissed on and finally a third with page after page of "EnglishScript error on line 4 of page 451. Do you want to debug?"

    • by jdray (645332) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:08PM (#6346063) Homepage Journal
      Take a look at The Brain [] for an innovation in browsing. I'd like to see more sites adopt this sort of navigation scheme. Something that's always bothered me about browsers (I use IE primarily, as I'm one of those unfortunates that is locked into Windows) is the disgusting underuse of the "Forward" button. I don't know how many times I've backed up on a path, gone down some other path, then wanted to get back to where I was. I could back up to the fork point, but didn't have any "Forward" options other than where I just came from.
  • Not true. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mmm coffee (679570) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56PM (#6345593) Journal [] -- Don't tell me that browser innovation is dead. Nowadays I go nuts when I'm on a computer with only IE. Mouse gestures are the second coming of Jesus, I tell ya.
    • Re:Not true. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by netsharc (195805)
      I guess mouse gestures will be there with IE 6.5 or IE 7.0 .. Opera was the 1st implementator in the browser world, there's a plugin for Mozilla and it's a great feature. But MS has a dillema: to use mouse gestures a user has to read the documentation and memorize what action does what, ( it's a power user tool), but I think reading the docs and memorizing cryptic mouse movements is a bit too much to ask from the average IE user!
      • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:10PM (#6345711)
        Whenever someone states that a particular feature is only useable by reading documentation and memorizing, it always raises a flag in my mind. There ought to be creative ways of teaching stuff like this.

        It may not be the best solution, but what about something like this: a 'teach gestures' option; when checked, every time the user did something another way that could be more efficiently done with a gesture, this would display a popup with a diagram of the relevant technique.

        • Don't forget (Score:4, Insightful)

          by metalhed77 (250273) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:27PM (#6345811) Homepage
          that using a webpage requires memorization. The widgets on a webpage are quite different than those in most GUIs. They are HIGHLY customizable, and not necessarily themed to match the rest of the OS. This causes major conceptual problems for those unused to computers. The webbrowser is a totally different UI in many ways than the rest of the computer, a UI that can only be learned by memory.
        • by 0x00 (224127) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:46PM (#6345934)
          Your browsing appears inefficent, why not try...

          I'd continue but its making me feel ill.


        • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Informative)

          by addaon (41825) <> on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:18AM (#6346516)
          The best way, in my opinion, to teach gestures is by pie menus. They're basically the same thing. Let's say that we have gestures that distinguish between 8 directions (N, NE, E, SE...), and are brought up by clicking the right button and gesturing. In "teach mode", clicking the right button should bring up a pie menu, with the eight slices marked in some manner. (Note that this requires gestures to have some pattern to their meaning.) So, if forward is N, E and back is N, W.... both of those gestures could be done normally, but in teach mode the N label on the menu would say "Navigation", for instance... going in the direction would bring up another pie menu, with E as forward, W as back, and maybe S as home. So by selecting things from these familiar hierarchical menus, you're learning into muscle memory the movements that work in gesture mode, when you remove the visual cues. Make sense?
    • Re:Not true. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cebu (161017) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:24PM (#6345791)
      I don't understand how his is innovation in terms of navigation at all. The web browsers navigation system is the same whether you're using the keyboard, mouse, or even mouse gestures... it's simply another input method. Throwing in voice commands or a touch screen to navigate doesn't change the fact that you're still using back, forward, and history.

      In my opinion, Anderson's opinion is quite accurate if perhaps somewhat blunt. Just consider how narrow the subset of graphs, representing a user browsing the web that our current browser history model encompasses. Even the simple case where someone browses a few links deep then decides to go back a few links and browse a different topic looses quiet a bit of information. That difference alone affects browser usage patterns.

      Personally, I haven't seen any significant change in the browser navigation system for even longer than Anderson is suggesting. Certainly there have been some nice incremental changes to UI and encoding schemas, but navigation itself has been untouched for... well, longer than I care to remember.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56PM (#6345594)
    In "internet years." Next thing he'll be saying "When I was a kid, we have 256 colors, and we liked it! And only 216 of them were palette safe and that was even better!"
  • Innovation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cybermint (255744) * on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56PM (#6345595)
    What about tabbed browsing and mouse gestures? Opera is still innovating with dozens of features. Now if only pages would render properly on it.
    • by arth1 (260657)
      Mouse gestures are nice, but hard from ground breaking. They're too inaccessible for many people, who lack the hand/finger coordination to take advantage of it. Just like everyone can't do freehand in Photoshop either. Some can, and it's nice for them.

      Tabbed browsing? I was really pleased when I saw that. Then I got a feeling of deja vu. Hmmm... Let me drag the Windows toolbar to the top of the screen. Then let me do open in new window for pages. Hmmm... I can click the tabs, and jump instantly b
  • Not really... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by revmoo (652952) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:56PM (#6345598) Homepage Journal
    The truth is, that Netscape stopped all innovation at 4.5.

    The rest of the world moved on, and they STILL don't see that.

    Bookmarks, back and forward buttons are FINE, the real innovation is in the content, and the display of said content.

    CSS, Macromedia Flash, PHP, etc are all great web innovations that continue to push the envelope.

    Just because natural selection weeded out netscape doesn't mean the rest of the world stopped innovating.
    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PD (9577) * <> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:00PM (#6345624) Homepage Journal
      Flash is a scourge, and so is Shockwave.

      The best innovation of the past 5 years was the suppression of pop-ups. Everything else is just tuning.

      And that's the complete story as I see it.
    • Re:Not really... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SunPin (596554)
      That's pretty much my take. WTF is he talking about? Sounds like terminal denial/rationalization to me. Even Microsoft can claim a browser innovation or two in the last five years.
    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tealover (187148) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:09PM (#6345701)
      Bookmarks, back and forward buttons are FINE, the real innovation is in the content, and the display of said content.

      Nonsense, unless you graduated from the 640K is all the memory you'll need-school.

      The current browser form is not perfect and there are tons of room for innovation. Because you or I can't see it right now doesn't mean anything. I have a feeling that you couldn't envision anything like a browser 10 years ago.

      It will take some people with special insight to advance the browser. Just give it time.

    • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:25PM (#6345794)
      First, 'a read ahead and preview' kind of capability. The way this would operate is as follows: when otherwise idle, the browser would try to anticipate future user actions and read the data in advance. But most important, when you moved the mouse over a link that the browser had already read some data for, it would display a preview. Moving the mouse would revert the display. Clicking the mouse would confirm the page navigation. I grant that this might generate extra network activity (perhaps images might be initially suppressed) but the user experience would be much enhanced.

      Second, I think there is scope for a far better builtin download manager. I know Opera and Mozilla have rudimentary download managers, but these lack obvious useful features: drag and drop; downloading of all matching patterns; scheduled downloads and others.

    • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by josevnz (647715) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#6345870) Journal
      I don't agree with that. Java, Flash and other client dinamic content tools are greath, but still browser usability lacks a lot to be desired.

      Content rendering: Browsers are still forgiving about handling crappy HTML, not to mention than they are heavy as hell (Opera maybe is fast but i use Linux so Mozilla is my choice).

      In an ideal world XHTML or even pure XML (with proper Stylesheets) will be the commonplace.

      Secure browsing? yeah, every three weeks or so i have to install a patch for my Windows XP box because a new vulnerability in IE was found.

      Interoperability: JavaScript is dead (unless you're masochist enough trying to be complatible with IE and Netscape), Java applets are slow as hell, Flash abilities are more limited than Java (thus is controled by a single vendor).

      Spyware: Cookies are abused, ads are anoing (only mozilla seems to care enough to allow you to block them).

      You mention PHP... what that has to do with the browser, thats a server side languaje not a client side languaje like Javascript or VBScript.

      I think browsers like Mozilla, Safary and Opera do a cool job; Others like lynx let you do usefull job with little and some others like IE5 are just useless (i mean no competition == no inovation).

      Browsers could do better than this and hopefully one day they will.

      My two cents.

      • Re:Not really... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Christianfreak (100697) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:54PM (#6345980) Homepage Journal
        Javascript is not dead if you stick to the DOM and ECMA script standards, most stuff works. As a web developer I use a fair amount of Javascript and it works fine, even without browser detection.

        The problem with Javascript is that there are so many crappy programs out there that don't properly utilize the language, resorting to stupid 'Netscape' or 'IE' detection hacks rather than testing for the existance of functions. Then the so called 'web developers' just download this stuff and stick it in. "If it works in IE its good enough for me" ... I know, I work with several of them.

        • I totally agree (Score:5, Insightful)

          by conan_albrecht (446296) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:19AM (#6346523)
          I'm giving up my mod points so I hope the other moderators will mod up the parent.

          I cannot agree enough with your post. I just finished an application written entirely in DOM, CSS, and Javascript. The HTML frames are generated entirely out of Javascript code. No "regular" HTML is sent to the client.

          I kept to bare W3C DOM objects and methods, such as addChild, document.createElement, and so forth. Guess what?

          It works in IE 6+, Mozilla (+derivatives), Safari, and others. No browser detection. No special coding. No hacks.

          Also, note that this is a full blown web-based application so I feel justified in asking my users to upgrade their browsers. I wouldn't do this on a home page or regular site that people visit. Eventually we can expect 6+ browsers for home pages, but not yet.

          Also also, despite my thinking the app is pretty cool in its dynamic interfaces, I can't say enough how much of a screwed up language Javascript is. The companies have really screwed us this time. It's a pain to debug. It's a pain to write (being combined with another server-side language, python in my case).

          It's too bad that I think DHTML is the future. I really do think it will make it because it achieves dynamic content without plugins. I just wish it was cleaner. Perhaps IE will finally suppor W3C standards and the language/DOM support will clean up as time goes on. I'm hoping but not holding my breath...
  • by NoMercy (105420) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:57PM (#6345605)
    Microsoft have got the market, they don't need to do any work to keep it, so why add furthur inovations to IE, no reason at all, theve even held back on full PNG support, well the work doesn't need to be done so why do it?

    And everyone emulates IE....
    • by Squareball (523165) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:02PM (#6345646)
      ahhh yes.. or so they think

      Truth is, I know that I am converting every one I know to Mozilla and they LOVE it. In turn, they tell their friends and so on. Sure it's a small start but at some point Microsoft is going to realize that they shouldn't have been ignoring the browser.

      • A Microsoftie ("thrall") at work says I'm a Zealot because I don't use I.E. I try to explain that Mozilla is quite simply, just better, and provide examples from tabs, to low numbers of security issues, to standard compliance, to pop-up blocking, cookie management, etc. He doesn't buy it.

        When we see each other in the hallway, he says "Zealot!", and I say "fanboy!"
  • some quick ones (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ywwg (20925) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:57PM (#6345606) Homepage
    popup blocking
    cookie management
    forms information management
    tabbed browsing
    that little bar that appears in moz on some pages with the extra links like "up" and "email" or whatever
    mouse gestures

    obviously, the browser has not been just sitting still.
  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El (94934) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:57PM (#6345607)
    Well, I'd say that the browsers actually adhering to standards instead of doing whatever they feel like seems like an innovation... of course, adhering to standards means you can't implement every bright idea you get, so yes, it slows down the rate of change.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:48PM (#6345952) Journal
      Well, I'd say that the browsers actually adhering to standards instead of doing whatever they feel like seems like an innovation...

      Coding to the HTML spec does not mean the same thing as innovation in navigation.

      As a simple example, changing the history list to a graphical map of recent sites visited would not break compatibility with anything, yet some would consider it an innovation.

      Personally, I think nothing big has appeared in web navigation in a few years for one simple reason - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Put simply, barring some major change in how we browse the web, the current model represents the "best" of the minor variations on the general theme of "forward, backward, history/bookmark".

      Okay, it takes some work to remember "that great site I saw a few days ago that I didn't think to bookmark at the time", but I see no trivial modification of history/bookmarks would solve that (I know that some people like hierarchical histories better, but they have their own set of shortcomings, and I'd consider it more of a lateral change than an "improvement").
  • by waldoiverson (608278) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:58PM (#6345609) Homepage
    I like to think of some web browsing items that have become refined. Tabbed browsing comes to mind *prepares to be attacked by anti-tabbers* I don't think you can separate the browser from the protocols that the browser renders. Thus, if the browser is really just a rendering too and information manager, it does it's job well. Maybe the problem is we haven't fully utilized the protocols available and thus a feeling of stagnation has taken place.
  • by gotr00t (563828) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @09:59PM (#6345621) Journal
    Perhaps innovation on the core components of the browser are next to dead, but what about all the things that Netscape has come up with in the past 5 years alone? The sidebar, for example, wasn't avaliable until 6.0, which was released well more recently than 5 years.

    Though I think that yes, fundamental concepts are out of the question and probably best left unchanged, I have to disagree that innovation is completely dead. Whenever something makes using the Internet easier and more enjoyable, I consider that innovation.

  • by cscx (541332) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:00PM (#6345633) Homepage
    "Navigation is an embarrassment.

    I think what he meant was "Navigator is an embarassment."

    Using bookmarks and back and forth buttons -- we had about eighteen different things we had in mind for the browser."

    Well IE is sort of better at this, in that favorites are individual files, so you can use the filesystem's find function to search (nice when you have 1000+ bookmarks).

    And I guess he hasn't seen Opera's gestures?
    • by steveha (103154) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#6345867) Homepage
      Well IE is sort of better at this, in that favorites are individual files, so you can use the filesystem's find function to search (nice when you have 1000+ bookmarks).

      Oh, I hate that one-file-per-bookmark idea. You aren't allowed to call the bookmark whatever you want -- why did they disallow characters like '?' or ':', instead of BASE64-encoding them or something? And these days it's not so bad, because most people are running FAT32 or something better, but back in the day there were a lot of people running FAT16, and on a 2GB disk partition, each bookmark used up 32KB of storage! Yikes!

      I'd rather just have a non-sucky UI for finding inside the bookmarks file. (I've just started using Mozilla Firebird and so far the bookmarks searching seems pretty good.)

  • doesn't mean much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by boomerny (670029) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:01PM (#6345638)
    well, word processing hasn't changed all that much either in the last five years.
    • by gad_zuki! (70830) * on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @12:09AM (#6346479)
      Exactly. I would much rather see browsers considered mature technology while getting their standards correct then more tacked on 'enhancements.'

      I don't want a browser that's secretly a P2P app.

      I don't want embedded media and plug-ins crashing it.

      I don't want a browser that is also a PIM.

      I don't want a little avatar asking me if I want to go to


      Why does everything have to be attached to the browser? A simple interface and a stable platform is what companies should be aiming for, with the exception of tweaks and minor enhancements like pop-up blocking, tabs, etc.

      The Mozilla team has learned from this mistake. People kept complaining about the "Mozilla Suite" and the bloat and they responded by announcing plans to seperate the browser from the suite.

      Microsoft in the meantime continues its "the browser is the desktop" nonsense which mixes WAN data with the OS. As we've seen with ActiveX, vbs, etc this is a security nightmare.

      I'm not sure what Andreesen was secretly planning, but an url box, back/forward buttons, and a stop button are surprisingly effecient when dealing with html-based technologies.
  • whine.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeFM (12491) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:01PM (#6345640) Homepage Journal
    Really Mozilla is still available. If he has better ideas then he is still free to develop them himself or push others to do it. Browsing is a mature concept now. It doesn't need to constantly change.. that'd make it hard on users. If he has ideas though I'm sure people would listen.
  • Now you've got me bummed out again. I guess I'll go read "IT" again.
  • by Jahf (21968) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:02PM (#6345651) Journal
    Nothing ... I think that's the point ... that was the first evidence of stagnation. Compare NS4.5 navigation to Mozilla 1.4 navigation to MSIE 3 navigation to MSIE 6 navigation and you're stuck with essentially the same model for all this time.

    And before people jump up and down about CSS and XHTML, remember that Andreesen was talking about browser navigation not layout technologies or other areas that are dominated by

    I will mention that I think tab based browsing and the suppression of pop-ups have been two major boons to my browsing. However, I saw browsers with tabs back before IE 2.0 had come out (back when non-Netscape/IE/Opera/KHTML browsers were often integrated with your Winsock communications stack ... damn I am trying to remember the earliest and I can't ... it started with a "D" or "Q" and was developed by the folks who made a very popular BBS terminal program ... humbug, sorry, I usually like to have my facts in line but the memory is fading) so while it is VERY nice, it's not truly new. And pop-up suppression isn't an aid to navigation, but a method to sanitize the code from the remote site.

  • by Desperado (23084) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:04PM (#6345659)
    How about tabbed browsing (I know it's not everyone's cuppa but...) and cascaiding style sheets or the super back button in Safari or popup ad blocking? These are all worthwhile IMO.

    Refinement is what I'm looking for, web browsers are a commodity now.

    From the tone of the interview, Marc sounds like he's a bitter man now.

    • by Shadowlore (10860) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @02:44AM (#6347128) Journal
      Those are *UI* improvements, not *browser* *innovations*.

      I love tabs, quite abit actually. But that is not a *browser* innovation. My terminal window has it. Would you say the command line "innovated" because of tabbed windows? I bet you wouldn't.

      Popup blocking? That's just a response to popups. One "innovation" to stop another "innovation"? Please.
      CSS? not a browser innovation, a standard! My word processing has stylesheets, XML has them, etc.. An improvement is not an innovation, just as not all innovations are improvements. Especially when alleged "innovations" come from other apps.

      For crying out loud XChat has had tabbing for a long time. Graphical forms have had them for years as well. This goes for gestures as well. Games have had them for quite some time. Thus, not innovation but merely a UI feature offered elsewhere.

      It is true there is very little innovation going on in the browser these days, But mostly because everyone got worried about "backward compatibility" and the fact that browsing was overhyped anyway.

      After all, we are talking about wandering or searching a resource for information. How many innovations have there been in *walking* for example?

      IMO, much of the lack of innovation has to do with poor shortsighted choices not a part of "browsing".

      For example, the effectively flat namespace that is DNS according to Internic. A heirarchical namespace would bring us a vastly different world.

      HTML is limited, the flat namespace is limiting. With these two firmly entrenched now, the next true innovation will come from elsewhere.

      When the famed dream of bi-directional hyperlinks comes to fruition (if ever), we'll see innovation. When the web is more than just a uni-directional reference, and is more self-organizing, we'll see innovation. When the flat-namespace is busted out, and we move beyond HTML (or flash/shockwave -- after all those arent innovations in *browsing* they are different ways of showing you a pretty cartoon or movie clip), we'll see innovation.

      Until then, we are stuck with the sea of flotsam, jetsam, and Innovation Stagnation(tm) that is the current state of the web and browsing it.
  • As far as I can tell, the web really hasn't evolved that much either(not counting the browser). We are using the same protocols and delivering basically the same types of information that we did 5 years ago. Sure we have flash and other funky plugins to spice things up, but the backbone is still the same. How are you suppose to innovate when the set of building blocks you have to work with haven't changed? Sure you can mix them up a little and get mouse gestures and tabbing and such, but you need new building materials to work with to innovate on top of. Once we migrate off the current version of protocols that we so fondly call the Internet, and open things up some more, I'm sure we'll start to see this innovation.
  • Ya Ya Ya (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:04PM (#6345667)
    "Marc Andreessen told Reuters today that browser innovation ended five years ago."

    In the same breath,

    "Reuters told Marc Andreessen today that he should have ended five years ago."

    What's up Marc?
  • by thirdrock (460992) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:09PM (#6345702)
    IIRC, there were no tabs in NS4.5, and tabs are the thing I enjoy most in modern browsers. Then there is the search fields in the toolbar, very cool, plus Opera's location bar prefixs, I love being able to type 'g innovation' or 'a domain:au news' in the location bar and have a google or alltheweb search come back.

    And some of the innovation is coming from web page developers rather than the browser, some java applets are getting very nice. Robust, functional etc.

    And then of course there is XUL, which is IMHO brilliant, but likely to die. To be able to turn the browser into another application with a markup language is way beyond cool.

    In short, I think Marc is spitting sour grapes.
  • Innovation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HoloBear (677797) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:10PM (#6345703) Homepage

    IMHO he's right, although I don't think NS 4.5, was the cut off point for such innovation. What he's talking about is large and dramatic innovation, not add-ons and great expansions (like Tab's, Gestures etc).

    But this isn't necessary a bad thing, everyone who uses the net is currently used to using a web browser and its heuristically defined layout, back, forward, reload, home and stop. It doesn't really need (currently) to be changed, the same applies to the controls of a car, the way a book works or even mobile phone interfaces. It works this way, billions of people use it such and changing it would have to be for dramatic purposes.

    It doesn't stop us refining it though (again, Tabs, Gestures), just like a car (ABS, Sat Nav, Power Steering etc).

  • by e271828 (89234) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:12PM (#6345719)
    From the article:
    Navigation is an embarrassment. Using bookmarks and back and forth buttons -- we had about eighteen different things we had in mind for the browser.
    Besides the use of tabs that most /.ers are familiar with now, there are also other new approaches to navigation as evidenced by the iRider [] browser. It's IE based, non-free, and Windows only, but they have some nice ideas. In particular, they have a left hand navigation pane that shows all visited websites in a tree fashion (with thumbnails), that works quite well.
  • by mkozlows (21830) <> on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:14PM (#6345730) Homepage
    Except for, you know, some minor things like browser support for the DOM (which is huge), CSS (which is huger), XML, XSLT, and XHTML.

    Or maybe he's just talking about the UI side, where we've seen absolutely no improvement whatsoever. Except for tabbed browsing, mouse gestures, integrated search bars, and popup blocking (though back then, popups weren't so much a problem).

    Which is to say, really, that he's wrong. Sure, browser development is arguably slower now than it was back in the Navigator 1.2 Perpetual Beta days, but that's always the case -- the mad rush of innovation has to slow down after the low-hanging fruit is plucked. It certainly hasn't stopped, though.

  • by jemenake (595948) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:18PM (#6345755)
    "...we had about eighteen different things we had in mind for the browser"
    Oooh, yeah... like VRML? :)

    I remember seeing an interview with Mark Pesche, the dude who was regarded as the author of the VRML spec, and he was going on and on about how cumbersome it is to keep track of URL's when we could be navigating in a 3D space for our documents....

    Could you just see that? "Come visit Jiffy Lube on the web! Start at the Origin, go down Street 1 until you come to the big purplish billboard, bear left and continue through the pasture... go under the spaceship and then head 4 spaces east and you can't miss us!". And this is more intuitive than "" because... why?

    I'm sure that, of those 18 improvements to the browser, many or all of them promised to "completely change the way we think about browsing". However, like VRML, it's not necessarily a change for the better.
  • And in 1844... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dfj225 (587560) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:22PM (#6345777) Homepage Journal
    Henry J. Ellsworth said, "I assure you that my resignation from being commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office, is really of no great concern. Mankind, has already achieved all of which it is capable. There will be no more inventions requiring patents."
  • Correct. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Duncan3 (10537) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:22PM (#6345781) Homepage
    He's just about right, isn't that about the time PDF and Flash happened? Both of which are far better then HTML/Javascript for content.

    Just look at how many sites are an index.html that's just gluing together a pile of Flash and PDF from that point on. Anything else is just a pile of php/asp/cfm as a hacked frontend to SQL - just like Slashdot.

    Javascript is great for popups, and Java is great if you want to write a version of the code per browser version, but Flash and PDF have won the battle.

    Even Google figured this out, 90% of the stuff I search for ends up being .pdf now days.
    • Re:Correct. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bnenning (58349) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @11:13PM (#6346103)
      Even Google figured this out, 90% of the stuff I search for ends up being .pdf now days

      Yeah, and I *hate* that. 90+% of the PDF documents I come across could have been done just as well in HTML, where the user has control over font size and the text isn't artifically constrained to a "page" view which makes no sense whatsoever when reading on a monitor.

  • by derinax (93566) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:27PM (#6345809)
    I got one word: Hoverlinks. It's a natural step from tabbed browsing.

    Pause over a link and you get a small preview of the click-through content in a hovering dialog a la tooltips. Implement in links using a small frame, perhaps...

    So Mark's thrown the gauntlet down. What's your idea?
  • by release7 (545012) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:28PM (#6345815) Homepage Journal
    Yeah, and innovation for the book died when they created the index, the table contents, and page numbering. As long as the glue that binds the book holds and the ink doesn't run when it gets wet, I'm happy.
  • by kaltkalt (620110) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:28PM (#6345821)
    "Innovation" much like "diversity" is a stupid, meaningless, feel-good catchphrase. Just because something exists doesn't mean it needs some innovatin'. A web browser is the perfect example of this. Bookmarks ('favorites'), foward, back, stop, and 'go' are all you need. Sure, you could stick a calculator in there, or customized 'skins' (probably the single dumbest 'innovation' in the history of computing), or maybe even a content-spellchecker (so you can see all the spelling errors in someone's webpage), but the bottom line is it doesn't change the functionality. Fix bugs and make it run as fast as possible. Once you reach that goal (ideally it shouldn't take too long), leave it alone. Maybe innovation ended 5 years ago because the web browser was just fine back in the days of Lynx. Oh I forgot, leaving it alone doesn't make money. Never mind.
  • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:29PM (#6345823)
    They're still ink on paper. Individual numbered pages with a table of contents and an index. Actual physical bookmarks. Book navigation is a joke.

    Of course it works, and it's optimum given the limitations of the medium, but why should that stop "innovation."

    We wanna change shit, dammit!

    I like Pete Seeger's definition of "sophmoric." The itch to be unique.

    There are an awful lot of sophmoric developers out there, and they're producing a lot of sophmoric software.

    Please note that the word "sophmoric" is derogatory. Software that's "unique" and "innovative" isn't a good thing. Software that's A Good Thing is a good thing, even if it's the same old shit.

    Sometimes especially if it's the same old shit. Even if that puts some of your jobs at risk.


  • Apparently So... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by oaf357 (661305) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:32PM (#6345845) Homepage Journal
    Just look around. Web browsers themselves haven't changed much at all. Is this because they're perfect? No. People are comfortable with what's there already.

    But it's apparent that the innovation is gone. Microsoft has said that they will no longer develop IE as a standalone browser (and IE hasn't really changed since IE4).

    Konqueror is a grouping of tools similar to IE but they are focused more on standards compliance.

    The only real innovation that needs to happen is movement towards complying with W3C standards. Everyone in the web development industry would like that novel innovation of not having to develop web sites that work in only a set of browsers. Or, even worse, gimping their web sites so that they render correctly in all web browsers.

  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:37PM (#6345882) Homepage
    I'm serious. It's ironic that the "end of innovation" coincides with his leaving Netscape as well as Netscape's doomed 4.x series piece of shit^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hbrowser. Before that, "innovation" was Netscape ignoring the W3C and making up new "standards" every other week.

    Andreessen should be a pariah in the open source world. He abandoned an open source project (Mosaic & NCSA httpd) in order to compete with it in the commercial world. "Competition" in the Microsoft sense of the word: Gain the upper hand in the market then "innovate" so much that nobody can keep up. And, of course, give away the browser free of charge in order to sell the server. When Microsoft finally woke up to the web, Netscape was playing on their ballfield and obviously lost.

    Anyway, I'm tired of hearing him and Jim Barksdale whine about the browser market. Get over it already.
  • by steveha (103154) on Tuesday July 01, 2003 @10:44PM (#6345924) Homepage
    We have more or less roughed out what we all want from a browser. We like the back and forward buttons, etc. We are comfortable with them.

    I suppose he's shocked that after decades of research, cars still come with a steering wheel and a gas pedal, instead of something futuristic.

    Now, we not only have things like tabbed browsing, but we have more subtle things that are still nice. For example, in Galeon (for Linux, at least) you can click on the New Tab button with the middle mouse button instead of the primary one, and it will open a new tab with the URL from the selection buffer. So now, instead of:

    0) Select URL
    1) Click New Tab button
    2) erase URL in location bar (be careful not to select it!)
    3) click middle mouse button in location bar
    4) hit Enter key to load URL

    you can just do:

    0) Select URL
    1) click middle mouse button on New Tab button

    It's not earth-shaking, but I like it.

    Now take that one feature, and all the other little tiny nice features, and roll them all up. It may be subtle, but it's progress and I'm happy.

  • by zorander (85178) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:05AM (#6346715) Homepage Journal
    The innovation on the Web has moved to the server side. Even large sites five years ago were very dependent on static pages. ASP, PHP, mod_perl, and Servlets were not used nearly as much as they are today. The dynamicism of sites has dramatically increased. The browsers always supported this, it's just that the server software wasn't there. I think part of it must have had to do with the processing cost of dynamically generating all pages, but I am no expert.

    There are still issues--multimedia delivery is one, so is effective user interfaces for more-than-web pages (something more powerful than javascript/html forms but not as cumbersome or ugly as java or .net or as single-platform as activex). Also large concepts like the page based model--which worked great for gopher and the early web, but which seems to be losing its luster lately.

    For instance, when I'm viewing blog comments, I should be able to expand and contract the threads with + and - buttons (without a pageload), change the threshhold (at least higher, since the data wouldn't neccesarily be there to go lower from the initial state), even mark them read and unread without a form send. Yes some browsers have features that makes this more or less possible, but across the board this stuff should be easy and widespread.

    The answer could be more and better client side scripting, or it could be interactive server connections (more robust than http). I personally like the client side scripting idea better, but that's me.


  • by slaker (53818) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:15AM (#6346761)
    Let's face it: There's not much we need to work on, since Moz and Opera nicely handle pop-ups. But I do think my pr0n browsing experience could be better.

    Here's some recent innovations, and a few new ideas:

    1. Linky ( - Linky lets me select a bunch of links and open them in tabs. Or just open all the links on a page in tabs. Good lord, why wasn't this in Netscape 2!?! Think of all the time I could've saved myself by not having to middle-click on everything.

    2. Image Permissions. I'm on a slow link, and doubleclick does nothing but waste bandwidth. Thank you Mozilla.

    3. Plug-in Management: The thing that Opera does right. Turning on flash on a site-by-site basis is a good thing.

    4. Profitable web browser: The thing that operasoft manages to do that netscape couldn't, apparently.

    5. Pop-up control. I used IE for the first time in quite awhile today. Good gods, how do people stand it? Every other browser seems to be better in this department than IE.

    And some things that would make browsing better:

    1. A better bookmark system. I think the netscape method (a single file) works better most of the time, but I *really* wish I could have my bookmarks follow me everywhere (yeah, I know that there are sites that do exactly that. None of them seemed appealing last time I looked). I also wish filing could be made easier.

    2. Better control over saving files. This is essentially a pr0n thing: I'd love to be able to highlight a bunch of stuff, right-click and choose "save all selected...", but I can't do that. Don't know why.

    3. Navigational AI. No, I'm not kidding. I see my students hit a new-to-them web site and then have no clue what to do. A browser "idiot mode" and "idiot tags" would be helpful, as would a browser with enough smarts to say "This looks like the link to product support" or "Click here to view cart". There would be some interesting pattern recognition software needed, but hey, what else are we doing with our 3GHz desktop PCs?

    4. A text-reading mode. There are decent screen-reading programs in the world. Reading long pages of text (e.g. is a frickin' chore. My co-workers more or less print every page they have to scroll to see. A better experience for a reader might help somewhat.

    5. Better "connection awareness". I'd love it if my browser could look at my transfer rates and choose to throttle back on images or display the odd ALT tag instead of making me wait.
  • by pen (7191) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @01:47AM (#6346914)
    Here are a few innovations that Opera has done, some of which have been implemented by others.
    • MDI browsing. This is a little better than just tabbed browsing, since you can have windows side by side. It is really convenient to be able to group browser windows together.
    • Mouse gestures.
    • Rewind and Fast Forward.
    • Built-in download manager.
    • Status bar that shares screen space with the address bar. (Some people don't like this, but it's only optional.)
    • Page zooming.
    • Saving entire browser sessions.
    • Having a Back button that really truly works as expected! (Always takes you back to exactly where you were.)
    Just what I could think of in a few minutes.
  • iRider (Score:4, Informative)

    by jbrandon (603700) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @02:52AM (#6347161)
    Tell him to look at this []. Two grand innovations: pinning (mark a page "open" (even on exit) until I explicitly say to kill it) and outline-style tabbed browsing, (naturally organizes browsing behavior into little "books"). I just wish it were open source and ran on linux . . .
  • by toriver (11308) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @03:42AM (#6347331)
    If the things they "had in mind" were anything like their context-destroying Frame model, or their DTD-breaking Object substitute Embed: Good riddance.

    Why didn't they implement proper support for Link relationships? Why did they feel the need to make their own Java security model? Why did they hack their own Javascript-based styling instead of just implementing CSS properly?

    The software industry is better off without them. A worse case of "Not Invented Here" mentality is hard to find.
  • browser "innovation" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by smash (1351) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @03:49AM (#6347348) Homepage Journal
    Hmm... if by "innovation" he means adding a myriad of incompatible and buggy features, then (thank god) there has been very little innovation in recent years.

    We're still busy sorting out the mess and getting browsers to be as standards compliant as possible.

    This is a good thing.


  • by androse (59759) on Wednesday July 02, 2003 @05:04AM (#6347540) Homepage
    The current browsers have reached a certain maturity doing one thing : parsing and displaying HTML.

    The thing Marc Andreessen does not say is that all the innovation is not around HTML anymore. It's RSS, Echo (well, soon :), two way communications in Blogs (Trackback, Pingback, Referrer lists, etc), FOAF, GeoURL, etc.

    For the moment, all these higher level ideas are being integrated into web pages, because the browsers aren't using them (except for RSS readers).

    Today's browsers are the user interface to HTML. We still have to invent the user interface for these technologies. They are the next layer of the web.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)