Remembering Pearl Harbour


Yesterday was Pearl Harbour Day, which means that it's fully fourteen years since Bill Gates declared war:

On December 7, 1995, Pearl Harbor Day, Bill Gates declared war -- writing an internal memo ordering Microsoft to throw all its resources into launching a "hardcore" attack on the Internet browser market. At the time, Netscape's share of that market was close to 90%; by early 2000, Netscape's share had plunged to 20%, and Microsoft's browser appeared to have won this war.

I remember the day well, because it marked probably the biggest U-turn in the history of Microsoft. Before, Bill Gates had dismissed the Internet as too hard to use, and only of interest to academics. Afterwards, it became perhaps the single most important focus of the entire company. The success of that move was plain in the steadily rising graph of Internet Explorer's market share, and the corresponding decline of Netscape.

As we now know, that decline also led to the birth of the Mozilla project, and then, as a direct consequence, of Firefox. More recently, the latter passed a significant milestone in Germany, where its market share is now greater than that of Internet Explorer (if you believe the market research). Moreover, it's definitely ahead in several other countries around the world, and the number of such locations is steadily increasing.

Which all goes to show that, just as with the attack on Pearl Harbour itself, it's dangerous to assume that the war's over just because you lose a battle.

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