Return of the Opentards

I'm really surprised at Dave Winer. 

He just compared Twitter to Netscape and proposed that the microblogging company may get left in the dust if it doesn't work to "open up".  He then outlined all the mistakes that Netscape made when it lost the "browser war" to Microsoft.

Only...  he didn't even get close to half right in his assessment of why Netscape failed and the lesson that Twitter should learn from it.  I would think with his experience, he'd know better.

His first point:

"Netscape had left their Mac browser to languish while they focused on Windows. Microsoft, realizing that most web developers used Macs, produced an excellent Mac browser first, and worked closely with Mac developers to make sure their browser worked with the Mac software web developers used."

Actually, Microsoft signed an agreement with Apple to be their default browser for 5 years starting in 1997.   When you're the default browser on operating systems that operate 90%+ of all computers, then of course you're going to have dominant market share.  When you're talking mainstream usage, people will click on whatever browser brings them to the internet for the most part, not whatever the web developer using a Mac told them to use.

Did Dave forget that Microsoft's anti-competitive behavior around the browser cost it nearly a billion dollars in fines?  Seriously, when's the last time someone ever accused Microsoft of winning market share by building a superior product?   It was Microsoft's ruthless business practices that won them share, not quality of product or developer outreach. 

When the agreement expired, and Apple switched to Safari as their default, IE for Mac share went down the tubes.  So much for the superior product and developer relationships. 

Lesson for Twitter here?  None.


Second point:

"Netscape let anyone download their browser for free, but charged corporate users for the software. Microsoft's browser was totally free for everyone."

True, but again... what's the Twitter lesson here?  Twitter is free and they're not even charging for use of their API, no matter how much people pound it.  If anything, there have been developers who have called for Twitter to start charging for a better level of API service.


Third point:

"Microsoft fixed bugs, enhanced performance, listened to market and responded, did all the things a mature company that remembered its entrepreneurial roots could do. Netscape, being a disorganized, chaotic Valley wunderkind, did none of this."

Obviously, Dave hasn't used Twitter in the last six months, because Twitter, if anything, has done a seriously commendable job hearing the performance issues and systematically solving them.  The Fail Whale is nearly extinct and anyone who uses Twitter really can't argue with the amazing turnaround in the performance of the service. 

Microsoft fixing bugs?  Really...    Again, here's Dave accusing MSFT of winning through product quality.  Bizarre.


Dave goes on to put Twitter in the same boat as IBM, who tried to shut down the clonemakers and lost the PC Software market.   Twitter isn't trying to do that.  Frankly, they're not paying much attention to the clones mostly because their users aren't.  People like Twitter.  Users have an emotional attachment to the service that is actually very reminiscent of how people feel about Apple.  The mass migrations to Pownce, Jaiku,, and Friendfeed never happened.  

I forget who said it, but Dave's post reminds me of when someone in the tech blogs said that "Open means 'gimme' ".   People who want "open" are the have nots, and for the most part, most users are pretty satisfied with closed when there's a good quality product.  Apple is a shining example of that.  People want good and simple more than they want open. 

That's not to say that Twitter doesn't have a monetization challenge ahead of it.  It also needs to do a better job of explaining it's value proposition to mainstream users and signing up group of people at a time.  If anything kills it, it's not going to be the fact that the service isn't open enough.