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accesses since April 2, 1996

Hal Berghel's Cybernautica

"A Web Monopoly"

As the great American pundit Yogi Berra once said: "this is deja vu all over again."

We are witnessing the domination of the client side of the vanguard of cyberspace, the World Wide Web, by one company and one type of platform. According to the recent World Wide Web user surveys, the client side of the Web changed from an almost exclusively Unix to environment to a primarily Windows environment in just eighteen months. The percentage of survey respondents who used Unix went from 88% in late 1993, to 44% in late 1994, to 9% by April, 1995. At the same time, the percentage of users who used Mosaic as a client navigator/browser went from 97% to 58% to 3%. These trends are astounding.

The table below provides the breakdown of user responses from the April, 1995 World Wide Web Survey.

Table 1. Web Use by Operating System and Web Client

     Operating System         % of total 

     Unix                     9

     Macintosh                26

     Windows                  52

     Web Client               % of total    

     IBM WebExplorer          1

     MacWeb                   1

     AIR_Mosaic(16bit)        2

     Lynx                     2

     NCSA Mosaic              3

     NetCruiser               4

     NCSA Mosaic for Unix     4

     PRODIGY-WB               27

     Netscape                 54

The big question is are these numbers worrisome.

Some observations are incontrovertable. For one, the operating system prominence of Windows shows that the use of the web is now in the hands of the hoi polloi. The high priests of Webdom who conceived of, and implemented, the Web now represent a small fraction of its overall use.

Window's domination also suggests that the primary use is in the PC arena in the typical office where Windows has its foothold. With Windows 95 launched, Web use is bound to establish a large following in the home market as well.

It is also obvious to us that by mid-1996 it will be extremely difficult to compete in the Web browser arena because of the overwhelming control exercised by two products: Netscape, of course, is one of the two. The other will be Microsoft's own Web client which was bundled with Windows 95.

One of the more troublesome issues which emerge from the review of these data is the undoing of some really creative development efforts. For example, InternetWorks and Spry Corporation both produce quality Web navigator/browser clients. In such important areas as multi-windowing and multi-threading, and the integration of non-Web Internet tools, both remain ahead of Netscape's efforts. Quarterdeck and NCSA also released clients in mid-1995 which were technologically quite competitive. Currently, Woolongong Corporations' Emissary is a noteworthy addition with a look-and-feel which is as close to modern Windows desktop applications of any Web client around. It would be unfortunate to see these bravura development efforts halted by a monopoly.

Figure 1. Netscape Mozilla - THE BIG WINNER IN THE MOSAIC WARS
The twist is that it may not be able for even Netscape to retain market dominance. The entrance of Microsoft into the Web client arena is threatening to everyone, including Netscape. It remains to be seen whether even Netscape Corporation can leverage it's superior technology into a strong enough marketing position to withstand any attempt by Microsoft's to control the Web client markets as it has done with PC operating systems.

In the end, the quality of technology alone is seldom the determining force behind a product's acceptance and success. As 1996 unfolds we will all be able to witness the complexities of new product development and evolution in the Web client area.

Those of us with no economic stake in the outcome will have the luxury of watching these developments with objectivity and aloofness. Regrettably, some very imaginative developers will not have this benefit. Many of the smaller developers will likely be absorbed by service providers who seek a convenient way to bundle "native" software with their connectivity offerings. Those less fortunate will go the way of CP/M, Easy Writer and PL/1.

This will be an interesting year for the Web.


The primary source of data on the Web and it's use is to be found in the user surveys conducted by Jim Pitkow and his colleagues at Georgia Tech. The latest summary, "The GVU Center's 3rd WWW User Survey", conducted in April, 1995 is to be found at URL= By the time that this article appears in print, the results of the next bi-annual survey should be reachable through this URL.

For a real-time analysis you may take a look at the "visitor's log" on our World Wide Web Test Pattern (see our article in the November/December, 1995, issue of PC AI). This log is accessible through a link on the bottom of the Test Pattern homepage at URL=

Statistics on the volume of information which passes along the Internet and the Web may be found in several places. Two of the most widely used are the Merit NIC Services in a document entitled NSFNET Statistics at URL=gopher:// More recent traffic data (through mid-1995) may be found in NSFNET Backbone Traffic Distribution Statistics at URL=