Netscape, for a time, made the best browser in the world and enjoyed market dominance.
In late 1995, when Microsoft cottoned-on to the competitive threat the Web posed, the Internet Explorer project was started in an all-out attempt to wrestle control of the emerging platform from Netscape.
Sun began development of Java in 1990 in an attempt to write a language for “smart appliances”. This approach floundered and in 1994, Sun regrouped and set sights on the Web as the delivery platform of choice.
So the Netscape/Sun partnership meant Sun acquired the use of a competitive browser and a delivery system for their strategic technology.
Netscape, on the other hand found a powerful ally against Microsoft. They also aimed to out-manoeuvre Microsoft by being the official browser of the highly anticipated platform that was Java.
The unique circumstances of the birth of the language, including:
- the aforementioned marketing ploy,
- time-compressed initial development,
- a prejudice that development for the Web was not “serious”,
- the ubiquitous and “unbreakable” deployment environment (the Web), and
- the inclusion of language design elements unfamiliar to most developers
Developers watch other developers laughing at these features and infer that these features are worthy of ridicule and the cycle continues.
Even Brendan Eich, the creator of the language, is occasionally apologetic for design decisions he made for the language.
However, in my view these expressions of apology should not be taken as confirmation that those decisions were wrong: but rather acknowledgement of the necessary inability of one language to please all developers.
This is not to say the language is without flaws: the continuing lack of a decimal number primitive is unfortunate.
LiveWire and the powerful nature of the language betray the true ambitions of Andreessen and the Netscape team, foreshadowing a possible future beyond being just a Java companion.
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