Editor's Note: Due to the overwhelming response to this article, we want to alert you to subsequent articles on this same topic.
8 November 2000: David summarizes over 1,000 reader responses (as of November 8) and clarifies his main points in Netscape Navigator 6.0 to Fail Standards Compliance: An Update.
16 November 2000: And now that Netscape 6.0 has been released, read David's latest article, Netscape 6.0 Released. David says it's now time to move into a standards-based era, and he includes a summary and an official response from Eric Krock, Netscape's Group Product Manager for Tools and Components.
Reading the discussions of individual bugs provides an interesting glimpse into the workings of the Mozilla open-source process, and into the interactions between Mozilla and Netscape. In a number of cases, Mozilla engineers have fixed standards-compliance bugs and have had their patches to the source code reviewed twice by senior engineers. Even when the patches are extraordinarily simple ones, and the Mozilla engineers are convinced that they pose no risk of introducing other bugs, their requests to include the fixes into the Netscape 6 release are denied by the Netscape Product Development Team (PDT) out of fear, apparently, that accepting these patches would cause the release schedule to slip.
Indeed, the discussion of bug #53849 includes a definition of a "must-fix problem" as one that is "defined by marketing and legal requirements." Under this criteria, even the trivial correction of a misspelling in an error message (see bug #57869), cannot be made.
A sampling of bugs that affect Navigator's standards compliance include:
These standards-compliance bugs are of particular concern to Web developers because Netscape 6 is not just a Web browser; it is a development platform. Developers who have eagerly looked forward to "sixth-generation" browsers that are finally standards compliant may be disappointed by Netscape's offering. Although these compliance bugs will presumably be fixed in later releases, the 6.0 release defines a baseline, and many developers may shy away from using any of the advanced features enabled by the HTML, DOM, CSS, and ECMAScript standards in any 6.x browser because of the noncompliance of the 6.0 release.
I'm making the following requests of the Netscape PDT:
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