Microsoft and Netscape have bowed under user pressure and agreed to co-operate on Internet standards support. The companies are expected to sign a "Web Interoperability Pledge" this week that will ensure their competing web products conform to the same standards.
The truce follows the rivals' first step towards co-operation, when Microsoft joined the Open Profiling Standard (OPS) for Internet user privacy, which is led by Netscape. The partners have even promised to support HTML tags recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards body, and will submit any new HTML extensions to it before implementing them.
The move is essential to prevent further user alienation, which could have knock-on effects on the companies' other businesses, argue analysts. "Users are sick of the squabbling, which only has the result of causing them problems and spoiling the dream of Internet interoperability," said one attendee at Netscape's DevCon conference, who declined to be named.
In April, user frustration was indicated by a petition of 35,000 signatures, posted on the web, calling on the two software houses to stop bypassing the standards process in their rush to outmanoeuvre each other in areas such as push technology.
The W3C is currently developing specifications for protecting users' privacy and personal details when they use the web. Its project, Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3), is designed to conform to privacy laws in all countries, not just the relatively lax US rules. Among the solutions to be considered as part of the standard will be the Microsoft-Netscape-Firefly OPS.
Preliminary specs may be available by the end of the year, said P3 project manager Ralph Swick. He added that, unlike many industry players, he did not oppose government legislation to control this area, but felt it should be passed with full understanding of how technology could be used to address the problem.
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