Microsoft Internet Explorer
In the summer of 1996 a press-release war that only geeks could love, the Browser Wars, sent disconcerting waves through the Web world. Microsoft was shoving itself onto the Internet with a new Web browser, and running over anything in its path. Rumors abound that Microsoft tried to buy Netscape to solidify its dominance. Plausible, but the purchase never happened, and the Microserfs were forced to play hardball, a game they know well.
When Bill Gates announced Internet Explorer 3’s release in August 1996, he had devised a way to persuade users to click around the Web with his product. He’d get them into popular fee-based sites like the Wall Street Journal and ESPN SportsZone for free through 1997—as long as they shunned Netscape’s Navigator in favor of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
More recently, Paramount’s Star Trek: Continuum site, then produced exclusively for MSN, locked out Netscape users due to “multimedia compatibility issues,” infuriating Trekkies and lawmakers alike. Time-Warner’s Entertaindom also initially barred Netscape users, and now offers IE4 users enhanced sound and graphics. Disney’s Daily Blast is free to MSN members, offers special features to IE4 users, and only works with Windows 95. But the exclusivity strategy may be dead: Last month Paramount withdrew its popular Star Trek and Entertainment Tonight! sites to the open Web, and Disney is poised to do the same.