MS, Netscape pledge interoperability

Microsoft Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp., prodded by a 35,000-user petition, plan to sign next week a "Web Interoperability Pledge" that promises cooperation on implementing Internet standards.

The two companies, with the support of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), will pledge to support recommended HTML tags and to submit all HTML extensions to the W3C before shipping them.

The petition, originally posted on the ZDNet AnchorDesk site in April, protested the two companies' squabbling over issues such as content-pushing technology and an object model for HTML. (ZDNet AnchorDesk is a part of Ziff-Davis Inc., which publishes PC Week.)

Users agreed with AnchorDesk's charges that, in their rush to out-innovate each other, Microsoft and Netscape tried to circumvent the W3C standards process.

"Users were just outraged that these two companies were taking the Web dream of anyone reading any document anywhere, and putting it at risk," said AnchorDesk Editorial Director Jesse Berst.

In an editorial calling for signatures, Berst charged that the two companies:

· submit proposals and announce them immediately, before anyone can react;

· exclude rival companies from early discussions of the technology;

· beg, buy or bully companies into prematurely announcing support; and

· build the new technology into browsers before it is approved.

Within 12 hours, more than 10,000 users sent in electronic signatures calling for a truce between Netscape and Microsoft.

"I am sick to death of creating two-sometimes three or four-versions of Web sites to ensure compatibility," wrote one user.

"I wish these two boofheads would get their act together and stop playing their little games and treating us like pawns," wrote another.

Representatives of Microsoft, Netscape and the W3C are expected to receive the signatures on Tuesday and formally announce their support of the pledge.