Pranks a lot

When Internet Explorer 4 was launched in 1997, Chairman Bill issued the following drone:

IE4 will move more and more people to think of the Web as part of their everyday lifestyle. It will become as mundane as the car or TV culture is today.

That was for official consumption. Behind the scenes, something entirely different was going on:

At the IE 4 launch event, which was held on the waterfront in San Francisco, there were these two big plywood and fabric “E”s that were like spotlights. The folks on the IE team who were present at the event were obviously relieved, elated, and well, maybe overly dorky (me included). At the end of the night, we inquired about shipping these really cool Es back to Redmond. No-can-do. They were built in place, and are wider/taller than a truck can be. It would have to be an oversized load. Too expensive, not expense-able.

I don’t remember who, but someone had the brilliant idea of “delivering” it to Netscape. Purely as a memento. Purely. We are nice guys you know.

So, after bribing a tow driver (it was a little WIDE), we had it loaded up (with the participation of two notables from Wired Magazine, who will go unnamed).

We stopped at a local Safeway on the way, and one of the participants got our Netscape buddies a card (crying baby on the cover, saying “It’s so sad when…” Inside: “Bad things happen to good people.” We signed it — “Love, the IE team.”) and a sympathy balloon.

The record shows that Microsoft took one last shot at Netscape — in an “Easter egg” hidden in IE 5.

Now, of course, Netscape is dead and IE isn’t quite the monolith Microsoft had hoped, and I have to wonder: how could people who were tacitly allowed to have fun, as the merry IE 4 pranksters were, ever go on to develop nasty stuff like Genuine Windows Advantage? Must have been a different team, I guess.

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