the condensed and
expurgated history of
the about:authors url.

© 2000 Jamie Zawinski <jwz@jwz.org>


As you probably know, since the very first release of the Netscape web browser (actually, way back when its official name was ``Mosaic Netscape'') loading the about:authors URL (or clicking in a special place on the splash screen) would display a built-in web page that displayed the names of the authors. There was another secret place you could click that would take you to the about:1994 URL, which contained a small builtin photo of the initial engineering team.

Since the above URLs probably don't work for you any more, here are the original versions of those documents: about:authors and about:1994.

Originally, a few of us sat down and wrote this page, which listed the developers of the time. As more developers arrived, someone (whoever) would add them in. There was nobody who actually ``owned'' the page, because everybody sensibly realized that that was a horribly political job that a rational person wouldn't want to even touch; and the fact that nobody owned it gave us all plausible deniability when, for example, the folks writing content for www.netscape.com came and asked why they weren't listed. (We didn't have to waste the time explaining ``because you didn't write this piece of software,'' we could just say ``not my department'' and the problem went away.)

Then, in the fullness of time, a new client feature got added, and someone on the team who had worked on this feature went and added their team to the list -- right at the top! (This was particularly ironic since at the time, the feature in question ran only on one platform, and not very well there.)

So, many people had cows, and ran around and complained to each other, and there was talk of forming an ``about:authors oversight committee'' of some kind. For some reason, all of these people thought they should come and tell me about it. For some reason, all of these people thought they should have their whiny conversations about it in my cubicle. Well, I got tired of hearing about this pretty quickly, so I went and changed the about:authors page to simply say

about:authors removed due to senseless bickering.

That lasted about a week, and then someone noticed. That someone filed a bug report about it! Why? Not because the authors list was gone, but because the replacement text was ``offensive.'' So meetings were had, whinging was done, and someone else changed it to say what says today:

about:authors removed.

due to rampant mediocrity.

``Brag'' easter eggs like this are fun, but they basically don't work once you've got more than a dozen or so people on the team. Or maybe it has more to do with the fragility of the egos of the people on the team, not the size (or maybe those two go hand in hand.) But my advice to any of you out there is, as soon as it starts turning into a big political headache (and it definitely will) just give up and throw the whole thing away.

It's also probably time to start looking for another job, or at least a smaller project to work on, because this is a sign that your current project is on the downward spiral toward corporate bureaucracy.


Update, 2011: See also my article on about:jwz.


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