Bill Joy gave an
interview to Fortune recently and some of his statements puzzle me.
Another reason spam is so bad is that so many
companies use Microsoft Outlook for reading e-mail. Again, because that program
is written in C, it’s quite easy to design a virus to go through your e-mail
address book and broadcast spam to all the people you know
Sometimes, I wonder if Joy really lives in the same world we live in.
Or if he really knows what he’s talking about. There are two things that
are totally wrong in the above quotation:
- It’s not because Outlook is written in C that viruses can read your address book.
It’s because of a Windows language-neutral technology called COM.
- Windows viruses propagate not because of Outlook but because people execute
attachments. You will suffer the same fate if you are using Eudora or
Mozilla Mail and you double click on the virus.
I also note that Joy encourages writing programs in Java over C, because C is
not as safe as Java (true enough) but I notice that he doesn’t mention C#, which
is just as safe.
So by using Outlook, you’re not practicing safe
e-mail. We need a "condomized" version of it.
Even though Joy is "cutting the cord" completely with Sun, he obviously can’t
resist spinning things according to the party line of his former employer. This idea of running
programs in protected environments is very dear to Sun. It sounds good in
theory but is just a disaster of usability in the real world. Let’s
contrast the two approaches:
- Sun decided to go the "sandbox" way, by denying all actions potentially
harmful to Java programs, thus forcing users and developers to explicitly grant
access to dangerous functionalities. The result? A model that has
totally failed to catch on because using Java applets is extremely unpractical
both for users and developers.
- Microsoft decided to take the opposite approach: start by (mistakenly)
allowing everything to run everywhere without restrictions. The result?
They created a tremendous traction in the user space, generated millions of
dollars in revenues both for themselves and the industry, but they also spawned
the civilization of viruses that we all know and hate today. Now that they
have momentum, they are proceeding to patch the holes.
Who made the best choice? You decide.
So far, Bill Joy has been the "enfant cheri" of Sun. Every year, he
came up with a brand new idea and regardless of whether it became a success or
not, Bill Joy kept being saluted as a visionary and a true hero of our time.
But are you really a visionary when you keep repeating that the world is
doomed unless we change our ways, that we should use more solar-powered energy
and design our power-grids so they never black out? Last time I checked,
being a visionary was about proposing solutions for the future, not making trite
statements about events past and predicting extinction.
There is no safety net this time, he will have to prove himself. The
coming years will show whether he really has what so many people see in him, or
if he is simply a standard geek who just happened to be at the right place at
the right time and ended up receiving much more exposure than he deserved.
I wish him well. Honestly. But the only way he can achieve the
ambitious goals he set for himself is to break away from the religion and start
looking at things objectively.
Otherwise, the future simply doesn’t need you.