response to Michael Hart
- From: "jesposito" <jesposito@[redacted]>
- Subject: response to Michael Hart
- Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 17:09:25 -0800
> As I recall, Mr. Esposito was extremely involved with Britannica,
> and that Britannica spent an enormous effort creating a CDROM of
> their encyclopedia, and then refused to even mention it when I
> kept asking [starting around 1985] until they finally succumbed
> to the pressure created by the other CDROM encyclopedias that had
> been in the market since 1985.
JE: I won't respond to the rest of Mr. Hart's post, but the
characterization of events at Britannica that he summarizes above is not
correct. The "other CD ROM encyclopedias" putting pressure on
Britannica was primarily one product, Compton's Multimedia Encyclopedia,
a Britannica product. People tend to forget how late Encarta was to the
game. (I was a consultant to Microsoft on Encarta back in 1990.) The
first CD ROM encyclopedia was published by Grolier; it was text only.
Compton's was the first multimedia encyclopedia. The Britannica-branded
CD ROM (the Britannica name did not appear on the Compton's line) was
designed from day one to be a stepping stone to Britannica Online, the
first Internet encyclopedia, which was launched in 1994; antiquarians
will recall that the user interface of the CD ROM was a licensed
Netscape browser. The Britannica strategy (which I participated in
developing) was to leap-frog CD ROM and move to the Internet, a strategy
that was developed before the Mosaic browser became available.
Britannica Online was an immediate success--not only technically (the
first product of its kind) but also in its business model, which was
immediately profitable and has been much copied. As I type this I am
reminded of the enormously talented group of people who gravitated to
Britannica at that time to work on these projects, and if I single out
Bob Clarke and Harold Kester, I hope the others will forgive me.
Joseph J. Esposito
President and CEO