World Wide Web Flashback

Jul 23, 2021


Ever wonder how we got from computer coding to the first commercially successful Web browser? Marc Andreessen knows, here are his mistakes!

I’ve always loved computer technology. Strangely, my first exposure was in high school, and it was a complete disaster! I was composing a term paper the night before it was due-- I know, my first mistake (sorry, Mrs. Clump). Using the first laptop I’d ever seen, without knowing how my work was being saved, was my second. After I finished my so-called masterpiece, I promptly lost all of my work. I started from scratch because I didn’t have a proper written outline (again, you taught me better, Mrs. Clump). I was up into the wee hours recreating my work.

Here's another flashback: remember the introduction of the Internet? I recently read Wired magazine’s 1995 interview with Marc Andreessen, the brains behind Netscape Navigator internet browser: “the first commercially successful Web browser” influencing the “development of the Web [beyond text] into a graphical user experience.”1, 2

Netscape's story reads like a proper fairy tale: takeovers, fierce and hostile competition, split-ups, a giant payout and even a dragon! ~Sean Cooper, Journalist3

Though, Andreessen would argue Netscape was much more than just a browser. Today, we know its fate. Netscape’s 1995 “initial stock offering [was] at $28 per share [and] skyrocketed to nearly $3 billion” by close of business. Thirteen years later, AOL bought Netscape in “1998 for a whopping $4.2 billion” and “pulled the plug” 10 years later.4

What can we learn from Netscape Navigator's demise?

  1. Know Who: At its release, competition did not exist. Microsoft, with its Internet Explorer, caught up and matched Netscape’s innovation in lock step. Netscape attempted to gain customers in the enterprise (or large organization) market to no avail. Confirm your market exists before you develop your solution.
  2. Know What: The rich feature set became synonymous with bloatware— preinstalled software consuming great disk space and slowing devices. Though the tools they offered were of use (web editor, email app, and address book), they were not valued by many users. Confirm your solution scales to the needs of most of your customers.
  3. Know How: While they were first on scene with timely updates, Netscape released its source code to the public, in 1998, delaying further development. And though AOL saw merit in Netscape, purchasing it for $4.8 billion that same year, most of the staff was laid off within 5 years. Confirm your strategy supports the pace and desire of the market.5

Today, Firefox Browser stands on the shoulders of the Netscape open-source and Netscape is a distant memory. Don’t feel too bad for creator Andreessen, his net worth remains around $1.7 billion! Technology can be messy and powerful as long as we focus on knowing who needs what and how to best provide it. Remember, my masterpiece? I spent a few nervous hours figuring out how to print my report, just before the bus rolled by to take me to school. That didn’t discourage me one bit, now I can code in HTML and print color photos from my phone without cables.

Sources:Wired Magazine: Why Bill Gates Wants to Be the Next Marc Andreessen; 2, 3 Techopedia Explains Netscape Navigator (includes photo of rival pranks between Microsoft and Netscape); 4, 5 Engadget: Whatever happened to Netscape?.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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