Cedar Falls, Iowa
Cofounder, Netscape Communications Corporation
Marc Andreessen has been called many things in his young life—from boy wonder and "Golden Geek" to visionary and "Internet Evangelist"—all because he helped develop an Internet browser called Netscape Navigator. In the days when the Internet and World Wide Web were in their infancy, Andreessen's ability to simplify the information superhighway not only made him millions of dollars but thrust him into cutthroat competition with huge rival Microsoft. Although he later quit Netscape after it was acquired by America Online (AOL), Andreessen turned his attention to forming a new company that would continue to bring the Internet to millions of people.
"Right now, today, with a little luck and brains and timing, any kid with a computer can do what Netscape has done. There are no barriers to entry anymore. Any kid can spark a revolution."
Andreessen was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in 1971, the son of Lowell and Patricia Andreessen. The family moved to New Lisbon, Wisconsin, where Lowell worked selling seed to farmers and Patricia was employed by the mail-order giant, Lands' End. Some might have called young Andreessen a "geek" because he was not interested in sports and preferred to tinker with computers. But he also possessed a good sense of humor and had many areas of interest, including a love of reading.
When his parents bought him his first computer in the seventh grade, Andreessen learned the basics of computer programming from library manuals and began designing video games for fun. He also excelled in school and prepared for college. When he enrolled at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, few could imagine the international impact this student would have within the next few years.
Although Andreessen originally considered majoring in engineering, he settled on computer science and worked at the university's supercomputer center, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), for $6.85 an hour. There he met a like-minded young man, a programmer named Eric Bina. Bina was a full-time employee of NCSA, who had already earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science from the university. Andreessen approached Bina about creating a program to make the World Wide Web more accessible and less complicated. Bina agreed and the two worked on and off in NCSA's basement offices for six weeks, finishing a nine-thousand-line program called Mosaic.
Mosaic, the Monster Browser
Andreessen and Bina demonstrated Mosaic's capabilities in January 1993, proud of their accomplishments but having no idea that their program, called a "browser," would literally change the world. What Mosaic did was help users browse, or navigate, through the thousands and eventually millions of Web addresses and locations available on the Internet. At the time the Web was still a vast, untapped wilderness; while some folks had begun using computers at work, the boom for home users had yet to begin.
Marc Andreessen developed his first computer program while he was in sixth grade at his school's computer lab. It was for a virtual calculator. Unfortunately for the budding software designer, power outages erased the program before he could save or copy it.
A few months after finishing Mosaic, Andreessen received his bachelor's degree in computer science from the University of Illinois. Mosaic was then offered over the Internet, and within the first year was downloaded by two million users. After graduation, Andreessen took a job in southern California's famed Silicon Valley at Enterprise Integration Technologies, a company that developed Internet security products. While there, he received an e-mail from a former computer science professor at Stanford University named Jim Clark.
Clark had left Stanford to form Silicon Graphics, Inc., a billion-dollar computer hardware and software graphics company. He had recently left Silicon Graphics and wanted to meet with Andreessen to discuss a new business venture. Andreessen agreed, and the two ended up on Clark's yacht discussing Mosaic and its importance to the Web and beyond. With Andreessen's technical expertise, Clark's business background, and start-up funds of $4 million, the two agreed to form a partnership. They launched Mosaic Communications Corporation in April 1994.
Mosaic Becomes Netscape
Andreessen was thrilled to team up with Clark, and even more happy to be in California. In just a few months, he had a new business venture poised to take the world by storm, an apartment, a cool car (a Ford Mustang), and even a girlfriend. Mosaic, as both Andreessen and Clark believed, was a phenomenal success. There was, however, a dark side to their good fortune: since the program had been developed at NCSA, the University of Illinois owned the copyright. A legal clash took place between the university and the new partners, but by the end of 1994, Mosaic had been renamed Netscape, and the company became Netscape Communications Corporation.
Netscape took off and was downloaded by millions. Since the program was downloaded for free, the company's tech team worked on a variety of other software applications to sell. As companies took to the Web, they needed programs to provide secure transactions, and Netscape met their needs. By early 1995 Netscape had two hundred employees; in April the new and improved version of Netscape, called Navigator 1.0, was released to widespread acclaim.
Andreessen's life changed forever on August 9, 1995. Although he slept through all the fanfare because he had stayed up late the night before, Netscape went public on the stock market and created a frenzy of buying. Andreessen's stake of the firm was suddenly worth over $50 million, and within a few months surged to over $170 million.
While Andreessen adjusted to life as a millionaire, Clark had been catapulted to billionaire status. Netscape was suddenly neck deep in competitors, with Yahoo!, Lycos, and Excite all carving out parts of the browser market. Then Microsoft and Bill Gates got into the game with Internet Explorer. Netscape, still at the top of its game, paid little attention to its rivals and concentrated on making its own programs faster and more sophisticated.
As the young man hailed as the "New Electronic Messiah" by the Economist in 1995, Andreessen found himself often compared to Gates. The two, however, could not have been more different: Gates was raised with money in California and briefly attended Harvard while Andreessen hailed from a small town and was from a working middle-class family. When Andreessen was asked by Fortune magazine in December 1996 if he wanted to meet the fellow computer genius, his answer was surprisingly funny: "Think about it. What would we talk about? His stock? My stock? He's got more. He'd tell me about his house; I'd tell him I've got a house too. Mine's a normal house."
Netscape continued to revolutionize the Internet with its many commercial applications, sold to most of the world's big corporations. Andreessen, too, remained dedicated to his work although he was no longer on the front lines designing programs. He was more of a team cheerleader, urging his colleagues on and meeting prospective business partners.
When twenty-four-year-old Marc Andreessen struck it rich on the stock market, his first purchase was some adult clothing—a suit. This was followed over time by a new car, a Mercedes; a house in Palo Alto, California; a great stereo and CDs (he likes blues, jazz, and classical music); and two bulldogs to go with the house.
By 1998, Netscape had sales of almost $450 million; the following year it was gobbled up by America Online for $4.2 billion. Netscape was no longer an independent firm but part of a huge conglomerate. With the shift in ownership came a new job for Andreessen, who left his position as Netscape' senior vice president of technology to become AOL's chief of technology. The move, both from Netscape and California to AOL's headquarters in Dulles, Virginia, proved a shock to his system. Andreessen missed southern California, especially the food, and could not seem to adapt to life in Virginia, or at AOL. He became a part-time consultant for the company, but finally left AOL completely by the fall of 1999.
Andreessen returned to California and looked up several of his old Netscape buddies to discuss starting a new business. He sold a large chunk of AOL stock for financing and in October 1999, Andreessen, along with friends Ben Horowitz, Tim Howes, and In Sik Rhee, formed Loudcloud. Loudcloud was originally supposed to be an Internet business, but instead the partners decided to create Web site portals for major corporations. To achieve this, they devised a complicated software program called Opsware, which they dubbed their "secret sauce."
While Opsware was indeed a remarkable application, it was so complicated that the Loudcloud founders felt they could not actually sell it. As a result, they used it to monitor and oversee Web sites that belonged to other companies. Opsware, as an Internet watchdog, soon appealed to a number of huge corporate Web addresses, including sites belonging to Nike, Inc., Blockbuster Entertainment, Ford Motor Company (see entries), and even the United Kingdom's postal system. Loudcloud was certainly no Netscape, although it did fare relatively well despite the failure of numerous Internet companies during the late 1990s. Andreessen and his partners had poured millions of their own dollars into the venture, and were content to give it time to grow.
As of 2002, Loudcloud was still alive and Andreessen was busy mapping out its future. The cyberspace folk hero who described himself as "down to earth" was no longer a boy wonder but a man in his thirties. For his unique vision of the twenty-first century and beyond, he had picked up a few honors and awards along the way, being named "Man of the Year" by Micro-Times magazine in 1994 and earning the Computerworld Smithsonian Award for Leadership in 1995.
For More Information
Clark, Jim, and Owen Edwards. Netscape: The Making of the Billion-Dollar Startup Who Took on Microsoft. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Ehrenhaft, Daniel. Marc Andreessen: Web Warrior. Brookfield, CT: Twenty-First Century Books, 2001.
Moschovitis, Christos J. P. History of the Internet: A Chronology. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 1999.
Quittner, Joshua, and Michelle Slatalla. Speeding the Net: The Inside Story of Netscape and How it Challenged Microsoft. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998.
Tracy, Kathleen. Marc Andreessen and the Development of the Web Browser. Bear, DE: Mitchell Lane, 2002.
Corcoran, Elizabeth. "Growing Up is Hard to Do." Forbes (April 29, 2002): p. 36.
Hazelwood, Sara. "Andreessen: AOL's New Evangelist." Business Journal (April 2, 1999): p. 14.
Lohr, Steve. "An Internet Pioneer of the ′90s Looks to a Future in Software." New York Times (un e 17, 2002): p. Cl.
Mardesich, Jodi. "Andreessen Starts It Up." Fortune (November 22, 1999): p. 51.
"A New Electronic Messiah." Economist (August 5, 1995): p. 62(1).
Quittner, Joshua, and Marc Andreessen. "The Rise and Fall of the Original Web Startup." Time (December 7, 1998): p. 60(1).
Tetzeli, Rick. "What It's Really Like to Be Marc Andreessen." Fortune (December 9, 1996): p. 136(9).
Wawro, Thaddeus. "Hero Worship." Entrepreneur (March 2000): p. 55.
Netscape Communications Corporation. [On-line] http://www.netscape.com (accessed on August 16, 2002).
The amazing growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web has been due in large part to the genius of Marc Andreesen. His browser software, Mosaic and Netscape Navigator, has made using the World Wide Web easy and popular for both businesses and average consumers. The company he helped found, Netscape Communications, made Andreesen an instant millionaire and helped to bring the Internet into the lives of ordinary people.
Andreesen was born in Iowa in 1972. He grew up in the small town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin, with his parents, Lowell and Patricia. Marc Andreesen's father works as an agriculturist and his mother works for Land's End, a catalogue retailer. Andreesen was not the typical New Lisbon boy. He spent his early years reading and learning about computers to alleviate the boredom of small town life. In sixth grade, he wrote his first computer program—a virtual calculator for doing his math homework. But the program was on the school's PC, and when the custodian turned off the building's power, Andreesen's program was wiped out. The next year, his parents bought him his first computer, a TRS-80 from Radio Shack that cost only a few hundred dollars. Marc taught himself BASIC programming from library books so he could write video games for the new PC.
Andreesen's teachers and classmates from New Lisbon remember him as a good student who excelled in computing, math, English, and history. "Marc had an intellectual capacity that could intimidate people," said his former principal Ken Adams. Andreesen could also challenge teachers, and was known to question the relevance of their assignments. At the University of Illinois, Andreesen planned to major in electrical engineering, which he considered his most lucrative option, but then changed to computer science. He graduated with a BS in 1993.
Andreesen now lives in Palo Alto, California with his fiancée, Elizabeth Horn, and their pet bull dogs. He enjoys a range of interests, including science fiction, classical music, philosophy, and business strategy. As might be appropriate for a computer whiz, Andreesen claims to be a "Netizen" himself—he gets all his news from the World Wide Web, buys his books from the online site Amazon.com, and even uses the Internet to check theater times.
A $6.85 an hour job at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) got Andreesen interested in the Internet. At the NCSA, he worked with master programmer Eric Bina to develop an interface that could navigate the World Wide Web, integrating text, graphics, and sound. The result was Mosaic, which the NCSA team completed in 1993 and posted for free over the Internet. Over 2 million copies of the browser were down-loaded the first year. Mosaic was responsible for a 10,000-fold increase in Web users over a period of two years.
After graduating from Illinois in 1993, Andreesen took a job with Enterprise Integration Technologies, a producer of Internet security-enhancement products, in California. Soon, however, he received an e-mail from Jim Clark, a former associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. Clark had founded Silicon Graphics Inc., which made computers that specialized in graphics processing, and was interested in improving on Mosaic. He set up a meeting with Andreesen, and the two decided to combine Andreesen's technical knowhow and Clark's business expertise to launch their own company in 1994.
The company was named Mosaic Communications Corp., but when the NCSA, which owned the copyright to the Mosaic software objected to the name, the partners changed it to Netscape. Andreesen, as vice president of technology at the new company, worked to make Mosaic faster and more interactive. Andreesen was helped by several team members from the original Mosaic project at NCSA, whom he persuaded to join Netscape. Soon, the company released their new browser, which the development team wanted to call "Mozilla"-short for Mosaic Killer. The marketing department, however, insisted on Netscape Navigator.
The program was distributed free on the Internet, and quickly became extremely popular. This established Netscape as a "brand" name, and prompted computer users to try other Netscape products. Soon, the company was profitable. On 9 August 1995, Netscape first offered shares in the company to the public. That day, shares opened at $7 and shot up to $36. They closed at $29. In one day, the then-24-year-old Andreesen became worth more than $50 million. To celebrate, he went out and bought his first suit.
By December of that year, Netscape's stock reached an all-time high. The value of Andreesen's shares in the company skyrocketed to $171 million. But at almost the same time, Microsoft Corporation, which until then had been focusing primarily on PCs and had ignored the Internet, realized the value of browser software and announced that it would begin to work in that area. In July 1997, Andreesen became executive vice-president in charge of product development at Netscape. In charge of a staff of 1,000, Andreesen set out to stay ahead of the giant Microsoft.
In September 1997, Microsoft launched its first browser, Internet Explorer 4.0. This was Netscape Navigator's first real competitor, and it began to lure Netscape users away. In January 1998, Netscape shocked Wall Street by announcing an $88 million loss for the quarter. By April, according to Business Week, Microsoft had captured about 40 percent of the browser market, while Netscape's share had shrunk from about 80 percent to around 60 percent.
Andreesen's challenge is to get Netscape back to profitability. He no longer writes software programs himself, but as the head of product development, envisions new solutions for emerging technologies. With Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, Andreesen is shifting the company's focus away from the browser market and toward innovations for intranets (corporate networks) and electronic commerce. He is also developing Netscape's Website into an Internet gateway similar to America Online.
Social and Economic Impact
Andreesen's browser software had a profound impact on society. According to People Weekly, Mosaic stimulated a 10,000 percent increase in the number of Web users within two years from its debut. And Netscape Navigator was even more popular. The astronomical growth of the World Wide Web could not have occurred without a simple product that helped users find their way through the vast, and sometimes disorganized, material on the Web. And the first such product was invented by Andreesen.
From the beginning, Andreesen used innovative strategies to get his program out to the public. By allowing computer users to download Mosaic and Netscape Navigator for free, he took a chance. But the browsers became so popular that users quickly developed confidence in the Netscape brand, and purchased other Netscape goods and services.
Andreesen is known for putting in long hours at Netscape, but his management style differs very much from that of his main competitor, Microsoft. Andreesen remains close to the programmers who work for him, and he maintains a collegial, team-like atmosphere. He does not insist that his employees work long hours-in fact, he encourages them to limit office hours to 50 per week. Characteristic of this team-oriented approach is Andreesen's decision to offer Netscape's browser code over the Internet to anyone who wants it. His reasoning is that the feedback he gets from other software developers could lead to new ideas for Netscape.
Andreesen has had to respond quickly to the intense competition within the computer industry. Microsoft's entry into the browser market has challenged Andreesen to continue to improve Netscape's products and to develop new ones. One new focus is to add substantial content and services to Netscape's Website, making it a rival of America Online. "Our biggest mistake," he told Business Week "was we didn't think of this two years ago."
Chronology: Marc Andreesen
1993: Developed Mosaic.
1994: Cofounded Netscape Communications, Inc. and released Netscape Navigator.
1995: Netscape IPO earned millions in first day.
1995: Microsoft announced it will enter browser market to compete with Netscape.
1997: Andreesen took control of product development at Netscape.
1998: Andreesen shifted focus to intranets and content-rich Netscape Website.
Though he admits he needs more experience, Andreesen likes business strategy. Venture capitalist John Doerr commented that Andreesen "has retained his fresh point of view about what's possible . . . . He has grown a lot . . ." And investment analyst Mary Meeker said of Andreesen "He'll be a great CEO-five to ten years from now."
Sources of Information
Contact at: Netscape Communications Corporation
501 E. Middlefield Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Business Phone: (650)254-1900
Chandrasekaran, Rajiv. "Netscape's Boy Wonder Looks Beyond the Browser." Washington Post, 25 March 1997.
Collins, James. "High Stakes Winners." Time, 19 February 1996.
Hamm, Steve. "The Education of Marc Andreesen." Business Week, 13 April 1998.
Harmon, Amy. "Cyberspace Stars: Can They Stay Online?" Los Angeles Times, 28 October 1996.
Holzinger, Albert G. "Netscape Founder Points, and It Clicks." Nation's Business, January 1996.
"Illinois's Boys Make Noise and They're Doing it with Mosaic," Highlight from CS Alumni News, Winter 1994.
Newsmakers. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
McCarthy, Ken. "Marc Andreessen: The Man Behind Netscape," E-Media 14 August 1995. Available from http://www.e-media.com. Marc Andreesen: Netscape Communications Executive. Newsmakers 1996. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
"Spinning a Golden Web: Marc Andreesen's Internet Software Earned Him $50 Million in One Day." People Weekly, 11 September 1995.
Tetzeli, Rick. "What It's Really Like to be Marc Andreessen," Fortune, 9 December 1996.
"VeriSign Hall of Fame: Marc Andreessen," VeriSign, Digital ID Hall of Fame, 1997.
Marc Andreessen is a well-known and influential figure in the world of electronic business. In E-Commerce Times, Mitchell Levy, chair of ECM-sym.com, described Andreessen as "Probably the most significant person I can think of" in terms of e-commerce. Andreessen made his mark by developing breakthrough Internet browser software, first with Mosaic and then with Netscape Navigator, and co-founded Netscape Communications Corp. with Jim Clark. After Netscape was acquired by America Online and Sun Microsystems, Andreessen served as AOL's chief technology officer for about six months. He left AOL in September 1999, and the following month announced the formation of Loudcloud Inc., a new e-commerce services company that builds complicated Web sites and infrastructure and provides a range of support services.
Andreessen was born in Iowa in 1972 and grew up with his parents in the small town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin. He took an early interest in computers and wrote his first computer program on a computer at school when he was in the sixth grade. The next year his parents bought him his own computer, a TRS-80 from Radio Shack. Marc taught himself BASIC, a programming language known for its simplicity, so he could create video games for his new computer.
DEVELOPED FIRST POPULAR WEB BROWSER
After graduating from high school, Andreessen attended the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. It was while working at the university's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) that he became interested in the Internet. At the NCSA he worked with master programmer Eric Bina to develop an interface for the World Wide Web that would integrate text, graphics, and sound. In 1993 the NCSA team completed an interface called Mosaic and made it available for free over the Internet. More than 2 million copies of the browser were downloaded in the first year, and Mosaic was responsible for a ten-thousand fold increase in Web users over a period of two years.
Andreessen graduated from college in 1993 and took a job with California-based Enterprise Integration Technologies, which made Internet security enhancement products. However, one day he received an e-mail message from Jim Clark, a former associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. Clark was something of an entrepreneur, having founded Silicon Graphics Inc. He was interested in setting up a new company to work on Mosaic and improve it. Andreessen agreed to meet with Clark, and the two decided to combine Andreessen's technical know-how with Clark's business expertise to launch their own company in 1994.
CO-FOUNDED NETSCAPE COMMUNICATIONS CORP.
At first the new company was called Mosaic Communications Corp. However, the NCSA, which held the copyright to Mosaic software, objected and the company was renamed Netscape Communications Corp. Andreessen, then 22 years old, became Nets-cape's vice president of technology. His job was to make the Web browser Mosaic faster and more interactive. He persuaded several NCSA team members to join him at Netscape, and soon the company released its new browser. While the development team wanted to call it Mozilla, short for Mosaic Killer, the company's marketing executives insisted on calling it Nets-cape Navigator.
Like Mosaic before it, Netscape Navigator was distributed for free on the Internet and quickly became very popular. The development of a downloadable browser and its introduction in October 1994 removed a significant technological hurdle for people seeking to go online; E-Commerce Times considered it one of the 10 key moments in the making of e-commerce. It was Netscape's browser that established the now-well-known brand name, prompting computer users to try other Netscape products. Soon, the company was profitable, and on August 9, 1995, made its initial public offering (IPO). One the first day of the IPO, Netscape's shares opened at $7 and closed at $29 after reaching a high of $36. In one day, Andreessen, who had worked at NSCA for $6.85 an hour, achieved a net worth of more than $50 million. By the end of 1995 his shares were worth $171 million.
For some time, Netscape enjoyed little or no competition for its browser. It was clear, however, by 1997 that Netscape was losing market share to Microsoft, which had introduced a competing browser—Internet Explorer 2.0—in 1995, followed by Explorer 3.0 in 1996. Andreessen, as Netscape's executive vice president in charge of product development, oversaw a staff of 1,000 tasked with staying ahead of the software giant. The most serious blow to Netscape's market position occurred when Microsoft brought out Internet Explorer 4.0 in September 1997 and bundled it with its Windows operating system. Netscape began to lose money, and by April 1998 Microsoft had captured some 40 percent of the browser market, while Netscape's share had shrunk from around 80 percent to 60 percent.
Andreessen refocused Netscape toward enterprise software for corporate intranets and electronic commerce in an effort to develop new sources of revenue. Before the year was over, however, America Online and Sun Microsystems announced they would jointly acquire Netscape's assets for $4.2 billion. Sun took over Netscape's intellectual property and the continuing development of its products, while America Online got Netscape's popular Web portal Net-Center and other assets. After the acquisition was completed in 1999, Andreessen became AOL's chief technology officer and worked from an office at AOL's headquarters in Virginia. Andreessen soon got restless, and he resigned in September 1999.
CO-FOUNDED LOUDCLOUD INC.
The next month Andreessen announced the formation of a new company called Loudcloud Inc. which would provide technology, infrastructure, and services to Internet companies and e-commerce Web sites. The company was co-founded by Andreessen, who would serve as chairman, and Ben Horowitz, who became president and CEO. Loudcloud officially opened for business in February 2000 with seven customers and $68 million in venture capital financing. By mid-2000 Andreessen had raised another $120 million in capital. In March 2001 Loudcloud went public, selling 25 million sharees, and raising $150 million through its IPO in an investment climate unfavorable to Internet-based start-ups. In the interval since Netscape's IPO—the first for an Internet company—some 420 dot-coms and Web companies had raised funds through IPOs. With Internet companies out of favor with investors, Loudcloud's may have been the last IPO for an e-commerce company for some time. As noted by business educator John H. Freeman, in Business Week, "There's no question the whole mind-set of businesses and investors has changed. An era has ended. Loudcloud confirms it."
Byron, Christopher. "Netscape Founder Offers a New Cash-Burning Dot-Com." Los Angeles Business Journal. February 26, 2001.
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Henry, Shannon. "Andreessen to Start New Firm." The Washington Post. October 27, 1999.
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"A Pioneer Once More." Business Week. February 28, 2000.
Sliwa, Carol. "Andreessen Targets Web Outsource Model." Computerworld. September 25, 2000.
"Spinning a Golden Web." People Weekly. September 11, 1995.
Tetzeli, Rick. "What It's Really Like to Be Marc Andreessen." Fortune. December 9, 1996.
Tetzeli, Rick, and David Kirkpatrick. "Marc Andreessen: 'The Concept of Being Always on Is a Very Powerful One."' Fortune. October 9, 2000.
SEE ALSO: Clark, Jim; Initial Public Offering (IPO); Loudcloud; Netscape Communications Corp.
Marc Andreessen (born 1972) has been one of the key players in making the Internet and World Wide Web accessible to the masses, thanks to his development of Netscape Navigator, a browser that integrates text, graphics, and sound.
The astronomical growth of the World Wide Web could not have occurred without a simple product that helped users find their way through the vast, and sometimes disorganized, material on the Web. The first such product, called a browser, was invented by a team including software developer and entrepreneur, Marc Andreessen. He developed the Mosaic program as a college student. It later became the Netscape Navigator when he co-founded his own company in 1994. This browser software had a profound impact on society. According to some estimates, Mosaic stimulated a 10,000 percent increase in the number of Web users within two years from its debut, and Netscape Navigator was even more popular.
Young Computer Whiz
Andreessen was born in Iowa in 1972. He lived in the small town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin, with his parents, Lowell and Patricia. Marc Andreessen's father worked in the agricultural field and his mother worked for Lands' End, a catalogue retailer. Andreessen was not a typical New Lisbon boy. He spent his early years reading and learning about computers. In sixth grade, he wrote his first computer program-a virtual calculator for doing his math homework. But the program was on the school's PC, and when the custodian turned off the building's power, Andreessen's program was wiped out. The next year, his parents bought him his first computer, a TRS-80 that cost only a few hundred dollars. Marc taught himself BASIC programming from library books in order to develop video games for the new PC. Andreessen's teachers and classmates from New Lisbon remember him as a good student who excelled in computing, math, English, and history. Andreessen could even challenge teachers, and was known to question the relevance of their assignments. At the University of Illinois, Andreessen planned to major in electrical engineering, which he considered his most lucrative option, but then changed to computer science.
Andreessen became interested in the Internet while working at the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Champaign-Urbana. At the NCSA, he worked with a programmer, Eric Bina, to develop an interface that could navigate the World Wide Web by integrating text, graphics, and sound. The result was Mosaic, which the NCSA team completed in 1993 and posted for free over the Internet. Over two million copies of the browser were downloaded the first year. Mosaic was responsible for a 10,000-fold increase in Web users over a period of two years.
After graduating from the University of Illinois with a bachelor of science degree in 1993, Andreessen took a job with Enterprise Integration Technologies, a producer of Internet security-enhancement products, in California. He was contacted by Jim Clark, a former associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. Clark had founded Silicon Graphics Inc., a company which made computers that specialized in graphics processing. He was interested in starting a business with Andreessen. The two decided to combine Andreessen's technical knowledge with Clark's business expertise in order to launch their own company in 1994.
The company was originally named Mosaic Communications Corp. When the NCSA, which owned the copyright to the Mosaic software, objected to the name, the partners changed it to Netscape. Andreessen, as head of technology, worked to make Mosaic faster and more interactive. He was assisted by several team members from the original Mosaic project at NCSA, whom he persuaded to join Netscape. Soon, the company released their new browser, which the development team wanted to call "Mozilla"-short for Mosaic Killer. The marketing department, however, insisted on Netscape Navigator.
The program was distributed free on the Internet, and quickly became extremely popular. This established Netscape as a "brand" name, and prompted computer users to try other Netscape products. Soon, the company was profitable. On August 9, 1995, Netscape first offered shares in the company to the public. That day, shares were priced at $28 and opened at an unprecedented $71 a share. In one day, the 24-year-old Andreessen became worth more than $50 million. To celebrate, he bought his first suit. By December of that year, Netscape's stock reached an all-time high. The value of Andreessen's shares in the company skyrocketed to $171 million.
Andreessen was known for putting in long hours at Netscape, but his management style differed very much from that of his main competitor, Microsoft. Andreessen remained close to the programmers who worked for him, and maintained a collegial, team-like atmosphere. He did not insist that his employees work long hours-in fact, he encouraged them to limit office hours to 50 per week. Characteristic of this team-oriented approach was Andreessen's decision to offer Netscape's browser code over the Internet to anyone who wanted it. His reasoning was that the feedback he received from other software developers could lead to new ideas for Netscape. In July 1997, Andreessen became executive vice-president in charge of product development at Netscape. With a staff of 1,000, Andreessen hoped to stay ahead of the giant Microsoft. From the beginning, Andreessen had used innovative strategies to get his program out to the public. By allowing computer users to download Mosaic and Netscape Navigator for free, he took a chance. But the browsers became so popular that users quickly developed confidence in the Netscape brand, and purchased other Netscape goods and services.
Competition from Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation, which had been focused primarily on its operating system and software for personal computers (PCs) until late 1995, began to realize the value of Internet browser software and announced that it intended to work in that area. In August 1995, Microsoft released the Internet Explorer 1.0 with its Windows 95 operating system. Later versions of Internet Explorer were given away for free and by December 1997, Netscape's lead in the browser market was down to 60%. In January 1998, Netscape decided to give its browser away for free. Andreessen's challenge was to get Netscape back to profitability. He no longer wrote software programs himself, but as the head of product development, envisioned new solutions for emerging technologies. With Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale, Andreessen shifted the company's focus away from the browser market and toward innovations for intranets (corporate networks) and electronic commerce. He also began developing Netscape's web site into an Internet gateway similar to that of America Online.
By late 1998, Netscape's share of the browser market had dipped to a little more than 50 percent. The United State government, which had been investigating Microsoft's business practices since 1991, decided to prosecute Microsoft for unfair business practices. A lengthy court case ensued, in which the government proved that Microsoft used its clout in the marketplace to try to drive Netscape out of business. It did this, the government claimed, by tying its Explorer browser with its Windows operating system, which was installed on the vast majority of desktop computers. As the case stretched out, Andreessen and others in the computer industry were called to testify. Before the courts reached their decision, the leading Internet service provider, America Online (AOL), announced in late 1998 that it was acquiring Netscape. AOL then announced that Andreessen would be leaving Netscape in early 1999 to join their firm as chief technology officer. "His role is considered crucial to merging AOL's consumer-oriented focus with Netscape's technical expertise," wrote Jon Swartz in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Andreessen resides in Palo Alto, California, with his fiancé, Elizabeth Horn, and their pet bulldogs. After his job change, he began commuting between Netscape's Mountain View headquarters and America Online offices in Dulles, Virginia. Andreessen enjoys a range of interests, including science fiction, classical music, philosophy, and business strategy. As might be appropriate for a computer whiz, Andreessen claims to be a "Netizen" himself-he gets all his news from the World Wide Web, buys his books from the online site Amazon.com, and even uses the Internet to check theater times.
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Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1996.
Nation's Business, January 1996.
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San Francisco Chronicle, January 26, 1999.
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USA Today October 23, 1998.
Veri Sign, Digital ID Hall of Fame, 1997.
Washington Post, March 25, 1997.
E-Media August 14, 1995. Available from http://www.e-media.com.
Hoover's Online, March 2, 1999. Available from http://www.hoovers.com. □
The creative mind behind Netscape Communications Corporation, Marc Andreesen (1971–) became a Silicon Valley legend and a multimillionaire well before his thirtieth birthday. The explosive growth of Internet commerce in the last decade of the twentieth century was directly attributable to his co-invention of the first widely used browser for finding and retrieving Internet information. In 1998, just five years after its founding, American Online, Inc. (AOL) acquired Netscape in a $9.6 billion deal. As part of the merger Andreesen, still only twenty-seven, signed on as chief technology officer of AOL.
Born in 1971, Marc Andreesen grew up in New Lisbon, Illinois. As a boy, Andreesen was fascinated with computers. Before he was ten he had taught himself BASIC programming by reading a book. In the seventh grade his parents gave him his first computer. While a student in computer science at the University of Illinois, Andreesen was introduced to the Internet. In the early 1990s the Internet was primarily used by scientists who could navigate through its complex codes.
In 1992, while working part-time at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the university, Andreesen and a friend, Eric Bina, began to speculate on the potential of the World Wide Web. Working nights and weekends the two developed a program, eventually named Mosaic, that incorporated elements of Web navigation, text display, and sound.
When Mosaic was demonstrated in January 1993 it was an immediate hit, and by the time Andreesen graduated in December of that year, several million free copies of NCSA Mosaic had been distributed over the Internet. Andreesen recognized the commercial applications of the project, but NCSA was not prepared to take commercial advantage of the program it owned copyright for.
Following graduation Andreesen took a job in Silicon Valley, but a legendary e-mail message soon changed his life. The message was from James H. Clark, co-founder of Silicon Graphics Inc., one of the computer industry's early success stories. Clark had resigned from his company and was looking for a new venture. He asked Andreesen if he would be interested in forming a company to create a commercially viable, improved version of the Mosaic browser.
In April 1994 Clark invested some $3 million in the new firm, which began with three employees with offices in Mountain View, California. The new company was first called Mosaic Communications Corporation, but after the University of Illinois contested the use of the name, the fledgling firm was christened Netscape Communications.
By December 1994 Netscape had released its revolutionary browser, the Netscape Navigator. Almost immediately the new browser became the industry standard. Within only a few months Netscape claimed 70 percent of the browser market. It offered users speed, sophisticated graphics, and a special encryption code that secured their credit card transactions on the Web.
When Netscape made an initial public stock offering of 3.5 million shares in August 1995, an unprecedented stock frenzy ensued. Investors bought the stock in record numbers. Opening at $28 a share, the stock closed at $58 1/2, making Netscape's market value $2.3 billion. With Netscape's continuing strong showing on the booming stock market of the late 1990s, Clark, Andreesen, and many of the company's employees became extremely wealthy. Four years later electronic commerce had transformed the way the nation did business. Nearly every advertisement, for example, included a web address. Banking and investing, travel arrangements, and personal shopping on the Internet had become routine. Automobile and home purchases could be negotiated on-line. Some analysts predicted that Internet commerce could reach $3.2 trillion, or 5 percent of all sales worldwide by 2003.
At first the new browser faced virtually no competition, but in 1995 Microsoft Corporation introduced the Explorer, which it bundled free with its popular Windows software. In the last years of the twentieth century, as Netscape and Microsoft battled for the browser market and in the courts, Netscape began to lose its market share. A landmark federal anti-trust trial began involving Microsoft's alleged attempts to obstruct Netscape from competing for a fair share of the lucrative browser business. In late 1998, before that trial was completed, Netscape was purchased by AOL.
See also: Computer Industry, Information Superhighway, Internet, Netscape
1997 Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1997, s.v. "Andreesen, Marc."
Cusumano, Michael A. Competing on Internet Time: Lessons from Netscape and its Battle with Microsoft. New York: Free Press, 1998.
Lohr, Steve and John Markoff. "AOL Sees Netscape Purchase as Step Toward Ambitious Goals." New York Times, November 24, 1998.
Quittner, Joshua. Speeding the Net: The Inside Story of Netscape and How it Challenged Microsoft. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1998.
Swartz, Jon. "Netscape's Andreesen Joining Ranks of AOL." San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 1999.
Tetzeli, Rick. "What It's Really Like to be Marc Andreessen." Fortune, December 9, 1996.
American Computer Programmer and Inventor
Acomputer programming genius, at the age of 22 Marc Andreessen helped lay the foundation for the Internet and World Wide Web. His Mosaic was the first browser to come into general use. He followed it up with the commercially successful Netscape browser, which brought millions of people onto the Internet and created one of the most successful initial public offerings (IPOs) in Wall Street history.
Andreessen was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in July 1971, and was raised in the small town of New Lisbon, Wisconsin. His father Lowell was a seed salesman and his mother Pat worked at the mail-order clothing company Lands' End. As a child Andreessen was fascinated by the potential of personal computers. At age 8 he first showcased his genius for the technology by teaching himself the Basic programming language out of a book he had borrowed from the library. Andreessen wrote his first program (one designed to help him with his math homework) in the sixth grade using a school computer. Unfortunately, his burst of invention was short-lived; the program was erased when someone turned the power off at the end of the day. Tired of having to rely on his school for the use of a computer, he convinced his parents to buy him one of the earliest home computers, the Radio Shack TRS-80. Andreessen used his new computer to create a matchmaking program for his high school classmates.
In the early 1990s he attended the University of Illinois, studying—not surprisingly—computer science. He was not much of a student; focusing his attention instead on a burgeoning career in computers. To earn money he worked part-time as a programmer for the university's National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), a conglomeration of undergraduates, graduate students, and professors. In the early 1990s the new buzzword at NCSA was "networking," which was fueled by the Internet backbone being developed by the National Science Foundation. The NCSA group was working to expand the Internet by enabling computers to link together across the country and the world.
In 1989 Swiss physicist Tim Berners-Lee created a browser that allowed users to navigate through documents on the World Wide Web with by simply pointing and clicking with the computer mouse. The only problem was that it was text based and not very user friendly. Andreessen was convinced he could improve upon Berners-Lee's browser and convinced Eric Bina, another NCSA employee, to help him. Their new and improved browser, Mosaic, used a graphic visual interface, making it easier to use. Mosaic was introduced in March 1993 and was a huge hit. Within 18 months, it had helped the number of users on the Internet jump to 20 million.
Later that same year, Andreessen left NCSA and was contacted by the founder of Silicon Graphics, Jim Clark, who wanted to start a new company. With four million dollars of Clark's money, they formed Mosaic Communications in Mountain View, California. In the spring and early summer of 1994 Andreessen and a group of programmers began working on building a bigger and better Internet browser. Their goal was to make the new browser even easier to use in order to target a mass-market audience. In November 1994 Andreessen and Clark changed their company's name to Netscape Communications. The cross-platform, easily navigable Netscape browser was about to start an Internet revolution.
Netscape quickly became the most popular browser among consumers. In 1995 Netscape Communications's stock went public with the third-largest IPO in history, making Andreessen 50 million dollars richer virtually overnight. By 1996 the Internet had exploded worldwide with approximately 40 million people "surfing the net" on a regular basis, and millions of them relied on Netscape Navigator as their browser. While Bill Gates's Microsoft Explorer continually challenged Netscape for supremacy in the late 1990s, the company—with Andreessen at the helm—continued to reinvent itself, staying on top of the Internet market and securing its place in the history of technology.