But they do share a vision for the Internet's consumer ubiquity that could forever change the direction of the medium. The following are thumbnail profiles of some of the suits behind the agreement:
AOL Chairman and CEO Steve Case
Case, a native Hawaiian who holds a political science degree from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., helped found AOL (NYSE:AOL) in 1985 as a dial-up proprietary online service for users of Quantum computers. He helped shepherd the company from a little-known curiosity in the late 1980s and early 1990s into a global powerhouse by the late 1990s -- taking over its chief rival, CompuServe, early this year. Case also helped steer the company through a period of disastrous network access difficulties, user privacy flaps, and class action lawsuits less than two years ago. Lately, he has taken to publicly evangelizing the Internet's -- and AOL's -- role in educating people about politics and public affairs, and has reiterated the company's commitment to user privacy.
Netscape President and CEO Jim Barksdale
Barksdale, who holds a B.A. from the University of Mississippi, joined Netscape (Nasdaq:NSCP) in January 1995. Previously he served as CEO of AT&T Wireless Services and spent 12 years at Federal Express Corp. (NYSE:FDX). He was named chief operating officer of Federal Express in 1983, and helped oversee the company's growth from $1 billion to $7.7 billion in annual revenues.
Sun President, Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy
McNealy, who holds an economics degree from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford University, helped found Sun (Nasdaq:SUNW) in 1982, and was vice president of operations before being named CEO in 1984. Previously he was director of Onyx Systems, a microcomputer systems manufacturer, and held various sales positions at Rockwell International. He has publicly evangelized Sun's Java technology as the key to bringing portable Internet devices to the mass market, and is a key proponent of smart cards.
AOL President and COO Bob Pittman
Pittman, a native of Mississippi and a veteran of cable television giant MTV, joined AOL as CEO of its AOL Networks unit in October 1996. Previously, in addition to serving as CEO of MTV Networks, he worked as an executive in Time Warner Enterprises, Six Flags Entertainment and Century 21 Real Estate Corp. In February 1998 he was appointed AOL chief operations officer, and he now oversees AOL Interactive Services, CompuServe Interactive Services, and AOL Studios, the company's content-creation arm. He also serves on the board of directors of Excite Inc. (Nasdaq:XCIT).