Is Facebook the next Netscape?

Summary:Marc Andreessen's Ning team has put together a screencast and screenshots of OpenSocial in action. He notes that the examples are a little light on social functionality at this point, but they are working on getting user's friends information and activities feeds into the applications.

Marc Andreessen's Ning team has put together a screencast and screenshots of OpenSocial in action. He notes that the examples are a little light on social functionality at this point, but they are working on getting user's friends information and activities feeds into the applications.

For those of you who were asleep for the last 15 years, Andreessen was the cofounder of Netscape (Mosaic) at the tender age of 23. He has a good idea of what the latest prince of Silicon Valley, Facebook's 23-year-old Mark Zuckerberg, is going through.

Like Zuckerberg and his now famous Adidas flipflops, Andreessen has been barefoot, as in his Time cover portrait from 1996.

The well funded Netscape had its nemesis Microsoft (Internet Explorer), and lost the browser war. All was not lost. Netscape, which also sold servers and had popular Web sites, was sold to AOL in 1999 for $4.2 billion in a stock swap, and Microsoft was subsequently spanked for abuse of monopoly power. In addition to Ning, Andreessen went on to found a Web hosting company, Loudcloud, which was partly sold to EDS and morphed into Opsware, which was recently acquired by HP for $1.6 billion.

Facebook now has the powerful (and less overtly predatory than Microsoft) Google (OpenSocial) staring it in the face, and ironically Microsoft as an ally. Google, of course says that it is not out to crush Facebook, but to expand the utility of the Web and social software with open APIs. It's more like Google is in a position to bend Facebook, or others in Web space, to its will with its APIs, breaking down the walls around Facebook' social graph.

The set up and Netscape's fade out are not likely how it will turn out for Facebook and Zuckerberg. At this point, there is no Internet Explorer equivalent competing with Facebook for members. Facebook is well funded, with an influx of $240 million from Microsoft, and so far has made very smart and calculated moves. But, the chessboard is becoming more complicated and the next moves will require far more than saying 'we will do what users want us to do.' Google, in particular, has figured out that a more open version of Microsoft's embrace and extend model for evolving its pervasive platform is a way to create a more level playing field, which tilts in its favor.

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Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Social Enterprise

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