Is Facebook the next Netscape?

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.

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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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3 comments
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  • facebook is well established

    Just like hotmail, the client base was there...when you have something that is 'good enough' its difficult to justify switching to something new.

    Besides interoperability will be the biggest challenge because almost everyone I know or they know is on facebook already. That kind of networking doesn't happen overnight and frankly facebook got in at a good time.

    More and more people don't like all the 'sign up' and if they're smart they've caught on to the Google Ad bombardment. Why expose yourself to a company that simply likes to overwhelm you with ads. Dealing with Google is about as fun as the world of pop-ups before pop-up blockers were common place. Thanks but no thanks Google...nice try though. Hopefully Facebook prevails and gives Google a run for its money.
    GeiselS
  • So was Netscape

    Netscape was well established and used by everyone, and there was no real reason to switch to IE but people did. Not me I stayed on Netscape until its more improved opensource child arrived in the form of Mozilla and than Firefox.

    Point being just because something is good enough doesn't mean people won't switch for something else, and Facebook being backed by M$ in this day might make people want to jump ship at the earliest opportunity.
    jfp
    • Mad Cow or ...?

      Are you selectively forgetting the fact that Navigator very quickly became technilogically inferior to IE (circa IE4 beta)?

      At that time Navigator had no support for progamable DOM and IE did. This put the D in DHTML and all of the sudden Navigators support for static html was the epitomy of LAME.

      IE also componitized it's html rendering, DOM, and scripting engine. This made it reuseable (hostable). While Navigator remained a monolithic dead end, IE components were plugged into the AOL client and Navigator became a footnote in history of precisely how to mismanage both a product and a market share lead.

      Netscape Navigator in fact wasn't good enough. They either didnt have the vision or couldnt execute on it fast enough and cleary they mistook being lucky for being good. Mercifully they got on the leading edge of the ABM wave and got some money out of it, unlike their poor shareholders who watched the share price fall from $200+ all the way down to $6 or $2 or whatever it bottomed out at while the incompetent insiders scurried away like rats. (disclaimer: not bitter, never owned any)

      To try to rewrite history and hide this internal fiasco in the "big evil corporation squishes small rising star" fog of history is nothing but pure delusion and that my friend invites repeating it rather than learning from it.
      Johnny Vegas