This week has seen the third anniversary of the break in the NASDAQ boom (March 10 2000). It's an anniversay which seems to have passed us by without the razz-m-taz normally reserved for important commemoratives. Still it isn't hard to understand that many want to forget. Not Charles Cooper it seems, who this week asks us: and what if Netscape had won? Looking at the continuing dominance of microsoft across so many platforms, it's a question many of us may think worth asking. To innovate, or not to innovate, is that the question?
It's anniversary season in Silicon Valley. When March 10 rolled around, the San Francisco Bay Area's media dutifully marked the three-year anniversary of the peak of the Internet frenzy with the usual menu of "then and now" stories. Truth be told, it was a date few people in this region--let alone the wider computer industry--cared to fix in their calendars.
Almost 5,000 Internet companies have either been acquired or gone bust since 1999, and the computer industry, which boomed during the go-go era, is still dealing with the fallout from the dot-com collapse. But another big anniversary is around the bend: Next month will mark 10 years since the invention of the Mosaic Web browser, a seminal development that led to the subsequent creation of Netscape.
Netscape these days survives as a desolate outpost in the vast AOL Time Warner empire, something akin to banishment to Irkutsk. Note to AOL's people in PR: Don't bother calling to explain why I'm wrong and how this forgotten software unit still plays a critical part in the overall company's future. It ain't happening. In fact, the only reason more critics aren't seizing on the utter embarrassment that is today Netscape is because they're having too much fun picking on senior management for their laundry list of blunders.You don't need to be a "Netscapee" to bemoan the demise of what once was the hottest company in the tech kingdom. I'm not going to waste time revisiting the much-chronicled sequence of events that led to its besting by Microsoft and subsequent acquisition by America Online. But what might have been had Netscape won--or at a minimum, not lost--the browser war against Microsoft?