The Web entrepreneur won't be goaded into trashing Microsoft, the firm that crushed his Netscape and is now targeting former industry darling Yahoo.
as he might, John Battelle could not push Ning co-founder Marc Andreessen to
take the bait.
After lobbing some introductory softballs, Web 2.0 Expo keynote host
Battelle asked Andreessen to talk about how Microsoft essentially borrowed
Andreessen's concept of the Mosaic
Internet browser, packaged it and made it an industry standard.
Andreessen, who created Netscape Communications and Opsware before creating
social platform provider Ning, reminded the audience that Microsoft engineers
took the code he wrote at the University
of Illinois to build Internet
Explorer, which Microsoft eventually packaged on PCs all over the world.
"It was very exciting," Andreessen noted drolly, drawing chuckles
from the crowd. He also said he didn't panic when Microsoft entered the market.
After all, Netscape made him a multimillionaire, selling more ad revenue than
all the Internet portals and search engines combined by 1997 or 1998.
In another baiting question, Battelle noted Microsoft's increasing embrace
of open standards and willingness to work with others, and asked, "Is
Microsoft, as a company, from your point of view, defanged?"
"No. I think that they've got a very important role to play," Andreessen
said, pointing to Microsoft's Live Mesh strategy of synchronizing all computing
devices via the Internet as an example. The caveat is that the Internet
landscape has splintered in a positive way and that there are more
counterweights opposing Microsoft, chiefly, Google, he said.
Of course, that comment opened up another door.
"Speaking of splintering and fracturing, what do you make of Microsoft
buying Yahoo?" Battelle asked.
Andreessen said the deal, currently worth about $43 billion, would be a good
one for Microsoft if it goes through. He also said the prospect of a formerly
successful entrepreneurial company getting acquired is a "little bit
sad," but allowed that it's part of the natural evolution of business.
Microsoft has set an April 26 deadline for Yahoo to come to the table to
strike a deal. If Yahoo fails to comply, Microsoft may lower its bid and take
it straight to shareholders, initiating a hostile takeover.
As bleak as things look for Yahoo in its bid to remain independent, the
future looks bright for Ning, Andreessen's latest baby. The social network
enabler banked $60 million in series D financing, a valuation of $500
Not too shabby for a site that helps users build their own versions of
Facebook or MySpace.