Netscape Time by Jim Clark with Owen Edwards St. Martin's Press, 276 pages, $24.95
In a few short years, the Internet has moved from an obscure technology for scientists and academics into a major media, commercial, and educational resource for home and work.
It couldn't have happened without Netscape and its user-friendly browser. In Netscape Time, cofounder Clark tells in candid, easy-going prose the story of Netscape's rise -- and thus the birth of the Internet revolution.
Knowing a Good Thing
The book begins on the day that Netscape made its initial common stock offering on NASDAQ, only 15 months after the company's creation. Clark paints a vivid scene of what it was like for employees who had been working 20-hour days on blind faith in this product to watch the initial stock offering of $28 open at $71. In just a few hours, the stock that represented Clark's initial $3 million investment in the company was suddenly worth $633 million.
How did it all happen? "I'd love to be able to claim that it was my cleverness that created Netscape, but I can't," Clark explains. "What I can claim, and it's by no means a modest claim, is that I knew a good thing when I saw it."
That good thing was Marc Andreesen and a browser called "Mosaic" that he had created.While Mosaic was no secret, the possibility that money could made from the technology apparently was, Clark writes.
Clark details the people, vision, hard work, and setbacks that transformed a technological concept into a billion dollar start-up. One major barrier was the University of Illinois, which claimed to own the concepts that Marc Andreesen had first invented there. Eventually a settlement would be reached that led to Clark abandoning the original name of the company, "Mosaic Communications."
But the main battle described in the book is, of course, the battle with Bill Gates. Clark makes no secret of his feelings about Bill Gates and Microsoft's seeming monopoly on the technology world. According to Clark, Microsoft has, in effect, made innovation fruitless and unethically made it impossible for any other company to stay in business.
Clark knew that Netscape's success would draw the attention of Microsoft. But Microsoft, he feels, has gone too far.
To the Courts
The origins of the lawsuit against Microsoft occurred when Netscape approached PC manufacturers about including the Netscape browser on their desktops as an added value to customers. Companies that were originally enthusiastic soon told Netscape that they were prohibited from including Navigator on their computers, for reasons they could not disclose. It later became apparent that Microsoft had canceled Compaq's Windows 95 license when it ignored Microsoft's warning not to put Netscape on their hardware. The other manufacturers didn't want to take the risk of not having access to the leading operating system.The battle in the courts is ongoing as of this writing. But no matter whose side one might be on, Netscape Time offers a fascinating front-row look at the money, people, ideas, conflicts, and victories driving the Internet age from one of the industry's major players.