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Marc Andreessen

Marc AndreessenAKA Marc Lowell Andreessen

Born: 26-Apr-1971
Birthplace: Cedar Falls, IA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Computer Programmer, Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Founder of Netscape

Andreessen was always interested in computers, and taught himself Basic from a book before he'd ever actually used a computer. In the sixth grade, he finally got access to a school computer, and wrote software to help him with his math homework. In seventh grade, his parents bought him a shiny new state-of-the-art Commodore 64 personal computer, and Andreessen started programming in earnest.

In college, Andreessen became acquainted with the newfangled "world wide web", which was then a territory mostly for geeks. Andreessen's bright idea was to design a master program that performed multiple functions behind an simplified user interface. It would require little or no expertise to operate, allow for vastly improved graphics, and let users just "browse" around the web like they would at a book store. "Hyperlinks" would allow programmers to set up short cuts between pages, so users didn't have to type long strings of characters to reach the page they were looking for. "Forward" and "Back" buttons would allow users to "navigate" the web.

Andreessen and a friend, Eric Bina, spent about a month and a half creating Mosaic, the first internet browser for non-geeks. But because Bina and Andreessen used college computer labs to write their program, the University of Illinois owned the program. Released in 1993, it became immensely popular, with over two million copies downloaded in its first year, but Mosaic didn't make Andreessen or Bina a dime.

After receiving his BS in computer science, Andreessen went to work as a computer programmer. That might have been the end of the story, but he got an unexpected email from Jim Clark at Silicon Graphics, Inc. Mosaic had gotten Clark's attention, and together Clark and Andreessen founded Mosaic Communications, with the goal of building an even better browser. The University of Illinois complained about the company's name, thus Mosaic was redubbed Netscape Communication Corporation.

Netscape's browser, called Navigator, was far easier and more effective that Mosaic, and Netscape's initial public offering was the most successful ever. In one day, it made Andreessen a multi-millionaire. In one year, Navigator had captured 85% of the market.

About six months after Navigator was introduced, Bill Gates became worried that Microsoft had been left behind in an emerging market. He told senior Microsoft executives to consider the Internet "the highest level of importance", and Microsoft purchased the rights to Andreessen's original Mosaic from the University of Illinois. A fleet of programmers were assigned to update the product, to be called Internet Explorer.

Microsoft had routinely let software developers have access to technical information on Windows (so products could be designed as Windows-compatible) but in June 1995 Microsoft stopped sending these technical updates to Netscape. Microsoft insisted that Explorer be set up as the default browser by computer manufacturers, under threat of yanking the manufacturer's Windows license. It used similar pressures to make the most popular internet service provider, America Online, "Explorer-friendly" -- and Navigator-difficult. In December 1995, Gates announced that Explorer would be included free with every copy of the Windows operating system.

Netscape responded by making its browser downloadable for free, and most users agreed that Navigator was a superior product, but it was a hopeless competitive mismatch. In 1999, Netscape was sold to AOL, and by 2002 Navigator's market share had dropped below 4%. Andreessen, meanwhile, served briefly as AOL's Chief Technical Officer, leaving to help found LoudCloud, which later became Opsware. The company sells dataflow management software.

Father: (seed salesman)
Mother: (works at Land's End)
Girlfriend: Elizabeth Horne (real estate agent, ex-)
Wife: Laura Arrillaga (dau. of John Arrillaga)

    High School: New Lisbon High School, New Lisbon, WI (1989)
    University: BS Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1993)

    AOL CTO (1999)
    Netscape CTO, later EVP Products (1994-99)
    Netscape Co-Founder (1994)
    Member of the Board of eBay (2008-14)
    Member of the Board of Facebook (2008-)
    Member of the Board of Hewlett-Packard (2009-)
    Member of the Board of Netscape (1994-99)
    Member of the Board of Orbitz
    Member of the Board of Opsware
    Effective Government Committee
    Facebook Inc. PAC
    Gore 2000
    Obama for America
    Restore Our Future
    Romney for President
    Ryan for Congress
    World Technology Network
    Funeral: Steve Jobs (2011)

Appears on the cover of:
Time, 19-Feb-1996, DETAILS: Cover, The Golden Geeks, BYLINE: James Collins


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