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What Netscape's Founder Thinks About the New Google Browser

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Marc Andreessen, whose first startup, Netscape Communications, introduced the consumer web to millions thanks to its Netscape browser, seems to be suitably impressed by Google’s recently released Chrome browser. He waxed eloquent about Chrome during an onstage conversation with Portfolio magazine contributing editor Kevin Maney at The Churchill Club in Palo Alto, Calif. “Any desktop application that has not been implemented in the browser is now going to be implemented in the browser,” Andreessen said. It was an idea he had espoused over a decade ago.

Blown away by the speed of the browser, and its radical and innovative JavaScript engine, Andreessen called the launch of Chrome an “extraordinary event.” He said that it is going to make Firefox and Internet Explorer compete actively with Chrome and that it would ultimately boost browsers as a whole. Mozilla CEO John Lilly had shared similar sentiments in an interview earlier this week.

“Microsoft can build good products when they want to,” he said. The barons of Redmond released a version of Internet Explorer that was superior to a bloated version of Netscape and gave it away for free, driving a stake through Netscape’s heart. That’s ancient history, anyway. Andreessen thinks that IE and Firefox will have to accelerate their plans and introduce new technologies. He thinks that all this is going to boost the performance of JavaScript. Giving into nostalgia for a minute, he pointed out that it was 10 feet away from his desk at Netscape that JavaScript first got going. He said.

More than a decade later it is everywhere. “If JavaScript gets any faster, then developers will question if they should develop in Flash or (Microsoft’s) Silverlight (technologies),”
“Super interactive browser that sits atop a super-fast connection…now interesting things will happen over the next 5-10 years,” he said. While he talked at length about Facebook, Twitter, Qik and Ning, it was his comments about the Chrome browser that were quite interesting.

Why? Because back in the day he was one of the first few people to talk about the browser as an operating environment. I had bought into the concept then, and I buy into it now. With always-on connections feeding networked devices and mobile phones, the browser-as-an-operating-environment is close to becoming a reality.

During the Q&A session, in response to a question, Andreessen said the share of Google’s browser market share depends on the company’s ability to fully productize the browser and then distribute it.

P.S.: I tried to take notes as fast as I could, but since Marc speaks too fast I apologize if some of the quotes might be wee bit mangled.

26 Responses to “What Netscape's Founder Thinks About the New Google Browser”

  1. Sarah Andersen

    marc is smart but back in the day i suggested to him that netscape focus on being a ‘communications’ company not a software company. ironically, it was called ‘netscape communications corp.’ instead, netscape focused on software licensing and software business models, actually charging for its browser… which let everyone else (ebay, yahoo, google, amazon, etc.) end up owning the web services.

    anyone recall when yahoo (and other search/directories) had to pay netscape $4million a year to be bundled on

    unfortunately, execs from fedex and fortune 500 ruined netscape because they didn’t understand the web opportunity clearly

  2. Flash is the weakest link in the chain. It is too slow, too bloated. Javascript is just now on the verge of providing the functionality to do away with it forever. Learn more at

  3. “Any desktop application that has not been implemented in the browser is now going to be implemented in the browser,”

    Seems to me that iTunes has snuck under the radar. It’s built upon WebKit just like Chrome, and yet 99.9% of the people who use it think it’s a desktop app, cause it works just like one.

  4. Impatient

    Good article, although I don’t agree with Andreessen that Chrome is a world-changer. Basically Google is trying to protect their investment in Javascript. How many people right now are dissatisfied with their JS performance? About 1%. And if more web apps start to use more JS, as is likely, IE and FF will respond. Chrome has a role, but it is not revolutionary.

  5. “If JavaScript gets any faster, then developers will question if they should develop in Flash…”

    Well, we should always be questioning, testing the best way to achieve a project’s goal…. ;-)

    But it’s not enough for a faster JavaScript implementation to appear on your desktop. It really needs to appear on your audience’s desktops. Microsoft HTML runtimes dominate webpage viewing, and IE7 only recently overtook IE6. Nobody has shown the capability to crack Microsoft’s crushing marketshare in Ajax runtimes.

    If you’ve got a computationally intensive task to perform on your audience’s desktops, then Adobe Flash Player fits in, regardless of each audience member’s choice in operating system, browser brand, or browser version. Player innovations become supported on 80-90% of the world’s computers within a half-year.

    It’s hard to get people to switch their browser, even to update their browser… it’s a big environment, the UI and habits change. Fortunately there’s a way — cross-browser plugins — to have innovation fit into their existing environments.

    Over 95% of the world’s browsers already have a scripting JIT today. Innovation can come a little faster, when it fits in to what people are already doing.


  6. Though I wouldn’t push Adobe Flash too down, it has more capabilities than JavaScript on it’s own. Video, Audio, wonderful effects, transitions, animation, and just simply looks much much nicer (on any browser!). Sure Chrome will be a boost for JavaScript, but I feel Adobe will have the lead in 2009.

  7. I don’t think the (long overdue) faster processing of JavaScript is anywhere near enough to make developers shy away from Flash or Silverlight. Flash and Silverlight bring true desktop functionality to RIAs right now, JavaScript (and HTML/CSS) are still trying to catch up on desktop software from many years ago.

  8. Quote:

    “PS: I tried to take notes as fast as I could, but since Marc speaks too fast I apologize if some of the quotes might be wee bit mangled.

    Honestly Om, it may sound impolite, but I do not see anything substantial in this piece and I was disappointed. What is Marc’s take, what does he want to convey, what is the future road map, where does he sees all these fitting into the seemingly jigshaw puzzle of browsers?

    The other day at Zoho blogs, with comparatively substantial arguments, Flash/Silvelight death was predicted. Chrome does provide Flash plugins! I think they will not hesitate to provide Silverlight plugin as well! – what Google has got to loose in this, nothing! (Only constraint being it will push MS technologies)

    Chrome is decent and it is lauched with much secrecy. I mean google just launched it and it was not very much known earlier! After spending some time, the only thing of value to me or any developer is a better JS VM Engine. Rest like omnibar (I do not like it), incognito window, search, import of stuffs from mozilla/IE, most visited sites et al – do not show any tangible change. They have been done by others already.

    Well, the browser is good, but I really do believe it is too much hyped. Google with its cash load, PhDs/MS on board, standard of recruitment etc – it really wanna show something, then I guess, has to show something like search, which though not original was an amazingly great user experience. Gmail, Docs, Blogs, Scholar, Books etc and now browser are fine, but where is the real breakthrough??? Even AJAX has a great appeal for an end user and the developer!

    I guess we see the same old phenomena getting repeated. MS with Windows and Office, Google with its Search, IBM with its Mainframe. They bring a breakthrough/very good user experience combined with productivity and after that only knows how to stay afloat/dominant. Only exception being Apple – which has amazingly done well a real innovative company.