Marc Andreessen Biography

Inventor(1971–)
Marc Andreessen is best known for his work as a creator of the Netscape web browser.

Synopsis

Marc Andreessen, an American inventor, was born in Iowa and grew up in Wisconsin. While studying at the University of Illinois-Champagne, Andreessen became interested in the newly created Internet and started a graphic based browser to search the web. The company he created, Netscape, went public in 1995, but immediately began the "browser wars" with Microsoft.

Early Life

Inventor, Businessman. Born July 9, 1971 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and inventor of the graphical Web browser, got bored with computers before he even made it through high school. Although the tall, blond boy, who grew up in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, taught himself BASIC programming from a library book at age nine, by high school he'd run out of things to do with the his TRS-80, one of the primitive personal computers available in the mid-1980s. At the University of Illinois in Champaign, Andreessen only majored in computer science because he wasn't doing well in electrical engineering. Even with his new major, he frequently skipped class or dozed off, he later claimed.

Creation of Mosaic

While working in a physics lab at college, Andreessen felt his old interest in computers rekindled when he noticed scientists sharing their work with other universities via the Internet in the early 1990s. Tim Berners-Lee, aresearcher at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva, had recently developed the World Wide Web. Andreessen recruited a team of programmers to create a better way to explore the Web. After two months of 80-hour weeks in the computer lab, living on chocolate chip cookies and milk, Andreessen and his team churned out a graphical browser called Mosaic, which used pictures and mouse clicks to navigate through information. The team gave the Mosaic browser away free, and before long, some two million people were using it, enough to catch the attention of recently retired James Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics Inc., who was seeking new challenges.

Clark sent an email to Andreessen soon after he graduated from college, inviting the young man to discuss business possibilities. Although Clark had been interested in pursuing opportunities in the interactive television arena, Andreessen convinced him over a bottle of wine that the Internet was the key to the future.

Launching Netscape

Together, the two launched a company devoted to the World Wide Web called Mosaic, but changed the name to Netscape when the University of Illinois strenuously objected. To avoid copyright infringement issues, Andreessen recruited his old pals from college, where some were still working for $6.85 an hour, and they created a new version of the browser from scratch. The browser, given away free with a plea to users to pay for it, caught on in a flash; more importantly, corporations began purchasing Web server software and other tools to publish their own Web sites.

When Netscape went public in August 1995, the 24-year-old programmer found himself worth $56 million on paper. But it wasn't smooth sailing: Microsoft had announced its commitment to the Internet and had started giving its own browser away for free, seriously eroding Netscape's market share in a short period of time. The two companies launched the "browser wars" in the mid-1990s, constantly introducing new versions to woo consumers.

Other Ventures

When America Online (AOL) purchased Netscape in 1999, Andreessen, who had often criticized AOL for being technically backward, accepted a job as chief technology officer. He moved across country to the Washington, D.C. area, where he bought a 7,000-square-foot home to share with his three bulldogs. However, after only a few months, Andreessen resigned his position and became a part-time strategic adviser to the company, spending the balance of his time working with other start-up companies.

In October 1999, Andreessen announced the formation of Loudcloud Inc., a company that provides high-performance computing and software services to Internet and e-commerce companies. In addition to his post as chairman of Loudcloud, Andreessen has recently joined the board of directors of the Internet start-up ventures CollabNet, MobShop, CacheFlow, and Octopus.com.

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