Today I took a moment to remember the reactions when AOL first acquired Netscape in 1998. Nine years later, it's ironic that a lot of Netscape employees had scrambled for the doors at the very first mention of the name "AOL."
"So many good people have left Netscape," one Netscape employee wrote on her web page when AOL finalized their acquisition, "people who were with Netscape for 3 or 4 years... Three other people I know are leaving within the month, regardless. I don't think any of them have jobs lined up or are even very interested in looking. Joe left last week without even waiting the week it would take him to get the bonus check..."
The mood was obvious from her site's answers for frequently-asked questions.
Question: "How does it feel to wake up as an AOL employee?"
Answer: "It sucks, duh."
Maybe it's a fitting coda that in the end, AOL wasn't able to successfully commercialize the beloved first browser of many long-time net users.
With the news Friday that AOL would discontinue support for Netscape in February, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit this 1998 song parody (sung to the tune of "The Night They Sold Ol' Dixie Down"). It captures the shock of AOL's original acquisition, but maybe it also predicted the beginning of the end.
Marc Andreesen's my name
And I sold out to AOL.
When four billion dollars came
and the shareholders said "What the hell..."
In the winter of '98
I found funding -- just a little too late.
Mozilla found he'll have to bail
to a sound file that shouts out "You've Got Mail."
The night they sold old Netscape down
And all the browsers went corporate
The night they sold old Netscape down.
And meanwhile back in the chat rooms they typed
"La la la la la la
la la, la la la la la la la...."