AOL To Buy Netscape?

Sunday November 22nd, 1998

From Ben Marklein comes this interesting news -- apparently AOL is considering a buyout of Netscape in a stock swap. For the news, check out and Techweb. Sun may be taking over Netscape's business application division.

UPDATE: Another more in-depth article is available at

Here's another article - this one from the New York Times website. To view it, you must be be a registered user (it's free, though, so check it out).

UPDATE: An article at confirms the rumors, but no deal has been reached at this time.

#1 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Joel Caris

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 6:26 PM

While I see some potential of this being very good, the whole thing worries me a great deal. What would AOL do to Netscape if it were to buy it out? How much change would occur? What if Netscape's browser was folded into AOL and stopped being available to those not using AOL? I doubt this would happen, but it worries.

What worries me more is what could happen to the open source movement. I would hate to see AOL pull the source code and put it back behind corporate walls.

However, I see some possible good in this deal, I must admit. Certainly, a coalition of AOL, Netscape, and Sun would be very powerful and quite able to compete against Microsoft. If AOL stayed true to Netscape, kept the browser open source, did nothing to fold it into the AOL service, and basically kept Netscape as a company intact, just owned by AOL, this deal could be good. It would definitely help assure the long term success of Netscape.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Joel Caris

#2 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Anonymous

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 7:04 PM

Regardless of what happens, the NPL is the NPL is the NPL. Nothing AOL or any other potential Netscape suitor does can reverse the course of Mozilla. The source is out there - now it's in your hands to use it. The NPL cannot be "revoked" by Netscape, AOL, or anyone else.

#3 How Open is Mozilla

by Benjamin Suto

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 7:04 PM

Maybe someone can enlighten me. If, say, AOL were to buy Netscape, does the NPL allow developers to continue developing the code that is currently available if, say, the browser were to become closed source as a result of this buyout?

#4 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 8:35 PM

Remember the idea of millions of CD's with Mozilla? Well it's gonna be a reality. This just means more development on Mozilla and more users.

#5 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Joel Caris

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 8:37 PM


The source that has been released is now out there, in the public domain. It cannot be taken back. People will continue to work on it, manipulate it, improve it, etc. However, if AOL were to buy Netscape and stop the open source program, no more updates would be given out. So when version 5.0 is released, an updated version of the code would not be released. However, the code out now will remain in the public domain.

Hopefully, the source code will continue to be released as was planned even if AOL buys out Netscape.

Joel Caris

#6 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Waldo

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 8:53 PM

This sucks.

Netscape's leadership on the Mozilla development has been essential to its development so far. Look at the email addresses of "high ranking" programmers and module owners at How many of them end in ""?

What happens when AOL decides that non mac/windows OSs aren't important for future browsers? AOL is everything that Open Source isn't: Closed, proprietary, self-interested, restrictive, self-censoring and creatively stifling.

If another company wants to buy out Netscape, that's fine. But not AOL! Please! Steve Case is no better than Bill Gates (worse, I'd say), and the reputation that his company has in being straightforward and open with even slightly technically minded public... ugh.

If this deal happens, I hope that someone at Netscape can help branch off the "real" development of Mozilla to somewhere else before the AOLers get control.

In short, I think this is bad. W

#7 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 9:24 PM

There was a while when Netscape was responsible for closed proprietary tags, arrogance and bloatedness in Netscape 4. So let's not pretend that Netscape was a total angel. On the other hand, AOL bought ICQ and I don't think ICQ sucks or is dying in any way. Quite the contrary.

#8 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Anonymous Coward

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 9:24 PM

We are AOL. You will be assimilated. We will take your individual lameness and integrate it into our own. We are AOL. Resistance is futile.

#9 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 10:37 PM

AOL's primary mission in life isn't to turn everyone into newbies come on. This way they can satisfy the newbies with regular AOL and there is also ICQ and Netscape for the web savvy. From their point of view, AOL browser isn't MSIE even though it uses the IE technology. Because while an AOL browser points to AOL/Netscenter and a Netscape browser points to AOL/Netcenter, the real MSIE points to MSN. So obviously they will promote Netscape browser and not MSIE. It's all about the portal. Let Netscape die and then AOL/Netcenter falls appart. Because AOL doesn't want to totally rely on the newbies

#10 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Daniel Hill

Sunday November 22nd, 1998 11:39 PM

According to the thing from the Washington Post, AOL are going to keep using IE as the default browser. So all this will do is allow AOL to kill NS and mozilla, and leave everything for Billy Boy. I know AOL will do that (well, the Australian operation would, they are really a bunch of a**eholes, can't say about the US mob). So shareholders, say NO! I know you want to

#11 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Knowledgeable Anonymous Person

Monday November 23rd, 1998 12:14 AM

Joel said: "However, if AOL were to buy Netscape and stop the open source program, no more updates would be given out. So when version 5.0 is released, an updated version of the code would not be released. However, the code out now will remain in the public domain."

This is simply rediculously untrue. The NPL holds everyone to it - even Netscape. Thus, if Netscape takes the code that's out there (NGLayout) and makes it better, they have to publish source for their improvements. That's what the NPL says. I would suggest that all these boneheads who suggest otherwise go take a quick read of the NPL so you can enlighten yourself.

#12 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by jdwayside

Monday November 23rd, 1998 12:17 AM

AOL is going to spend $4 BILLION dollars just bury Navigator? What are they getting in return? MSN?

#13 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Daniel Hill

Monday November 23rd, 1998 12:50 AM

$4 billion is NOTHING to them. They could lose that down the back of the couch. A small proce to pay to rid competition

#14 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Joel Caris

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:09 AM

Knowledgeable Anonymous Person,

Whoops, you caught me. I was wrong on my explanation. Sorry about that. I admit, I am not the most knowledgeable person on the subject, so I'm glad you corrected me. I should have realized that Netscape would have to realease modifications, though. Certainly, that is a relief. It means AOL shouldn't be able to kill of the open source unless they completely scrapped NGLayout and all contributions by the public in version 5.0, and I definitely do not see that happening.

Daniel, I don't see your scenario happening. Assuming AOL does buy out Netscape, they would not kill off Communicator. Not when they're spending $4 billion. The reason they would keep IE as the default browser is to maintain the position on Windows and to avoid undermining the DOJ.

Remember, AOL may be in bed with Microsoft, but I think the reason is because they feel it is necessary for their continued success. I would say AOL is still very wary of MS because they know MS would kill them off given the chance.

Joel Caris

#15 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Joel Caris

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:10 AM


$4 billion is a hell of a lot of money to both Microsoft and AOL. Even more so to AOL, and AOL is the one paying, not Microsoft.

Joel Caris

#16 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by AOL

Monday November 23rd, 1998 7:46 AM

1. AOL will continue to use IE for it's browser.

2. AOL have bought netscape for it's portal.

3. Netscape will be a foot note in history , like DEC.

4. The operating system will be the browser.

#17 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by simeon

Monday November 23rd, 1998 7:47 AM

Ok, had to put in my 2 cents.

- An enemy of my enemy is my friend.

- When IBM reigned in Lotus, it saved Lotus from certain death, while keeping their hands relatively off the product line.

- AOL bought Compuserve, and is marketing it towards the sophisticated user.

- AOL has lots and lots and lots of money, and lots and lots and lots of eyeballs. They must see something they really like in Netscape.

- There's nothing you can do to stop it ;-)

#18 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Anonymous Coward

Monday November 23rd, 1998 8:10 AM

The most profitable part of Netscape is the server side... why would AOL not want that portion of the business? Something fishy is going on here...

#19 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Joel Caris

Monday November 23rd, 1998 8:45 AM

AOL is not giving up the server software. It will just be partnering up with Sun to sell it. AOL is not in the server business, so it makes sense to have Sun sell it as Sun is in a better position to do that. AOL would still be making money on it.

Joel Caris

#20 NOOOOO!!!

by ryan berlin

Monday November 23rd, 1998 10:40 AM

My god, AOL teaming up with Netscape is one thing, buying is another. If AOL owns the netscape they have influance over devolopment, just like Linus and Linux. Then they would probbaly try to make "inovations" that would draw people to AOL. Good for AOL bad for us.

#21 Ouch.

by Matthew Miller

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:35 PM

I hope this deal falls through. It's the worst news I've heard in a long time.

We don't need ANOTHER Microsoft.

#22 ICQ = savvy??????????

by Matthew Miller

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:37 PM

Oh my. I hope you're being sarcastic. ICQ is so much the ultimate newbie toy.

#23 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Alex Chudnovsky

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:51 PM

For those of you who thinks AOL _pays_ 4 bln for Netscape, open your eyes, and re-read article:

It's a STOCK SWAP! _Valued_ at 4 bln at this very point of time, VERY likely, once they tried to sell it, such amount of shares on market would dump it down and they may get 1 bln, or less. This is EQUITY != MONEY

Well, I am finance student, so it's close for me to look at. Actually I always was sure Netscape will be bought back by Sun, Oracle or IBM. AOL comes to surpsise only if we forget their user base. 14 mln of new NN copies and -14 for MSIE would change market share considerably, and Netscape (a division of AOL now?) will have a lead. wow! AOL will be number 1 borwser developer on the Net.

Buyback appears to be only way for Netscape, but going with AOL may serve not well, except those EXECs who own lots of Netscape shares and gladly prefer to swap them for much more preferably AOLers...

From what I know AOL is highley proprietary service and extremely limiting to it's user, perhaps it's ideal for 'newbie' but their constant attempts to hold it proprietary and BADLY done(coded) sounds for me worse then MS.

But of course not for those who swap NSCP high positioned owners/founders who can not easily sell their (junk?) stocks (once they file their request sell it and market will spot it, the price of NSCP will go THAT DOWN, so they barely make any good money, well.

from Finance point of view, if I were them I would do same, swapping some paper for some other paper which still can be sold more or les s easily, sounds as good deal!


#24 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Monday November 23rd, 1998 1:58 PM

Yes Matthew, everyone who is anybody uses ICQ as their internet pager. What do you use?

#25 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Alex Chudnovsky

Monday November 23rd, 1998 2:39 PM

to airelb: I am afraid to sound sarcastic but it's possible to use AOL Instant messenger *laughs*

any one uses it????


#26 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Chris N.

Monday November 23rd, 1998 2:57 PM

I use Instant Messenger. I tried ICQ, and didn't like it. I thought the interface was just plain bad, and I didn't like being assigned a # instead of being allowed to choose a name.

I use IM to communicate with work (we standardized on Communicator, so it's easy to set up). I also communicate with my father via IM (he uses Communicator as well).

IM's a simple, no-hassle program that does exactly what I need it to do.

#27 APL?

by Renne

Monday November 23rd, 1998 4:07 PM

What if America On Line would relise there products under an open linsence, then people could use there accounts with an alternitive OS. Mahap it would ease the transisition from Win/IE to Linux ,or what ever OS you fancy, and Mozilla.

#28 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by ryan berlin

Monday November 23rd, 1998 4:43 PM

CBS news (the one thats on TV) just said that AOL bought Netscape. Gee, Mozilla was such a nice dream too.

#29 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Monday November 23rd, 1998 5:11 PM

And thank AOL for both IM and ICQ! Some people are so close minded they can't see any good from AOL. Imagine if AOL supports mozilla but with more money and resources? That would be much better than relying on a company that seems to change its policy every other month

#30 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by John Doe

Monday November 23rd, 1998 6:38 PM

You stupid idiot, AOL did not write ICQ! AOL just aquired Mirabilis, the creator of ICQ.

The only thing that AOL did was to bring cretin users like you online.

#31 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Monday November 23rd, 1998 9:05 PM

I never said they wrote ICQ. duh. My point was that they kept it the same way it was without turning it into some newbie junk.

#32 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Paul Pereira

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 1:10 AM

The purchase of Netscape by AOL makes strategic sense. Combining their portals, better prepares them to compete with the breath of Microsoft's online offerings. Also, AOL's bundling of Navigator with their software would surely restore Netscape's market share. However, the browser has become more than just an interface to the web. It is the client to the new world of enterprise web based applications like Ariba's, Extensity's, and many more to come. This new paradigm of application development leaves behind the complexities of client/server in favor of a fixed browser client no matter what program you use. The deployment cost savings alone justifies its appeal. However, when a company decides to spend upwards of a million dollars to install an enterprise web based application, you can understand the resistance they would have in using a consumer-oriented AOL Navigator as the client to their enterprise application. Although an AOL purchase would be good for consumers, it definitely would help Microsoft's case in the enterprise arena. I sure would hate to see my choice of browser options severely limited due to its association to its owner rather then its technical limitations. The ideal situation would be for Netscape to sell its portal (Netcenter) to AOL in exchange for AOL bundling Navigator with its software and for its browser, SuiteSpot, CommerceXpert software be sold to an Enterprise Software Provider like Oracle, Sun, IBM, or even Computer Associates. This would be a win win situation for all involved including consumers and businesses.

#33 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by Chris Knoll

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 7:46 AM

Hey, tempers are getting a bit hot around here (did someone say 'cretin?' 'idiot?') Although I don't contribute to the development of Mozilla, I hope that people won't be discouraged with this news, and remain civil and helpful and FRIENDLY on this forum!


#34 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by MozillaZine Admin.

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 8:17 AM

I agree with Chris. This isn't a place for that kind of talk. Please keep it out of this forum. People have been *very* thoughtful up to this point. Let's keep it that way.

--MozillaZine Admin.

#35 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by arielb

Tuesday November 24th, 1998 11:48 AM

Thanks Chris. I can understand why some people are upset by this AOL stuff. But we need to stay on focus and look at the future optimistically instead of moaning and groaning and whining all the time. That's _not_ going to help

#36 Re:AOL To Buy Netscape?

by C. Jimmy Yang

Thursday November 26th, 1998 12:07 PM

Anyone using ICQ? It is bought by AOL as well. I believe the AOL's policy to ICQ may be as well applied to Netscape.