Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Attention Marc Andreessen: Microsoft Just Bought (Part of) Netscape

Here’s a deal that would have made many minds explode back in the 1990s: Microsoft is buying Netscape. Or at least most of the important parts of the company that used to be synonymous with “Internet.”

That’s a side component of the $1 billion patent sale that AOL and Microsoft announced this morning. As part of the transaction, AOL announced that it was selling off “stock of an AOL subsidiary” at a loss, in a move that’s supposed to reduce its overall tax bill.

AOL didn’t disclose the name of that subsidiary in its press release, but a person familiar with the transaction has clued me in: It’s Netscape.

Microsoft will buy the underlying patents for the old browser, but AOL will hang on to the brand and the related Netscape businesses, which make up a grab bag of stuff these days: An ISP, a URL, a brand name, etc.

All of which probably makes sense on someone’s ledger books. But the transaction may still make a few heads spin, at least for people who remember Internet history and/or have access to Wikipedia.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik