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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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work