Thought Leadership

The unknown icon

By Colin Walls

As in all walks of life, the high-tech world has its icons – key people who have been pivotal in getting us where we are today. It is easy to list some of the big names: Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs … the list goes on. Then there is Marc Andreessen. Who? I hear you ask – as I did myself when I stumbled across an interview with him. It would appear that, without Mr. A, the world might be different from the way it is …

Having learned how significant Marc Andreessen [MA hereafter] has been in shaping the world in which I live, I feel the urge to share some of his achievements:

Source: Wired

Many people I know started out using the Internet in the mid-1990s and the browser we all used was not Chrome or Internet Explorer or Safari, it was Netscape Navigator. This was derived from the first graphical browser, Mosaic, which had been developed by MA. He founded Netscape, which, in a couple of years, was worth nearly $3 billion. MA clearly foresaw the ubiquity of Internet connectivity that we now take for granted.

As the 1990s progressed, Netscape and Microsoft competed for dominance in the Web browser market. MA visualized the browser as being totally central to many users’ computing activity. He thought that there might come a time when the big operating system could be put aside and the browser do all the work. With that in mind, Navigator was enhanced in numerous ways to give it the necessary flexibility. This led to the invention of JavaScript, which is still very widely used today. His ultimate vision took quite a few more years and another, unheard of at that time, company: Google. Chrome OS is broadly an implementation of MA’s vision.

Around the turn of the Century, MA started to think about other ways that the Internet would influence business and concluded that they would rely on cloud services instead of having their own servers, with all the associated costs and overheads. He founded Loudcloud, which was later sold to Hewlett-Packard. This was just a bit ahead of its time, presaging the business now dominated by Amazon and Google.

MA dabbled in social media, before most of us had heard the term. Sadly [for him], Facebook appeared and very quickly dominated this space. In recent years, MA has focussed on a venture capital company that concentrates on businesses that can only exists because of the power of software and the Internet [think Airbnb, Craigslist, Uber – that kind of thing].

I am left wondering what he will think of next and should I invest in it? …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at