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Netscape Firebrand Tones it Down

SAN FRANCISCO -- Marc Andreeson wasn't shy about criticizing Microsoft back in the days when the software giant slowly ate away at Netscape's once dominant browser's market share. Andreeson, of course, founded Netscape and the pioneering browser of the same name.

In the government's antitrust case against the software giant over bundling and monopolistic practices, former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz was famously quoted in an internal email that bundling Internet Explorer with Windows would "cut off Netscape's air supply".

But Andreeson, co-founder of social networking site, Ning, was given plenty of chances to zing Microsoft here in a keynote interview at the Web 2.0 conference today, but took a pass. Asked what he thinks of Bill Gates, Andreeson said he made "an unbelievable contribution to industry. It's hard to conceive of the PC  industry [evolving] if Microsoft hadn't standardized the OS and IBM the PC. If that incompatible regime had continued the PC industry would be much smaller and I don't think the Internet would have had the growth it's had."

He also noted the mobile side reminds him a lot of the PC industry before standard platforms evolved. "I don't know if it ever will" standardize, he said.

Asked by an audience member what can be done about all the security holes in today's browsers Andreeson said, "I can't do a damn thing."

There was perhaps a more subtle dig at Microsoft in his follow up. "The browser and systems software over a long period of time has gotten quite complicated," said Andreeson. "That means a continuous cat and mouse game for years to come" between Internet developers and criminals looking to exploit weakness in the systems.

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