Microsoft cannibalizes the heart of Netscape in billion dollar patent deal

 

If you had a time machine (no, not that time machine) and went back to the 1990s and said that Microsoft would one day buy Netscape’s patents, most would have laughed at you. Fast forward to this morning when AOL announced that it will be selling 1 billion dollars worth of patents to Microsoft and that is exactly what is happening according to AllthingsD.com.

The information comes from that announcement where AOL said that it will be selling off stock of a subsidiary and according to reports, that subsidiary is Netscape. Not that we needed to rubber stamp that Netscape was dead but this effectively makes Netscape part of Microsoft.

“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 onto 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.”

While the brand name will not be transferred to Microsoft, everything that made Netscape tick will now be in control of Ballmer and company. In total, Microsoft bought 800 patents from AOL for a cool billion dollars and most of the money is expected to be returned to shareholders. 

Image Credit: cybernetnews.com

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My mistake... regarding Gecko... was pre-Mozilla foundation =)

But again, when you open source something that is basically (similar to) the GNU General Public License... the cat is out of the bag.

Firefox (the Mozilla Foundation) is not owned by AOL, it was founded by a Netscape Affiliate. The Gecko technology is new, I don't believe AOL would have any rights to it thus not able to sell it off. Netscape did develope SSL and javascript... and so who knows what other browser technologies. Moreover, who knows what kind of control MS would have now since most of the stuff is open sourced. They may just be in a better position to help guide the technologies... and there might be some patients that are not as glamorous or used that could be used later down the road.

[mild_rant]
@thenetavenger I agree with most of what you have said. Except for the part where it was Netscape's sole fault for its decline. Yes IE had more things going for it, (MS was very competitive, and were ahead of their time - they had AJAX before AJAX was given a name...), but the advantage really was not in IE and all the cool stuff... the advantage of coupling IE with Windows made a difference in the age of dialup and search engines/directories being in their infancy. I would actually argue that IE has really seen a decline because people can get access to other browsers in seconds, where downloading a 10-15MB browser was a major pain in the early days... that is what really put IE over the top regardless of it having superiour features. Now with each browser being very close in features and even security... you see the shares normalizing. Today, because of the easy of aquiring, given the chance, people will use more than one of the top browsers.[/mild_rant]

So wait. Does this mean Microsoft owns some of Firefox's code? It is possible they sue them out of existence with patent violations? I'm theorizing here and asking silly questions but could/will it happen?

Hopefully they use some of Netscape's/FF code to make IE better

butilikethecookie said,
So wait. Does this mean Microsoft owns some of Firefox's code? It is possible they sue them out of existence with patent violations? I'm theorizing here and asking silly questions but could/will it happen?

Hopefully they use some of Netscape's/FF code to make IE better

They wont go after FF, because it is non profit organisation.

butilikethecookie said,
So wait. Does this mean Microsoft owns some of Firefox's code? It is possible they sue them out of existence with patent violations? I'm theorizing here and asking silly questions but could/will it happen?

Hopefully they use some of Netscape's/FF code to make IE better

I just spit coffee... Firefox is more analogous to IE8 technology, IE9 is so different from how Firefox works it would be like strapping wooden wheels on a Corvette.

So Microsoft owns the Netscape patents. Basically #ol had a yard sale, MS offered a few $ more than Bob and threw it in the back of the Ford. I love the new Aol but yardsaling it to survive? Wow. Maybe Lycos, Altavista, Excite & Hotbot should buddy up w/ old girl to keep her going.

1) Microsoft did not 'kill and eat' Netscape - they failed on their own. IE4 vs Netscape 4 was pivotal in the Internet and at a time when connections were flaky dial-up, there is a reason people were using IE4 instead of Netscape. For example, a missing end table tag because of a bad connection would leave the page blank in Netscape 4, where IE4 would go, there should probably be a end table, so we are going to display the table. (Later on people would be angry at IE for doing this, as it was not 'standards' compliant, but in hands of end users, seeing the page was more important than if the browser was going to pass the Acid Test years later.)

2) IE4 also created a better DOM, and is the DOM that EVERYONE uses today, based off of Microsoft IE4 work, which offered more dynamic and programmatic access than Netscape's attempt at a DOM. Microsoft adopted existing concepts from their OLE/ActiveX model for the DOM of IE4, and today we still use this construct in Chrome and Firefox as it is now the 'standard'.


Microsoft really gets 'crapped' on a lot by writers that have no sense of history what was happening in the crucial years of the internet, and love to throw around how Microsoft killed the internet or killed Netscape. (We would have had HTML5 like features 12 years ago if Microsoft's specification proposals were accepted, and not thrown out for political reasons by pressure from Sun, IBM, AOL, etc... )

IE changed the internet SIGNIFICANTLY with IE4 and IE5, but people forget that a majority of everything on the internet today is using things INVENTED and CREATED by Microsoft.

IE4 was the track that led to IE5, which had more 'functionality' in 1999 than most Browsers did in 2005. (XHR, CSS features, and on and on...) However, they were Microsoft proposals and thrown out because of all the tech industry politics and the anti-Microsoft movement. It wasn't until around 2004/2005 that other browsers started to pick these technologies back up as they found them useful and it was like buried gold when they understood what the technologies were capable of doing.


There is more politics and scam to IE's negative image onthe internet and even OpenXML was hit by the same politics, as Microsoft OfficeXML was ready to ship as the default save format in 1999 for Office 2000, but was 'PREVENTED' from doing so...

Years later as the OpenDocument group met, it was designed to create what Microsoft was lampooned for having created 4 years earlier. Sun having veto power, shut out Microsoft and rejected the OfficeXML format Microsoft was offering the group to do and use as they wanted.

Even years later as OfficeXML and OpenDocument fought for standards, Sun was arguing in courts and in public that OfficeXML was too new and not as Mature and that is why it should be rejected. (The dirty secret being it existed 4 or 5 years before the OpenDocument group EVER met, and was stopped from being Office's standard save format by companies like Sun and IBM.)

(In the RC and Betas of Office 2000the OfficeXML features were awesome, as a Word or Excel document would display in any browser without any assistance back in 1999, and scaled up 'display' quality based on the features of the browser, meaning it would display on very old pure HTML browsers and even WAP.. it was freaking awesome.) -Thank you Sun for saving us from this 'nightmare' that you later worked to create your own version that is still less functional thanthings OfficeXML was doing in 1999.

If people want to write about how the internet or browsers were cannibalized, they should do some research, as Sun and IBM will be the key companies that halted the progression of technology on the internet and created havoc for developers in the late 90s and early 00s, which they happily got away with blaming on Microsoft.


This is not the original article I was looking for, but it hits key points of the IE4/IE5 era in technology terms, without delving into the political side of things.

http://net.tutsplus.com/articl...nternet-explorer-got-right/

So when writing your remote scripting code and accessing DOM features using JavaScript in Chrome or Firefox, remember you are using Microsoft technology they invented. (Just like they created the more advanced CSS features, XHTML, and the general functionality of DHTML too.)

I don't care if they bought the Netscape patents, If Microsoft uses them 'offensively' it would be a break with their current policy that leaves people alone unless they are shipping a product for profit based on Microsoft technology (Red Hat, Android phone makers, etc. - Note they don't touch the free or non-competitive Linux distributions or technologies.)

Gaffney said,
What exactly does this mean? Will this mean we will see some awesome things in IE10 or 11?

Maybe? I find it pretty interesting in any case.

Dead'Soul said,
Patent wars, again?

By buying netscape patents, microsoft admitted IE is smoked by others...

maybe they'll use the info to improve IE?

Dead'Soul said,
Patent wars, again?

By buying netscape patents, microsoft admitted IE is smoked by others...

You know that Netscape is where JavaScript and SSL came from? Those are valuable features. I'm not sure any browser "smokes" any other now.

FMH said,

+1. And a whole lot of monopoly tactics.

Oh but wait, MS didn't do it, just ask the fanboys! wait til they put down the kool-aid first tho lol

Order_66 said,
Netscape originally went under because Microsoft broke the law despite what Ms fanboys would have you believe.

No, Netscape went under because they continued trying to sell their browser when everyone else was giving theirs away. By that time it had become so bloated with unwanted and unneeded features that it was useless. Microsoft lost the case due to OEM licensing and bundling, not Netscape. (Despite what MS haters want to believe.)

GreyWolf said,

(Despite what MS haters want to believe.)

If memory serves me correct, they never lost either, just just settled the case. They did lose in EU and ended up doing browser ballot.

GreyWolf said,

No, Netscape went under because they continued trying to sell their browser when everyone else was giving theirs away. By that time it had become so bloated with unwanted and unneeded features that it was useless. Microsoft lost the case due to OEM licensing and bundling, not Netscape. (Despite what MS haters want to believe.)

Very good comeback +1000

Order_66 said,
Netscape originally went under because Microsoft broke the law despite what Ms fanboys would have you believe.

Really?

After the anti-trust rulings, Netscape's creator publicly stated the Microsoft anti-trust was wrong in retrospect. (Marc Anderson said this a few times, and a few other significant members of Netscape later on as well.)

Netscape failed because of technical features it lacked, and a failed market plan.

Netscape was commercial software that was only accessible for free in Beta from.

This is where their business model failed, as IBM and later Microsoft was including HTML rendering as a 'staple' of what an OS provides, just like displaying bitmaps and fonts.

Netscape also continually rejected the concept of a 'HTML rendering engine', which is why Microsoft contacted them first instead of wanting to create IE themselves. They wanted an HTML rendering engine, not just a browser. This was unacceptable to Netscape in their current business model of a commercial selling browser application.

The modularity and 'rendering engine' later continued to hurt Netscape, and is why in 2000 after AOL owned Netscape, they were STILL using IE as the 'HTML engine' in their AOL software.

Mozilla and Firefox and other technologies like WebKit started to have success when they ALSO followed IE's design model and created an 'engine' and not just a browser.

So years later, and even after the head of Netscape at the time disagrees with you, you see to think you know better?

Wow...

thenetavenger said,

Really?

After the anti-trust rulings, Netscape's creator publicly stated the Microsoft anti-trust was wrong in retrospect. (Marc Anderson said this a few times, and a few other significant members of Netscape later on as well.)

Netscape failed because of technical features it lacked, and a failed market plan.

Netscape was commercial software that was only accessible for free in Beta from.

This is where their business model failed, as IBM and later Microsoft was including HTML rendering as a 'staple' of what an OS provides, just like displaying bitmaps and fonts.

Netscape also continually rejected the concept of a 'HTML rendering engine', which is why Microsoft contacted them first instead of wanting to create IE themselves. They wanted an HTML rendering engine, not just a browser. This was unacceptable to Netscape in their current business model of a commercial selling browser application.

The modularity and 'rendering engine' later continued to hurt Netscape, and is why in 2000 after AOL owned Netscape, they were STILL using IE as the 'HTML engine' in their AOL software.

Mozilla and Firefox and other technologies like WebKit started to have success when they ALSO followed IE's design model and created an 'engine' and not just a browser.

So years later, and even after the head of Netscape at the time disagrees with you, you see to think you know better?

Wow...

Good post.

thenetavenger said,

Wow...

Wow is right, I understand that facts can sometimes be difficult to swallow, especially when it comes to a company that someone is madly in love with and will say/do anything to support them.

If you read my post instead of blindly going with your passions regarding microsoft you would notice I said "Netscape originally" went under, not because of mistakes they made later on after it was clear that they were in ruins, not because of what netscapes creator said after the fact.
Netscape originally lost because microsoft bundled ie with their OS, it's pretty cut and dry folks, and no amount of sophistry or kool-aid drinking will ever change that fact.

ONE BILLION DOLLARS
Holy crap that is a lot. You don't spend that much on patents unless you are going to Troll. Bye bye Mozilla Google Opera, etc. (not Apple, They have a Broad cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft) Microsoft are going to sue you for everything they've got. Makes me sick to even pay AOL that much money, I was hoping that AOL would eventually sink without getting any cash injections on the way.

To put this into perspective, Microsoft paid $1 Billion to Nokia and that is the cornerstone deal of an entire market segment, I would hate to know what they are going to turn Netscape into.

If my fears are right and Microsoft get sue Happy, hopefully this raises a few eyebrows in Governments about software patents.

And I thaught that Mozilla would have been safe because they spawned from Netscape and would automatically have access to all of Netscape patents since they were the same organisation before bring spun off. How naive of me.

Simon- said,
ONE BILLION DOLLARS
Holy crap that is a lot. You don't spend that much on patents unless you are going to Troll. Bye bye Mozilla Google Opera, etc. (not Apple, They have a Broad cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft) Microsoft are going to sue you for everything they've got. Makes me sick to even pay AOL that much money, I was hoping that AOL would eventually sink without getting any cash injections on the way.

To put this into perspective, Microsoft paid $1 Billion to Nokia and that is the cornerstone deal of an entire market segment, I would hate to know what they are going to turn Netscape into.

If my fears are right and Microsoft get sue Happy, hopefully this raises a few eyebrows in Governments about software patents.

And I thaught that Mozilla would have been safe because they spawned from Netscape and would automatically have access to all of Netscape patents since they were the same organisation before bring spun off. How naive of me.

Microsoft won't do anything towards Mozilla, however, I'm not so sure about Chrome.

Minimoose said,

Microsoft won't do anything towards Mozilla, however, I'm not so sure about Chrome.


I think this has more to do with Chrome in Android.

Simon- said,
ONE BILLION DOLLARS
Holy crap that is a lot. You don't spend that much on patents unless you are going to Troll. Bye bye Mozilla Google Opera, etc. (not Apple, They have a Broad cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft) Microsoft are going to sue you for everything they've got. Makes me sick to even pay AOL that much money, I was hoping that AOL would eventually sink without getting any cash injections on the way.

To put this into perspective, Microsoft paid $1 Billion to Nokia and that is the cornerstone deal of an entire market segment, I would hate to know what they are going to turn Netscape into.

If my fears are right and Microsoft get sue Happy, hopefully this raises a few eyebrows in Governments about software patents.

And I thaught that Mozilla would have been safe because they spawned from Netscape and would automatically have access to all of Netscape patents since they were the same organisation before bring spun off. How naive of me.

Though Mozilla was started by the former Netscape employees, they do not hold the patent to the Netscape engine (Gecko). Mozilla is not likely to be sued or forced to pay licensing fees as a non-profit but others will. Opera and Safari don't use Gecko engine and therefore may be spared.

Simon- said,
ONE BILLION DOLLARS
Holy crap that is a lot. You don't spend that much on patents unless you are going to Troll. Bye bye Mozilla Google Opera, etc. (not Apple, They have a Broad cross-licensing agreement with Microsoft) Microsoft are going to sue you for everything they've got. Makes me sick to even pay AOL that much money, I was hoping that AOL would eventually sink without getting any cash injections on the way.

To put this into perspective, Microsoft paid $1 Billion to Nokia and that is the cornerstone deal of an entire market segment, I would hate to know what they are going to turn Netscape into.

If my fears are right and Microsoft get sue Happy, hopefully this raises a few eyebrows in Governments about software patents.

And I thaught that Mozilla would have been safe because they spawned from Netscape and would automatically have access to all of Netscape patents since they were the same organisation before bring spun off. How naive of me.

MS won't touch Opera, thats for sure. Even I won't touch Opera anymore after using it for 4 years, they have screwed the PC version up so much its barely usable anymore, flash videos open up so damn slow, pages keep crashing, meh. Back to IE9.

GreyWolf said,
Netscape committed suicide. Nobody killed them.

Kind of. Netscape Communicator 4.0 came to my mind...

But this means that Netscape lives on in a sense.

coolvi said,

Kind of. Netscape Communicator 4.0 came to my mind...
Uh..that version finally made me call it Nutscrape - thats what it felt like to use it

Spyder said,
Uh..that version finally made me call it Nutscrape - thats what it felt like to use it

Ahh good old Nutscrape Nausiator... Good times. Good times. I actually forced myself to use it just to not use IE back in the day.

Karendar said,

Ahh good old Nutscrape Nausiator... Good times. Good times. I actually forced myself to use it just to not use IE back in the day.

Even though IE was way better back then? Ouch. It's pretty much a given that IE4 was what killed Netscape and it was pretty far ahead feature wise at the time. Also when it came to standards support, which is kinda ironic when you think about it.

Spyder said,
Uh..that version finally made me call it Nutscrape - thats what it felt like to use it

Nutscrape Masturbater is what called it. lol

svnO.o said,
I just wonder how they will be using these patents and if Chrome/Firefox are violating any of them.

They won't go after a non-profit organization, but Chrome will probably be targeted.

FMH said,

They won't go after a non-profit organization, but Chrome will probably be targeted.

Nothing will happen - Microsoft aren't patent trolls like apple. These are probably more defensive than anything.

FMH said,

They won't go after a non-profit organization, but Chrome will probably be targeted.

Agreed. And since Google doesn't like to license technology that they use, I'm sure they're in violation of a multitude of things. I wouldn't be surprised if this was mostly to go after Google.

9point6 said,

Nothing will happen - Microsoft aren't patent trolls like apple. These are probably more defensive than anything.

I mostly agree. Microsoft doesn't usually go after companies to stop their product sales, like Apple does.
But they are into licensing. They have made most of the Android/ChromeOS OEMs to sign a license deal with them.
I agree with this strategy. It removes Android's unfair advantage of being "free", and also makes them money.

MrXXIV said,
I would say finally, but holy crap, a billion?

The prize got raised probably due to some internal auctioning. Investors expected it to be worth $300 million, so they're really happy today. The stock is up 50%, as of now.

MrXXIV said,
I would say finally, but holy crap, a billion?

I think that's peanuts for MS, hell HP paid that for Palm just to get webOS. I mean, it's cheap compared to what Google is going to spend for Motorola Mobility, $12 billion iirc.

Besides, hate it or love it, AOL has been around for a very long time and probably has a good chunk of useful internet patents, so who knows?

GP007 said,

I think that's peanuts for MS, hell HP paid that for Palm just to get webOS. I mean, it's cheap compared to what Google is going to spend for Motorola Mobility, $12 billion iirc.

Besides, hate it or love it, AOL has been around for a very long time and probably has a good chunk of useful internet patents, so who knows?

There's just something about "AOL" and "Useless internet [anything]" in the same sentence that I find funny. LOL

s3n4te said,
Does this mean that Microsfot will own Firefox too?

Well, not exactly, but they probably bought the Gecko patent which is the engine used in Firefox and other applications.

s3n4te said,
Does this mean that Microsfot will own Firefox too?

I doubt MS wants to do anything to Firefox, they don't really have a reason to, at the least this should mean MS can now use Gecko bits and whatever else for IE that these new patents cover. I think it's a win-win in the end.

s3n4te said,
Does this mean that Microsfot will own Firefox too?

Microsoft will own a lot of the patents for it BUt I do not think microsoft will actually do anything. This is probably more of a protection from lawsuits thing than anything else.

Keep in mind that everytime Mozilla released a new version they sent them a cake or cupcake. So I do not think microsoft would do anything like that.