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Inspiration from Marc Andreessen

Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes

Marc Andreessen (1971–) is one of the true Internet pioneers who is responsible for the World Wide Web as we know it.

Success is taking your own path. Although school sports were the main focus of the majority of Andreessen’s peers, Marc had little interest in athletics. Andreessen instead pursued an interest in computers that began when he was in the fifth grade.

Success is a result of a dream followed by action. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), Andreessen was working on an assignment to write three-dimensional visualization software for the Center’s supercomputer when he dreamed up and implemented the first modern day Internet web browser.

Success is often a result of identifying and solving problems. The user-interfaces of available browsers of the early 90s tended not to be very user-friendly. Marc decided to develop a browser that was easier to use and more graphically rich that would lead to the Web’s instant popularity.

Success is seeking help when you need it. In 1992, Andreessen recruited fellow NCSA employee, Eric Bina, to help with his project. Together, the two would work many long and hard hours to create the first modern-day Web browser, called “Mosaic.”

Success is often a result of a chain reaction. When making Mosaic available for more popular platforms such as Windows and MAC, its popularity skyrocketed. More users meant a bigger Web audience, which led to the creation of new content, which in turn further increased the audience on the Web and so on.

Success is often a result of making the right connections. Despite Marc’s incredible work with Mosaic, because the project was developed on university time he would get neither any significant compensation nor recognition for his work. With the idea of a new start-up company (which eventually became Netscape), Marc soon met Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics, Inc., a man with both the money and connections to help bring Marc’s visions to the world.

Success is being able to inspire others. In developing the new web browser (Netscape), the programmers would sometimes work for 40 straight hours. As one employee recalls, they were driven by the vision of creating something better than the Mosaic.

Success is not always about cash up front. “One of the fundamental lessons is that market share now equals revenue later, and if you don’t have market share now, you are not going to have revenue later. Another fundamental lesson is that whoever gets the volume does win in the end. Just plain wins.”

Success is understanding the power of viral marketing. One of the “secrets” of success of the Netscape browser was the way in which it was marketed. The browser included new HTML tags that allowed Web designers greater control and creativity. Excited designers quickly began incorporating the new tags into their web pages. The new tags could only be read by Netscape, so the designers would usually include a note that their pages were best viewed with Netscape and a link to the page where it could be downloaded.

[Sources: http://www.thocp.net, http://www.ibiblio.org]

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 Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):

  • Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
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