The America Online/Netscape merger has been on my mind recently as I've been speculating on who was going to gain from the buyout, and who wasn't. The big winner is Microsoft.
For one thing, AOL's CEO Steve Case plans to stick with an Internet Explorer front end for his company's network.
For another, Netscape browsers will continue to evolve, but development will be done mainly through an open source software process in which Netscape's product will be relegated to the browser of choice for Linux users, diehard Internet veterans and the Anything But Microsoft crowd. I expect businesses to drop Netscape's browser out of concern that the software will no longer be supported.
Under the AOL/Netscape pact, Sun gets distribution rights to Netscape's server software, which will most likely undergo changes to make it more Java and Solaris friendly.
Rock and a hard place
Other Unix vendors get caught between a rock (Sun) and a hard place (Microsoft), but quite possibly will end up pushing a version of the free Apache Web server.
Should these Unix vendors do that, it's possible that the open source software version of Netscape's Web client will continue to grow as these vendors take on the job of supporting their version of the browser.
Left out in the cold is Novell. Now Novell's CEO, Eric Schmidt, needs to rely on his old friends at Sun to continue to produce a Web server for NetWare.
A lot has also been made of the "culture clash" between northern Virginia's AOL and Silicon Valley's Netscape, but I'd love to see the AOL mind-set come to the valley.
AOL's greatest strength has been the ease of use and user-friendliness of its network.
AOL came to dominate the online and dial-up markets because it gave the majority of people what they wanted with little fuss.