San Francisco: It has been 15 years since Marc Andreessen first developed the Netscape Internet browser that introduced millions of people to the Internet.
After its early success, Netscape was roundly defeated by Microsoft in the so-called browser wars of the 1990s.
Andreessen appears set for a rematch. Now a prominent Silicon Valley financier, Andreessen is backing a start-up called RockMelt, staffed with some of his close associates, that is building a new Internet browser, according to people with knowledge of his investment.
"We have backed a really good team," Andreessen said in an interview earlier this summer. A moment later, Andreessen appeared to regret his comment, saying he was not ready to talk about any aspect of the company.
But Andreessen suggested the new browser would be different, saying that most other browsers had not kept pace with the evolution of the Web, which had grown from an array of static Web pages into a network of complex websites and applications. “There are all kinds of things that you would do differently if you are building a browser from scratch," Andreessen said.
RockMelt was co-founded by Eric Vishria and Tim Howes, both former executives at Opsware Inc., a company that Andreessen co-founded and then sold to Hewlett-Packard Co. in 2007 for about $1.6 billion.
Howes also worked at Netscape with Andreessen.
In the last 18 months, the Internet browser has become a battleground again with giants such as Google Inc., Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. battling one another.
The renewed interest in browsers is partly a result of the success of Mozilla, a non-profit foundation. The Firefox browser, introduced in 2004, has grabbed 23% of the market, and Microsoft's share dropped to 68%.
In the last 18 months, Microsoft and Apple introduced greatly improved versions of their browsers, Internet Explorer and Safari. And Google entered the fray last fall when it released its Chrome browser.
Last month, Google said it would build an operating system, also called Chrome, with its principal function being to support its browser.
But Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokeswoman, said her company was “not aware of any details about RockMelt and its product”.
©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES