Twenty years ago today, Netscape’s shares began trading. To many the initial public offering of Netscape marked the beginning of the Internet age. It was certainly the first event that signified to the world outside of Silicon Valley how big the Internet could be. Much has changed since then but much remains that same. Netscape has largely disappeared. But technology companies, after the boom and bust that followed Netscape’s deal, are hot once again. These days it’s more about apps and smart phones than the Internet that Netscape opened for so many users two decades ago. And, unlike then, many of the hottest companies of the current tech boom are opting to stay private, and put off an IPO for as long as possible, ironically following the advice of Marc Andreessen, one of Netscape’s founders. Ten years ago, Fortune compiled an oral history of Netscape and its IPO. Many of the people involved in the deal are once again key figures in the current tech boom.
In the industries where there’s rapid productivity growth, everybody is freaked out, because what are people going to do after everything gets automated? In the other part of the economy, that second part, health care and education, people are freaked out about, "Oh my God, it’s going to eat the entire budget! It’s going to eat my personal budget. Health care and education is going to be every dollar I make as income, and it’s going to eat the national budget and drive the United States bankrupt!" And everybody in the economy is going to become either a nurse or teacher. It’s really funny, both sides of the economy get polar opposite emotional reactions. ... We are very much not present, in what we would consider to be a healthy way, in education, health care, construction, childcare, senior care. The great twist on that is that second category — that’s most of the GDP. Most of the spending is most of the GDP, and these are the areas where we have not yet been able to crack the code. ... How audacious or insane is it to think that you could bring tech to health care or education? It’s probably 50/50. ... What’s interesting is there are probably more new computer companies in the valley today than there were probably since 1982 — it’s just that the products are all these different shapes, sizes, and descriptions. ... Basically, the entire way we live today is a consequence of the invention of the automobile. Because, before that, people just never went anywhere. Therefore, everything that you travel to is a consequence of the automobile.