Andreessen: IE faces one-two punch

Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen says Microsoft faces serious competition from smaller alternative browsers.

SAN FRANCISCO--The Web browser wars may have been reignited, according to browser pioneer Marc Andreessen.

This time, it's not Andreessen's former company, Netscape Communications, that's taking on Microsoft's Internet Explorer. It's the increasingly popular smaller products such as Apple Computer's Safari and the open-source Firefox, Andreessen said.

"It may turn out that there's a one-two punch with Firefox and Safari," Andreessen said Wednesday at the Web 2.0 conference here. "Microsoft is certainly going to respond competitively."

Firefox owes more than a debt of gratitude to Netscape. The company created and funded the open-source Mozilla project that created it, although Mozilla was later spun off as an independent group.

Claiming browser development has been at a standstill since 1998, Andreessen said the recent emergence of competitive software will force Microsoft to pay more attention to developing new features in IE.

However, competition could compel the company to use aggressive tactics to protect its Windows operating system monopoly, he warned. Microsoft's maneuvers against Netscape ensnared the software giant in a lengthy federal antitrust suit. Microsoft was found to have violated antitrust law, but was spared from a breakup of the company.

Andreessen said he doesn't expect Microsoft to change its way of doing things should it detect a threat from Safari and Firefox.

"If I were (Microsoft) I'd take another look, and I would see how I could screw with other people's businesses with this monopoly (I) have," he said.

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