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CNET News Video: Marc Andreessen, past and present
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CNET News Video: Marc Andreessen, past and present

5:50 /

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and co-author of Mosaic, sits down with John Battelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media publishing at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Andreessen talks about his current social-networking site Ning, and the impact of Facebook apps and Google's OpenSocial.

^B00:00:00 >> The advantage today of building a site that can be used through a browser is you have access to everybody in the world who has a browser. And if you build your site any other way, you know, you're choking off your audience. >> Right. >> And so there is really no incentive for anybody to create any sort of service that isn't accessed through a browser. And so, therefore, there's no incentive for a user to use anything other than a browser. And, in fact, what's been happening in the last five years is just really striking, which is more and more stuff is being put on the browser, right? >> Yeah. >> So -- give you an example. So, you know, it's been sort of this cliche in the industry that email is, you know, used by old people -- like you and me -- and then instant messaging is used by kids. Well, it turns out, instant messaging was used by kids five years ago. Instant messaging is actually falling on a relative basis, and it turns out that kids -- real kids today are communicating primarily, of course, through social networking, through Facebook and MySpace, which are websites that run in a browser. So all of a sudden you've got a whole generation of kids where they're literally communicating through the browser. And like that, we would have never anticipated that. We would have never predicted that. >> If you look at the landscape now, the legacy of the browser and where we are right now, what is it you like about what you're seeing? And what is it you wish, perhaps, might have evolved differently? >> Oh. You know, I think it's -- I mean I think it's turned out, you know, a lot -- as I say, far better than anybody could have possibly thought. I think that, you know, if there's one big surprise in it all, I think it's -- and this really shouldn't be a surprise from a sort of history of technology standpoint. But, maybe the big surprise is how many of the early ideas that we had, which in many ways were experiments, have lasted. And have become very significant. So... >> Okay. >> But, you know, JaveScript. We needed a scripting language. We knew we needed the browser to be programmable, so we created JavaScript. And we just -- we wrote it. We put it in there. And we wrote it 'cause we just -- we, at the time, we couldn't identify a better alternative and we wanted to write a language that would be similar to Java 'cause everybody thought Java would be the dominant language for applets in the browser. So we wrote JavaScript. And, you know, it came out, burst of enthusiasm, then sort of a long fallow period, and then in the last five years it's become just an enormous, you know... >> Yeah. >> ...an enormous phenomenon. It's probably the most widely used programming language in the world. Or cookies, you know. Cookies were something that Vint Cerf and I cooked up over a weekend 'cause we needed a way to implement -- literally; we were implementing an e-commerce site for MCI, where Vint was working at the time. And there was no way to do a shopping cart. And so Vint and I sat down on a napkin, and said, you know, there needs to be some way, you know, to know when the user --same user is coming back. And we said how about this cookie thing? >> Now, why a cookie? >> You know, and so these... >> Tell... >> Oh. It was just a -- it was a long-standing sort of tradition in the software industry that if you were going to have just a -- basically, little snippet of information that you would call it a cookie. And so we just -- we stole the name. It had been used for 30 years, you know, before. But within a couple years, not only did -- had cookie come -- been redefined to mean a browser cookie, it was also the -- you know, everybody thought for a while that it was the big threat to user privacy. And to this day, you see these articles... >> I don't know that that particular debate's over. >> Well, these cautionary articles basically saying disable your cookies in the browser, otherwise you're privacy is ruthlessly violated and people will be able to read everything you do. And again, you know, it's just -- it was sort of a very rapid implementation of something that has turned out to have enormous long-range consequences. And there were a whole series of those things. You know, the back and the forward button. You know, we couldn't think of a better way to navigate at the time, so we said well how about a back and forward button, and then, ultimately, people smarter than us will figure out a better way to navigate. We're sitting here 15 years later and not only is the back and forward button still in the browser, but now it's in iTunes and it's in the OS and it's in -- you know, Mac OS is all over the place. >> Ning is a platform for people to create their own social networks for any topic. So basically it's a platform on top of which people create a very large number of Facebooks, if you will. Or of MySpaces or of YouTubes. And so the vital statistics on Ning right now. There's about a quarter of a million distinct, individual social networks that have been built, all by users. About 70% of those are active, as in have been used in the last 30 days. On average, they're growing quite quickly. Page views on the system are growing at about 10% week over week. We're adding about a million registered users a month right now. And that number is growing pretty fast. We're adding about 1500 networks a day. And that number is also growing pretty fast. So basically, what's happening is people are just discovering that social networking is something that they want to have that's central to their lives. And not only do they want to be on a big, centralized service like Facebook or MySpace, but they also want to apply it to their family, or to their church, or to their school. >> Now, Google -- some would say in response to Facebook, others would say no, they were planning it all along -- has laid out a framework called "OpenSocial." You, sort of, ascribe to that framework publicly. >> Yeah. >> What's it going to take to make that matter to the people who use Ning? You know, what is it that... >> Oh. I mean I think it sort of -- well, I think it sort of matters by default. So it -- I mean so Facebook did an amazing thing last year, you know, rolling out and really proliferating the concept of the social networking platform as something where, you know, users can take applications that basically plug into their profiles. That's an idea that makes a tremendous amount of sense. The fact that those applications can draw on the underlying social information is incredibly important. I think we're still at the very early days of understanding what the implications of that are for things like, for example, advertising. And so that's a powerful idea. As originally implemented, the Facebook platform was completely specific to Facebook. And so there was a natural need for somebody to create, kind of, an open version of that lots of people could implement. And so, you know, MySpace signed up for OpenSocial. Yahoo now has, MySpace has, we have, you know, a whole bunch of people, including obviously, Google. Now, as it turns out, the Facebook platform, you know, has, in the meantime, been highly successful and Facebook itself is apparently getting more open about the platform. And there are some people who have licensed or are implementing it in parallel. And I think, you know, directionally, that's the trend, you know, that I would anticipate that going. And so I would think a lot of people like us will probably end up implementing both OpenSocial and the Facebook platform. ^E00:05:47

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