Why Netscape Almost Never Happened

Editors note: Any source linked from ign64.com seems to have broken months after I had posted the article.  But sources from other sites should be working.

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What would the internet be like if Netscape didn’t happen?  You could argue that the war between Netscape vs. Internet Explorer contributed to internet access becoming more widespread and mainstream at a much faster rate.  Perhaps Microsoft wouldn’t have pushed Internet Explorer very seriously if there was no Netscape to begin with.  Netscape was responsible for creating Security Socket Layer (SSL), cookies, and JavaScript. These are features that all web browsers have been using ever since Netscape came on the scene in the early 1990’s.

A world with no Netscape would also mean Mozilla Foundation would never exist.  The result of that would be that Mozilla Firefox would not exist. That would be a strange world, indeed.

But it almost happened. Before creating Netscape, the creators instead were trying to convince Nintendo to do an online gaming service, and Nintendo showed interest in funding it.  After Netscape was created, talks between Netscape and Nintendo to create online gaming multiplayer services would secretly continue throughout the Nintendo 64’s five to six year lifespan.


The birth of Project Reality.

In the early 90’s, Jim Clark (founder of Silicon Graphics) decided to approach Sega with a graphics card for their next gen console (which eventually became the Sega Saturn).  At the time, they were the world leader in the production of Hollywood special effects and visuals. After investing significant amounts of time and money into the video game chipset, they presented it to Sega.  SGI figured that Sega could not say no to a company that was considered a world leader in Hollywood visuals and special effects.  SGI had gained quite a reputation after doing the special effects and animation for the movie industry with blockbuster films such as “Jurassic Park”, “Terminator 2”, “Batman Forever”, and “Twister”.

Sega was not impressed with SGI’s chipset, and chose not to use it for the Sega Saturn.  Instead, that chipset ended up in the Nintendo 64.

Former Sega President Tom Kalinske says, “At the end of the meeting, they basically said that it was kind of interesting, but the chip was too big (in manufacturing terms), the throw-off rate would be too high, and they had lots of little technical things that they didn’t like: the audio wasn’t good enough; the frame rate wasn’t quite good enough, as well as some other issues.

So, the SGI guys went away and worked on these issues and then called us back up and asked that the same team be sent back over, because they had it all resolved. This time, Nakayama went with them. They reviewed the work, and there was sort of the same reaction: “Still not good enough.”

Jim Clark had felt enormous pressure after Sega’s rejection of the chipset.

Tom Kalinske continues, “Well, Jim Clark called me up and asked what was he supposed to do now? They had spent all that time and effort on what they thought was the perfect video game chipset, so what were they supposed to do with it? I told them that there were other companies that they should be calling, because we clearly weren’t the ones for them. Needless to say, he did, and that chipset became part of the next generation of Nintendo products (N64).”

In 1993, Silicon Graphics and a team led by Dr. Wei Yen developed technology for the Nintendo 64 (code named: Project Reality).


Jim Clark leaves Silicon Graphics.

Excerpt from the book “Done Deals: Venture Capitalists” edited by Udayan Gupta.

“In early 1994, Jim Clark was thinking of leaving Silicon Graphics. Jim was being “classic Jim”: frustrated, restless, imagining the huge potential for multimedia over networks, possibly the Nintendo 64 game platform.”

In 1994, James Clark resigned from Silicon Graphics due to disagreements and frustrations over different aspects of the company. After graduating in 1993, a young man named Marc Andreessen met James Clark.  Clark and Marc Andreessen had discussions on the type of business venture they should look into.  Jim Clark already had a strong relationship with Nintendo from his time spent at Silicon Graphics and wanted to use that strong relationship to persuade Nintendo into new territory.

The online gaming network that could have happened.

In an interview about Netscape, Marc Andreessen talks about a business proposition they made to Nintendo, one year before they ever created Netscape.

“We had two business plans,” Andreessen says. One was in interactive TV.  ”The other was to build an online gaming network for Nintendo machines.”

According to a book called “Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark:  The Founders of Netscape” by author Simone Payment, “Andreessen wrote up twenty pages of ideas on how Nintendo could be played online, and Clark made up a business plan based on the idea.”

The author continues explaining “Clark and Andreessen knew they could make it work, but they weren’t sure it was the right plan.  It would take nearly two years to develop and would cost a lot of money.  At the end of the two years, would it be worth it?”

Excerpt from the book “Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves” by Adam L. Penenberg :  “Also sufficient number of gamers weren’t yet online, although It was clear the Web and Mosaic-enabled Internet were becoming part of people’s every day lives.  Clark saw that that in the near future the law of large numbers would take hold.  If he and Andreessen could figure out a way to make a little money off enough users, they could have themselves a very healthy business.”


How Netscape almost didn’t happen.

“Nintendo was about to come out with Nintendo 64, and we said, “Let’s do an online gaming service with Nintendo 64, because that’s going to be a volume platform,”  Marc Andreessen explained to SFGate.com.  “We almost did that, except that Nintendo 64 was supposed to ship at the end of 1995, and we were starting in early 1994, and figured that was too long to wait. If they had shipped a year earlier, we probably would have done that instead of Netscape.  We were starting to get really depressed because none of our ideas were working.”

Nintendo’s 64, which was supposed to be released in late 1995, ended up being delayed in Japan until June 23rd 1996, September 30th 1996 in North America, and March 1st 1997 for Europeans.

In an interview with CNN, Jim Clark, former co-founder of Netscape and Silicon Graphics (SGI) explained that Nintendo was willing to create an online gaming service for Nintendo products.

“CLARK: Marc and I wrote a business plan for an interactive online gaming company. We were talking to Nintendo, and they were going to fund us. But we weren’t going to get anything out of it. They wanted to own the whole thing. So in the end we gave up on that.

Finally, after about three months, we were sitting in my living room. Marc said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’ve got to do something, because all my friends back at Illinois are graduating soon.” I said, “What do you think we should do?” And he said, “Well, we could always go hire them and create a Mosaic killer.” And I said, “I don’t know how we’re going to make money at that, but okay. I’ll fund it. Let’s hire them.” Two days later we were on a plane. I almost canceled because of a really bad storm, but Marc persuaded me to get on the plane. “


One Year Later:  Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen create Netscape

Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape)

One year after talks with Nintendo to create an online gaming network for the Nintendo 64 went nowhere, Clark and Andreessen launched a web browser called Netscape that forever changed the entire landscape of the tech world.  In the early 1990’s, the internet was not easily available nor mainstream like it is today.  But that all changed when a web browser called Netscape Navigator hit the scene.  Netscape became responsible for the internet’s popularity blowing up in family households across the country.  By summer of 1995, over 80-85% of internet users were using Netscape Navigator as their web browser, and it forced Microsoft to release a browser of their own called Internet Explorer.  This started the very first web browser war.  Netscape is based on the Mosiac web browser which was co-developed by Marc Andreessen.

Many of the employees who worked at SGI on Nintendo 64’s graphics chipset had connections to Netscape.  Employees who worked on the Nintendo 64’s chipset at Silicon Graphics would leave to join Netscape.  A good example of this is Jeff Treuhaft.  According to his profile:

“Mr. Treuhaft served in a variety of key executive and leadership positions at Netscape Communications while responsible for efforts including the delivery of the world’s first commercial web server, standardizing the SSL security protocol, launching the JavaScript programming language, growing the largest Internet developer portal and community at DevEdge Online and launching the My Netscape personal portal including the RDF/RSS technologies.

Prior to Netscape, Mr. Treuhaft spent several years at Silicon Graphics where he helped support and lead efforts including the launch of the Nintendo 64 console and the SGI Indy and Onyx workstations;”

After receiving massive success, Netscape ended up being distributed to over 25 countries, and it had majority market share of internet users.  Marc Andreessen had even ended up on the cover of Time Magazine.  Netscape had expanded the number of employees within the company, and it was growing larger as time passed.


Nintendo notices Netscape’s success.

Due to Netscape’s company growth and financial stability, Nintendo felt much more comfortable to re-open discussions about developing online software for the Nintendo 64.  At that moment, Netscape and Nintendo formed a quiet alliance.

In 1995, news began leaking out about a partnership between Nintendo and Netscape.  In an article from a December 1995 issue of Information Superhighways Newsletter, “Nintendo plans by the end of 1996 to release a player cartridge equipped with the Netscape Navigator Internet Browser software, as well as a modem adapter that will enable Nintendo 64 game users to connect to the internet.  They will then be able to download Nintendo software that allows them to change the content of certain game packages.”  Japan Telecom also started reporting on the news.

(Click pictures to enlarge)

Source:
Information Superhighways Newsletter
Fiber Optics Weekly Update

At E3 1996, rumors began to spread about Nintendo partnering with Netscape.  Here is an E3 1996 article from a May 18, 1996 issue of “Billboard”. (before the Nintendo 64 has launched in any territories).

Billboard: “In addition, many industry insiders speculate that Nintendo is developing an Internet access add-on for its Nintendo 64 game system.  Nintendo is rumored to be partnering with Netscape for the as-yet-to-be-announced Internet add-on project.  Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln recently told reporters that Nintendo is in ‘continuing discussions’ with Netscape executive Jim Clark about such an alliance.  Nintendo first teamed with Clark when he was a chairman for Silicon Graphics, which co-designers the (Nintendo 64) game system.”

(Click picture to enlarge)

There was a buzz at E3 1996 about Nintendo and Netscape forming a partnership.  A message board post from someone in attendance at that particular E3 says:

“I was at E3 a few weeks back and heard that Netscape Navigator is also being integrated into Sega Saturn and Nintendo. Then last week Netscape announced support for the Network Computer. Here are three platforms I haven’t heard anything about from Microsoft, other than that they’re ‘insignificant.’”
source

In a May 1996 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, an editor known as Quartermann talked about what he heard regarding the Netscape/Nintendo rumor.

“… The Nintendo/Netscape deal that the Q exclusively revealed several months ago may also make software purchases on the N64 easier and cheaper than ever before! Not only would this rumored peripheral enable N64 users to download software demos, but patches and entire games as well via the Internet. Getting the Internet and N64 to co-exist is the current dilemma facing the two companies, but sources indicate that such a device is on the horizon …”


Linux, Netscape Navigator, and Keyboards for Nintendo 64?

A document from 1995 that leaked out on the internet many years ago addresses specific issues that the Netscape corporation faced with Nintendo 64.  This might explain issues that EGM talked about with Netscape having a difficult time getting the internet and Nintendo 64 to co-exist.  It also talks about how Netscape was trying to get Linux and Netscape Navigator to run on Nintendo 64.
source

The leaked document as quoted:

“As early as Comdex fall 95 Netscape Corp. is said to have presented a

port of their Navigator to the Mips CPU based Nintendo 64 behind closed
doors. Talking to iX during the 1996 GUUG meeting, SCO’s Doug Michels,
too, regarded alliances with Sega or Nintendo as a “real option”,
especially as far as the positioning of the Network Computer against
the wintel dominance is concerned.

Insiders assume that Netscape’s initiative failed because of a personal
animosity between young entrepreneur Marc Andreessen and the very
conservative Nintendo boss Hiroshi Yamaushi. SCO wasn’t able to follow
up their plans, for they have to concentrate their resources to the
development of the 64 bit Unix they have codenamed Gemini.

At the end of last year an Italian programmers’ team
got hold of the US version of N64 and a SGI Indy, including the N64
card. Thus the team ported Linux/Mips to the play station. Linux/Mips
originally had been initiated by the music company Waldorf (see iX 2/96)
and, since the beginning of 1996, has been ready-to-run on R4x00 CPUs.
The main difficulties, according to the Italians, were caused by the
port of the X Window System to the N64 I/O hardware. At first they
ported the output routines to the dedicated co-processors. Although
N64-X11 is not yet really stable, legendary 500000 XStones have been
reached so far – running on an ordinary TV set, driven by high frequency
signals. Of course, the quality of the picture is much better, if an AV
cable and a high-quality monitor are used.

Input media can be either the bundled console (see photograph above) or
a PC keyboard via adapter. The first solution requires a bit of
experience when entering text, because each character is represented by
a 3 degree angle of the analog stick. Internationally less frequently
used characters like the backslash were, therefore, not implemented.
Those who buy the optional N64 controller pack, can even save some data,
e. g. personal preferences or WWW hotlists. The prototype available at
editorial deadline hasn’t yet got a reliable network connection, because
there are still problems between the manually soldered 100 MBit/s
Digital 21140 chip and the 93.75 MHz of the R4300i CPU.
Like the former Mips RISC OS Linux/N64 works in bi-endian mode and,
therefore, can process data of the two possible byte orders. Yet the
kernel version 2.11 based Linux/N64 doesn’t use Nintendo’s 64 bit
address mode – which is not really a disadvantage, considering the 4
MBytes of memory available. A further problem: Nintendo Kyoto
headquarter so far has steadfastly refused to build cards in significant
volumes or to include Linux/N64 in their distribution channels. Siemens
Nixdorf and Silicon Graphics, on the other hand, have expressed “a lot
of interest”. “This project could lead to a new deal in the desktop
market”, a speaker of the Munich based company figured. According to
their speaker, Luciano Aprilia, the Italian developers, are going to
make the software available under the GPL, so it can be used free of
charge.”


Netscape creates company called Navio.  Nintendo is interested.

Navio’s logo

Later in 1996, main developer responsible for the Nintendo 64’s chipset, Dr. Wei Yen, was asked by James Clark to be the chief executive of a Netscape subsidiary called Navio.  Due to Dr. Wei Yen’s past history in developing Nintendo 64’s hardware, the rumors of Netscape and Nintendo working together became stronger and stronger.

San Francisco Examiner, Aug. 27, 1996:

“Moving swiftly and secretly, Netscape Communications Corp. has stolen a march on its Internet rival, Microsoft Corp., by forming a subsidiary to create browsers for video games, smart phones, network computers and other consumer devices…

…Though industry analysts said announcing a company was a far cry from bringing out products, they were impressed that Netscape was able to act quietly in leak-prone Silicon Valley to line up support from powerful firms like Nintendo, Sony, Sega and NEC.

In a statement issued Monday, Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi said his company ‘is interested in the great potential of Navio technology for connecting video games to the Internet’.

That prompted Kathey Hale, Internet analyst for Dataquest in San Jose, Calif., to say: “When you get the president of Nintendo to act like they’re breathing hard in your press release, that’s pretty impressive.’”


August 26, 1996

In an article from the Los Angeles Times, discussion escalated over Sony, Nintendo, NEC, Sega, and IBM all having plans to back Netscape’s new company called Navio.  Navio would create internet services for non-PC related devices/gadgets.

According to the L.A. Times:

“Wei Yen, former senior vice president at Silicon Graphics, took the position of chief executive of Navio.  Wei Yen had declared that Navio already had a staff of at least 50 employees working on the technology and that products will be available in the first half of 1997.”

Microsoft Vice President Brad Chase laughed off the Netscape announcement and said that consumer devices could never challenge the PC.  “Go ask your Nintendo game machine to print your business plan or letter to Grandma.” said Chase.

A blogger wrote of his frustrations with Netscape and Navio in 1996:

“We started out as Navio, a subsidiary of Netscape. Our CEO was the illustrious Wei Yen, from whom I learned much about how to be a CEO.  He is an energetic, annoying person, but drives people to do their best. He’s now the head of ArtX who is doing the CPU for the next Nintendo system.

We missed some early deadlines, and found that the team we had couldn’t get into the consumer race fast enough. We were beaten by WebTV, which ran out of money and was bought by Microsoft at the last minute. As we tried to sell to cable companies, we found that the sales cycle was so long that we wouldn’t survive. Bill Gates targeted us as the company he most wanted to crush in an article in Time Magazine.”

The blogger continues:

“Things were looking pretty good on the inside. With 70 first rate programmers we built a million-line monstrosity of a browser that ran only on cheap Intel based systems. The server solution was badly architected. This code base took years to tame, and is now the root of AOL-TV. A small group of us revolved, and created a new product line targeted at the cable systems of the time.

We didn’t realize how low the company was in funds, and how Netscape was no longer interested in funding us. The merger with Oracle spinoff Network Computer came as a surprise, but it was clearly necessary. As I expected, Wei Yen was careful to structure the merger so that the employees were well taken care of.  He then vanished, and left us with ineffective CEO Jerry Baker.”


Wei Yen leaves Netscape/Navio, and forms long relationship with Nintendo products and services.

After leaving Netscape and Navio, Wei Yen would go on to build a stronger working relationship with Nintendo.  He founded ArtX to create the Nintendo GameCube’s chipset.  He founded a company called iQue, Ltd. with Nintendo to manufacture and distribute official Nintendo consoles/games in the Chinese market.  The first iQue player could play Nintendo 64 games including Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Wave Race 64, F-Zero X, Mario Kart 64, and Dr. Mario 64. The iQue Player would have different online services that included cloud storage, buying games digitally, and updating games.  On the iQue Depot network, gamers could store their games for free. Wei Yen became the chairman of a company called AiLive that partnered with Nintendo to develop software programming tools for the Wii remote controller/Wii MotionPlus attachment.

Wei Yen also founded iGware, which offers cloud computer services to customers, and especially to Nintendo.  This company was bought by Acer for $320 million in Acer’s attempt to expand their cloud services.  Nintendo is still a major customer of this cloud company, and Wei Yen still heads Acer Cloud Technology Co (formerly known as iGware).


December 13, 1996 – Rumor: Netscape involved in N64’s online capabilities.

On December 13, 1996, N64.com (which later became IGN.com), broke news about Nintendo planning to launch an online network for the Nintendo 64 game console.

“When N64.com broke the news yesterday of a third-party developer’s plans to make multiplayer online games, many pieces of the Kyoto-based company’s Internet puzzle began to jibe.

Several U.S. developers traveled many miles to see what Nintendo’s Shoshinkai show had in store for the future, and more specifically, how they could develop for 64DD, which will connect gamers for multiplayer Net gaming.”

IGN started naming different developers and publishers who were interested in taking their games online for the Nintendo 64.

“Along with Nintendo, Enix, Rare, and Seta (which has its own special modem), and Paradigm Entertainment, yet another company, Ocean, has plans to take Mission: Impossible onto the Internet for multiplayer deathmatches.

Surely it’s crossed the minds of the makers of Duke Nukem and Quake to incorporate multiplayer deathmatches into their Nintendo games. Because, after all, once gamers have completed the game, they still want to play, and what better way to do it than to play their friends online? Nintendo months ago announced that it’s teamed with Netscape (so has Sony), and has backed Netscape’s Navio, a subsidiary of Netscape focused on Net gaming solutions. Why? It’s looking into what’s extremely hot right now, online gaming.”

IGN talks about Nintendo’s priorities when it comes to online networking:

“But N64.com has discovered that the company’s online priorities lie in playing games over the Net, placing browsing as a secondary concern, so it’s still curious as to what Nintendo really and finally wants to do with its Net connections. “


E3 1998

At E3 1998, IGN asked Nintendo of America’s Howard Lincoln about what exactly was going on between Netscape, Nintendo, and online multiplayer gaming for the Nintendo 64.  During that interview, Howard Lincoln was Nintendo’s main spokesperson for most interviews.  He mentioned that Nintendo still had good relations and high respect for Netscape.  He also mentioned that Nintendo was still interested in online multiplayer gaming.

IGN: A long time ago, Nintendo was courting Netscape and NOA spoke about possibilities of network capabilities in the 64DD — which even appeared on a spec sheet. Then they were dropped again. What’s happening with networking or any kind of linking capabilities?

Howard Lincoln: We are very interested in the category of multiplayer games, including online gaming. We have good relations with Netscape, always have since Jim Clarke founded it. We have good relations with a number of companies in that area. I really can’t say anything more about it at this time, but I have high regards for Netscape.


November 24, 1998 – AOL buys Netscape

While Netscape had massive success, Microsoft pushed hard to steal Netscape’s market share.  By the late 90’s, Netscape’s market share began to dwindle due to Microsoft packaging Internet Explorer with every computer and every copy of Windows.  Netscape struggled to keep up with the competition, and by the late 90’s, they only had around 10-12 percent of market share.

AOL had bought out Netscape Communications with a deal valued around $4.2 billion which gave Netscape shareholders 0.45 shares of AOL common stock for each share they held.  The deal was expected to close in the spring of 1999.

Marc Andreessen, the brains/co-creator of Netscape, would become AOL’s chief technology officer.  His position involved finding ways in connecting the AOL network to not just computers, but televisions and game consoles.

“Marc Andreessen’s role is considered crucial to merging AOL’s consumer-oriented focus with Netscape’s technical expertise,” wrote Jon Swartz in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Interestingly enough, majority of the  employees of Netscape would still work at the company or at AOL after the buy-out. AOL would still lay off 1/3 of Netscape’s 2,500 employees due to overlap between the company such as sales and marketing. The employees who kept their jobs were the ones involved in the technology and development aspects of Netscape.


December 16, 1998: Netscape rumored to be involved in GameCube’s online network capabilities.

Before the GameCube was officially announced, rumors and speculation surrounding Nintendo’s next gen console started making waves in the gaming media.  Everyone wanted to see what the future would hold for the successor of the Nintendo 64.  IGN reported rumors about Netscape being in a partnership with Nintendo to design network capabilities for Nintendo’s next gen machine (GameCube).

According to IGN:

“Originally, Nintendo had partnered with SGI, the developer of the N64′s chipset, to work on the next console. Since then, design of the N64′s next chipset has been handed over to SGI offshoot ArtX, with other elements of the unit to be developed by Alps, Rambus, and Nam Tai. Softimage has reportedly signed on to continue the creation of development tools on the next console and Netscape is said to be involved in designing software for the machine’s (GameCube’s) network capabilities.” – IGN.com


September 11, 1999 – Marc Andreessen leaves AOL

After seven months of being chief technology officer of AOL, Marc Andreessen decided to step down from his position for more interesting opportunities. Sitting in board rooms discussing AOL’s business all day didn’t seem to interest him much.


December 15, 1999 – Randnet is announced by Nintendo

After AOL bought out Netscape, it seemed like Nintendo was ready to move to different partners for online gaming.

Nintendo offered a Nintendo 64 modem developed by Nexus which is housed inside of a cartridge.  The cartridge would plug right into the N64’s cart slot, and it would have a port to plug in a modular cable.  The cable was a standard telephone wire.

This was how IGN explained Nintendo’s Randnet service for Nintendo 64:

As quoted directly from IGN.com:

“Randnet offers the following services:

  • Battle: Play against gamers from all over Japan by using the network. Randnet keeps track of player stats and ranks players according to their win/loss history.
  • Observe: Play “Peeping Tom” and watch other players combat each other in game competition. It’s a great way to learn new special techniques.
  • Beta Testing: Experience pre-release games. Your comments and ideas may be used in newly released games.
  • Information Exchange: Send messages about how to get through games, ask for help when you’re stuck and chat with friends through the Internet.
  • Community: Send your comments about a game you’re currently playing. You may receive replies from your favorite game creators.
  • Internet Surfing: Surf the web on your TV. Now you can read IGN64 (which is fully 64DD compliant, of course) without getting up from your couch.
  • Digital Magazine: Get all sorts of sports info and results.
  • Music Data Distribution: Listen to music through Randnet. Some songs may debut on Randnet before making it out on CD.
  • Editing Tool: Create your own characters and music using dedicated creation tools.
  • Print Mail Service (fee applies): Things you create in Mario Artist can be sent out by mail as a postcard, stickers, etc.
  • Email: Randnet users receive five email addresses with the basic service. “

At the time, it seemed like EGM’s questionable rumors of Nintendo looking into downloading games and battling other players online were beginning to have a smidge of truth.  The only problem was that 64DD was coming out way too late in Nintendo 64’s life.  This is why Nintendo only released the 64DD in Japan and not in other territories.  The timing was completely off to release this add-on, especially with GameCube on the horizon.  Also, add in the fact that hardware add-ons have never proven to be popular or profitable in general.  Just take a look at all of the add-ons for Sega consoles.


Spaceworld 2000 – GameCube is Revealed

After Nintendo’s decision not to bring 64DD or Randnet to the U.S., it seemed like online gaming would make sense for the next console, the Nintendo GameCube.  Nintendo announced both a 56k modem and a broadband adapter for the Nintendo GameCube.

But Nintendo had been burned by multiple attempts to create an online gaming network for NES, SNES, and their attempts with Netscape and then the 64DD for the Nintendo 64.  Nintendo had grown cold on online gaming after so many failed attempts, and only provided the modem/broadband adapters for third party titles like Phantasy Star Online Episodes 1&2, and later PSO Episode III.

Ironically, the company that bought Netscape, would try to score an online deal with Nintendo.  Many former employees of Netscape were still working at the company while owned by AOL, and after rumors posted about Netscape working on online software for GameCube, it seemed coincidental that AOL would approach Nintendo.


September 10, 2003 – Nintendo chooses America Online as GameCube’s preferred online service provider.

In a strange twist, the company that bought out Netscape (a company that IGN.com rumored to be behind Gamecube’s online) wanted to strike a deal with Nintendo over the GameCube.

“Nintendo of America today told IGNcube that it has reached an agreement with America Online by which the Internet provider will become the official preferred ISP for GameCube.

According to the agreement, developers who chose to create online games for GameCube would be licensed AOL connectivity software that will enable their games to connect online through AOL. Nintendo stated that this same rule would apply to any potential online GameCube software it decided to create in the future.

The company reaffirmed that as of that moment it was not developing any online games for the GameCube. It stated: “To be clear, this does not indicate the unveiling of a new online gaming approach from Nintendo. Nor does it signify that we have changed our position on the current business viability in the online console gaming field.”

Nintendo said that as part of the agreement many of its products would be spotlighted on key AOL and AOL Time Warner websites and that the two companies were discussing means of promoting AOL’s new broadband service, including the possibility of bundling AOL demo discs with the GameCube.

Nintendo’s deal with America Online never really made an impact, and GameCube’s online attempts were minor at best.


April 9, 2012 – Microsoft buys Netscape patents from AOL to potentially hurt Google.

AOL sold more than 800 patents to Microsoft for 1.1 billion dollars on April 9th, 2012.  Why did Microsoft want these patents so badly?  Because the netscape patents include such universal web browser mainstays as Secure Socket Layers (SSL), cookies, and JavaScript.  CNET described the deal being huge because Microsoft could create a huge legal stink for Google over whether other web browsers can use patents such as Secure Socket Layers (SSL), cookies, and Javascript if Microsoft decides to take action.


Conclusion

It’s interesting to look back at Netscape’s history from its beginning to its crumbling end and see how many times Nintendo and Netscape tried to work out a deal for an online gaming service that never panned out.  It’s also interesting how James Clark and Wei Yen, two former executives at Netscape, had a big influence on Nintendo’s graphics processors and technology.  Especially Wei Yen, who still plays a major influence in multiple ways for Nintendo including the Wii U.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, talked about Nintendo :
“Innovation, right? Innovation.  Nintendo, fantastic company. Like Japan needs 100 times more Nintendos. The rest of the world, we need 100 times more Nintendos. I think they’re a company absolutely to be admired.”

I believe that sums up the history that Nintendo and Netscape had.  While nothing significant ever came out of their relationship, there was a lot of respect between Nintendo and Netscape.  The irony is that the online Nintendo gaming service that never happened led to the birth of Netscape.  Throughout the Nintendo 64’s life, Netscape would continue to try to lure Nintendo into online multiplayer for many years, only to be unsuccessful for various reasons.

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6 Comments to Why Netscape Almost Never Happened
    • Daniel Switzer (@daniel_switzer)
    • Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I had never heard of any of this before reading, not even what Netscape was. It’s funny how Nintendo always seem to try different things but they die down, only to be resurrected again in the future.

      I look forward to more of your articles in the future :)

  1. Guek
    • kylehyde
    • Great article, is really interesting how many of the features of the current consoles, handhelds, smartphones and other devices were already conceived many years before. Too bad that the technology at the time was not enough for made them true (or it was really expensive at that time). In certain way this explain why nintendo didn’t focus too much on on-line services during the current generation, however is going to be interesting to see their aprouch with the Wii-U.

      About netscape, I really miss them, by much it has been my favorite browser, even it provided me of tools that help me to remove some virus that my antivirus software never detected. Is good to see that they didn’t kept i’ll feelings towards nintendo which normally happens when a project between two companies doesn’t get completed.

    • Burnburn
    • Very nice article. It took me some days to get through, but it was worth it. I had never heard about this before, which makes this read all that more interesting.

    • Chroma
    • A learned a lot from this article. Never knew about this. I wonder what things would be like if the deal happened. Though it does give me confidence in Nintendo understanding the internet and how to use it.

    • personal injury
    • It’s a nice valuable piece of details. We are glad which you simply provided this handy information around. Please stop us knowledgeable this way. Many thanks for revealing.

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