UK: TECH KNOW - The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Silicon Valley.

UK: TECH KNOW - The people and products shaping your future - Lessons from Silicon Valley. - Every merger results in some degree of culture clash. But few can rival the recent union between America Online, the largest internet company in the US, and Nets

by ROGER TAYLOR.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Every merger results in some degree of culture clash. But few can rival the recent union between America Online, the largest internet company in the US, and Netscape, the firm that pioneered internet browsers. Netscape employees cheered when they were told their offices would not be marked with the blue triangle logo of AOL.

The antipathy between the two goes way back. Netscape is a product of the internet and a true believer in the free exchange of information. The far more successful AOL built its fortunes on a proprietary network that provides access to the internet but keeps AOL customers, as much as possible, on its own patch.

For a few old net-heads, becoming part of AOL proved too much. Jamie Zawinski, one of Netscape's most senior programmers, has resigned and posted a long letter on his web site that ends with a tirade against the evils of AOL. He warns that one day, all access to the internet could be controlled by companies such as AOL. He says: 'AOL is about centralisation and control of content. Everything that is good about the internet is about empowerment of the individual. I don't want to be a part of an effort that could eliminate all that.' If this is a view shared by many of Netscape's employees, integrating the new teams could prove tricky.

Despite the cute name, the Melissa virus won few friends during its brief but very costly rampage through the internet.

David L. Smith of New Jersey, in particular, may end up paying a high personal price. He was arrested in April suspected of being VidocinES, the supposed author of Melissa and a hero among the self-styled 'virus writing community'.

It did not take long to find a suspect because law enforcement agencies have until now largely turned a blind eye to virus writers, who have been remarkably public about their activities on the web. That is all changing and the writers are running for cover. This will not stop new, even nastier viruses being created, but next time it could be a lot longer before an arrest is made.

The US presidential election is under way on the web with AlGore2000.com and GeorgeWBush.com already up and running. Do not confuse the latter with gwbush.com, which at first glance looks much like the official Bush site. It is only when you read comments damning corporate power and backing Mexico's Zapatista rebels that one realises these are not the views of the Republican presidential hopeful but of some internet activists. Bush shouldn't complain, however, because on the web as elsewhere in life, the only thing worse than being talked about ...

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