A world that merges Netscape, AOL doesn't make for sweet dreams

Packet Rat
R. Fink

While visions of sugarplums dance in the heads of GCN readers, the Rat has been having
a recurring nightmare.

It starts off with the grating buzz of an alarm clock. The windows are covered by
blackout curtains, but a glance at the clock reveals that it’s 6 p.m. For some
reason, it’s time to go to work.

The Rat stumbles to the bathroom, turns on the light and looks in the mirror to
discover that he’s turned into Marc Andreessen of Netscape Communications Corp.

This in itself is not the nightmare.

The cyberrodent-turned-Nordic golden boy then dresses in a Netscape Mozilla T-shirt and
jeans, grabs a granola bar and a Jolt cola, and heads for his car. He finds himself
driving rapidly, opposite the rush hour, toward the America Online campus in Vienna, Va.

The Rat wonders what awaits him now that AOL’s Steve Case is his boss. As he pulls
into the employee parking lot, he has a dark suspicion about his fate at AOL: chat-room
chaperone for 14-year-olds who want to trade Beanie Babies. And Ty Inc. has just released
the hottest Beanie Baby since Gates the Goat—Packy the Rat.

At this point, the Rat wakes up screaming.

The whiskered one has had this nightmare every night since he heard about the
AOL-Netscape merger, through which Andreessen is supposed to take on portentously
unspecified duties at AOL.

Megamergers like this usually don’t bother the Rat too much. After all, Netscape
veep John Paul will still be minding the store, so not much will change right away. But
the Rat just set up a pilot workgroup using Netscape Communicator 4.5 for Linux, and
sudden changes make him a little nervous.

If the furry one listened to the likes of Ed Zander of Sun Microsystems Inc., he
wouldn’t be especially worried. Zander portrays Sun as the savior of Netscape’s
enterprise business, backing up Netscape software with Sun’s channel, support and

That would be great, except the Rat happens to have had some experience with the
aforementioned software, channel, support and service.

Then there’s the synergy word, which has been bouncing around since the merger was
announced. The cyberrodent assumes the merger mongers mean the synergy created by all
those eyeballs floating across the AOL and Netscape portals to the Internet. Floating
eyeballs also make the Rat nervous, if not a little woozy.

Most of all, the cyberrodent is worried about what AOL will do to the Netscape browser.
If it does decide to integrate Netscape with AOL’s software—which won’t
happen if AOL wants to hold onto the Microsoft Windows desktop real estate it got in
exchange for signing up with Microsoft Internet Explorer—will the Rat’s
Communicator client start talking to him?

Will Messenger announce “You’ve got mail!” in a cheery baritone? Will
the Rat get bombarded with pages from Patty Sue in the Beanie Babies chat room while
he’s Web surfing?

With all the forebodings that have invaded the wire-biter’s tiny brain, it’s
no wonder he’s having Marc Andreessen nightmares.

Or, of course, it might be because of the fruitcake he ate at the department holiday
party. Candied prunes always do strange things to the Rat’s head.  

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad
packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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