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Second acts: Seven tech titans today

What ever happened to Philippe Kahn, Dan Bricklin, Marc Andreessen and other technology wunderkinds?

By George Jones
December 3, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Once upon a time, the name Tim Berners-Lee was on the lips of everybody in the tech world. Same goes for Philippe Kahn, Mitch Kapor, Steve Wozniak and several others who have since stepped away from the spotlight. What are these technology titans up to today? Read on to find out.

   

Marc Andreessen
While interning at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications in 1992, Marc Andreessen became acquainted with Tim Berners-Lee's standards for the World Wide Web. Inspired, he co-created Mosaic, the world's first popular multiplatform Web browser, with Eric Bina.

Marc Andreessen
Marc Andreessen
After some legal wrangling with their alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign, Andreessen and Bina in 1994 changed the name of their new company from Mosaic Communications to Netscape Communications and the name of its Web browser from Mosaic to Netscape. (The company also negotiated a settlement with the University of Illinois.)

During this period of time, Andreessen's star rose to epic heights, culminating in Netscape's outrageously successful IPO in 1995 and the young dot-com millionaire's appearance (seated on a throne) on the cover of Time.

Fast-forward 12 years. After Microsoft defeated Netscape in a series of vigorously contested browser wars (ironically, Microsoft's Internet Explorer was based upon the Mosaic source code), AOL acquired Netscape in 1999 and appointed Andreessen the company's chief technology officer.

Andreessen quickly left AOL, however, to form Loudcloud, a Web hosting company. In 2002, the company changed its focus from services to technology and changed its name to Opsware, with Andreessen serving as chairman. The company was recently acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.6 billion.

Andreessen has also become actively involved in the Web 2.0 movement. The entrepreneur is an investor in social news aggregator Digg.com, and he recently founded Ning, an online company that lets anyone build their own social network. (According to Andreessen's blog, Ning was responsible for 121,217 social networks at press time.)

Andreessen currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife Laura Arrillaga, who is chairwoman of the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund.

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee is famous for merging the notions of hypertext and the Internet, thereby inventing the World Wide Web, while working as an independent contractor for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Seeking to share information and updates among CERN researchers, he built the first Web browser, editor and server in 1990, and launched the first Web site and directory in 1991.

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee, photo by Uldis Bojarscc-by-sa-2.5
Since then, the father of the Web has been devoted to furthering the potential and reach of the Web. He is a fierce advocate of Net neutrality, the belief that all Web sites, networks, networking platforms and Net content are equal, and that Internet data packets should be passed between networks strictly on a first come, first served basis, with no preferential treatment for higher-fee networks. He makes frequent appearances in Washington to speak on Internet-related matters.

He also serves as director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization he co-founded in 1994 that is dedicated to, in the Web site's words, leading "the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web." One of the key focuses of the organization is to help the Web spread to developing nations.

Berners-Lee, a native of England, currently lives near Cambridge, Mass. He is a member of the Royal Society of the Arts and has received numerous awards over the past decade, including the rank of Knight Commander of the British Empire and the Order of Merit. While Berners-Lee remains mum about his private life, you can find out more about his background and public life at his home page.



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