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Questions for AOL

Tuesday, November 24, 1998 by Dave Winer.

At 9AM Pacific (31 minutes from now) there's going to be a public conference call with the top execs at AOL, Netscape and Sun. I'm going to try to get thru and ask some questions, but in case I can't, I hope some other reporter asks about this stuff.

1. The press is discounting the value of the web browser in this deal. It's not clear to me whether they understand the central role that Netscape engineers are playing in the open source development of the browser. The execs at AOL are creative, I doubt if they discount it.

2. If operating systems are not that important anymore and web content and e-commerce are the market for the next N years, has AOL already sewn it up? As I pointed out several times in the past, Netscape could have merged with any number of other companies to provide fertilizer that enhances a less lively parent company. At this moment, the AOL deal is exactly the right deal.

3. Will AOL place value on relations with web developers? Can they manage the relationship with developers more effectively than Netscape could? One thing is for sure, Microsoft can do this, and is doing it. But balance would be helped in the industry if AOL could add some platform management to the web developer world, and do it with imagination and risk-taking. As a web developer myself, I wonder how AOL wants me to think about this deal.

4. AOL is collaborating with Sun on a new browsing machine. This sounds more like what Sun was talking about a few years ago. And at the same time Larry Ellison is making intelligent sounds in this area too. Would Ellison team up with Apple to produce clients, while AOL partners with Sun?

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