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Life After Netscape

Marc Andreessen
Chairman and Co-founder of Opsware, Co-founder of Netscape Communications
Thursday, June 10, 2004; 12:30 PM

Marc Andreessen has been through the Internet boom and bust, seeing his start-up Netscape Communications grow to one of the world's major Internet players. The company got scooped up by America Online in 1999. He is now chairman of Opsware, a software company he co-founded. Opsware, formerly called Loudcloud, makes data center automation software.

Andreessen was online on June 10 from 12:30 to 1:30. ET to talk about his current work, the tech sector's future and tech developments he is keeping an eye on as the technology sector continues to mend. Andreessen also took questions about the offshoring of jobs, a controversial trend he supports.

Marc Andreessen (Courtesy Opsware)

washingtonpost.com technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb moderated the discussion. A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Cynthia L. Webb: Hi Marc. Thanks for taking the time to join us online today. There has been quite a change in the tech sector since your company, Netscape Communications, was bought by America Online in 1999. Now the tech industry is showing new signs of life again. What are some of the positive things you see happening right now with technology, both in Silicon Valley and beyond?

Marc Andreessen: Thanks for having me!

Well, one of the things I believe is that there's no longer any such thing as the "tech sector"... investors always try to talk about "tech spending" and what's happening with tech and there is no single tech. Huge changes are happening within software, open source, Linux, Java, the web, wifi, mobile phones, graphics, games, and many other areas. But at the same time many existing products and technologies and companies are going obsolete. So it's a time of incredibly dramatic change, I think.


Arlington, Va.: What's the future of browser technology going to look like? The basic browser hasn't changed much in 10 years.

Marc Andreessen: When I've had a few beers, I sometimes point out that Netscape existed from 1994-1999, and browsers haven't changed much since 1999 -- interesting, hm? :-)

There is new hope, though... first, in the form of the Mozilla project, which has been making some great progress lately and is worth checking out (mozilla.org). Second, in the form of new non-browser client software ranging from instant messaging to file sharing to toolbars. Third, it will be very interesting to see what Google does on the desktop. It's obviously impossible to make money developing desktop software -- browsers or anything else -- if you're not Microsoft these days, so any changes or advances will have to come from either open source or nontraditional places.


Washington, D.C.: Any bitter feelings about selling to AOL given AOL's falling fortunes?

Marc Andreessen: Another interesting question :-). Netscape shareholders and employees did very well as a result of that deal, IF they sold their AOL stock within the first year or year and a half of that deal. Actually, anyone who bought Netscape stock at any point in Netscape's existence made money if they sold their resulting AOL stock in 1999. If they didn't sell and held onto their AOL stock, though, they certainly took a bath. Every day I give a little bit of thanks that I left AOL when I did, because many people I worked with there are now under federal investigation for accounting fraud.


Falmouth, Mass.: Hi Marc. Maybe you can shed some light here for our small company -- we work with online communities producing online events and meetings. Our history includes being part of a company that imploded in 2001 during the dot-bombstage. The original founders from the early 1980s were tech hippies and great people with a keen eye on developing the social process into the technology. They developed some neat software geared toward the social aspect of the Web that encouraged discussion and planning groups. In the late 1990s, they saw companies like WebEx, Placeware and Blackboard take off with a similar (yet I think inferior!!) product. So, they decided to take some venture money in the late 1990s ... and the rest is history. We picked up the pieces using the same software and update it for the users (not fun under the "hood" for the tech people) and are now pitching it to community groups, chambers of commerce, churches, schools and local businesses. Our business strategy is 2 fold 1. use the stuff that got us this far because it works; and, 2. keep researching and developing new platforms based on all the emerging things on the horizon like blogs, wikis, open source portals, etc. Part of our business model is centered on the belief that outside the major tech corridors, the rest of us are getting used to these new communication tools! The biggest challenge is managing the people so that they understand how to use it and making it easy to ensure usage. My issue with the new tech gadgets is it's so techy and not conducive to convenient use for the average layman. The tech staff has a big issue with me because the old stuff does not "play" well with all the new tools that are out there. In short, they are not excited with it. The real question here is that in an age of all these new tech gadgets,is it adequate to work with older technology as long as it is easy to use and managed to ensure participation? Or, are we doomed to be a relic of the past by not jumping on the latest, greatest thing every 6 months?

Marc Andreessen: That's a great question. I think that there are two phases to any new technology: invention, and mass adoption. That's actually why I was excited about becoming part of AOL in 1998-1998 -- the tech industry had invented "the Internet" in its modern form in the early-mid 90's but that was just the first part; then it had to be taken to billions of people in a form they can actually use it. These days of course that's happening by the efforts of the cable and phone companies around the world as well as independents like Earthlink and United. To me that's very exciting -- there are nearly 1 billion people on the Internet now. And that's the really important part. Most of those people just want to be able to do basic things -- email, web, instant messaging -- stuff that the early adopters were doing 5-10 years ago -- and more power to them!


Easton, Md.: As an ex-Netscaper, I'm curious about Marc's thoughts in retrospect: Was there anyway Netscape could have survived the onslaught, and is software now a matter of: innovate, validate (by selling to early adopter customers), then sell out to bigger players? Is there still room for standalone success in the software business or has it become like the auto industry - only a few big players left?

Marc Andreessen: Everyone keeps predicting the consolidation of the software industry (especially people trying to sneak anticompetitive deals past the Department of Justice :-). It is happening a little bit, but by far the larger trend is the huge increase of the number and types of software that people use every day -- not only on PC's but also on servers, on mobile phones, on game machines, on networks, in cars, in their homes, in their TV's, etc. There's more software and more software companies every single day. I think that will continue to be the case for the rest of our lives.

Out here in the valley there are a huge number of new software companies being formed. Some are traditional software companies selling a software product to either consumers or businesses. Others are making software that gets embedded into DVD players or TV's or toasters or cars. Yet others are fielding their software as a service, like a web site -- Google is a great example of this.


Cynthia L. Webb: Speaking of open source, how much of a threat do you think Linux and other open-source platforms will be to Microsoft? The open-source movement has been making big strides recently.

Marc Andreessen: Actually I think the big story around open source is not so much its effect on Microsoft, which so far has been pretty insignificant (although clearly Microsoft is thinking hard about that!). The real story is (1) open source's effect on many other companies in the industry, such as the big Unix server vendors that now find that Linux-based Intel servers offer more performance for less $$$, as well as in embedded software (where Linux has become the dominant standard almost overnight), and (2), and most interesting, all the innovation and creativity that people all around the world are bringing to open source projects. The most interesting thing about open source is that it's a whole new playing field for smart people to do innovative new things, and now that the Internet is so widespread, there are millions of people worldwide including throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, Asia, India, etc. who are able to contribute. Expect a lot to happen over the next 5-10 years.


Ballston, Va.: What browser are you using these days?

Marc Andreessen: Netscape 7.1!


Washington, D.C.: Do you think RSS is the future of distributing information via the Internet?

Marc Andreessen: It's *a* future of distributing information :-). It's a very useful approach (this is the idea that you read "feeds" of content that are pushed to you, rather than browsing and searching). It's kind of Pointcast done right, for those of us who remember the late, not-much-lamented Pointcast from the late 90's. Plus the approach will work for a lot of other things too like being notified of auction results, new products, new classified ad listings, or whatever. It will work very well and lots of people will use it and the aggregators and software that are designed to support it but it won't replace browsing or searching, I don't think.

It's a good example of how the Internet keeps changing -- since the Internet is built on software, a new software approach like RSS can change how we think of the Internet without requiring anyone to rewire any networks. That's what I really like about the Internet. First it was email, then web, then IM, then Napster/Kazaa, then Apple iChat, now RSS... one thing after another after another...


Reston, Va.: How important was the venture capital community to the 1990s technology boom? Was it a lot of wasted money and a few lucky strikes, or did VCs really play a role in pushing technology forward? And what about the current VC environment? Will it take another big VC binge to get the tech sector buzzing again?

Marc Andreessen: You'll love this answer!

VC's both get too much credit and too little credit. Too little part first: for the most part, as a group, they are investing in things that they are hoping would have succeeded without them. They aren't nearly as responsible for the success of any individual venture as some people think, and the good VC's are the first people to say that.

On the other hand, and this is the important part, it's a unique strength of the American economy that we have such a strong and vital venture capital base. The fact that we have so many pension funds, endowments, companies, private individuals, and others who are willing to put money into venture capital structures where 8 companies might fail but another 2 might be the next Google or Amazon or Netscape or EBay is enormously important to the vitality and growth of the American economy. No other country in the world has that to nearly the same extent right now. (Israel is probably second, and there's a little in Europe, but not that much compared to the US.)


Cynthia L. Webb: Marc, you are still most recognized for your work starting Netscape, which was one of the main companies that helped create and define the Internet age. Do you feel added pressure to come up with something that is as powerful and successful? Opsware has been chugging along and doing well, but it has not had the same star power as Netscape.

Marc Andreessen: Thanks for pointing out the chugging along and doing well part :-). Stock's only up 25x in the last year and a half, since all the investment banks dropped coverage :-).

Actually I think in the long run Opsware might be as important as Netscape. Opsware is all about helping people who run -- or want to run -- big Internet sites, services, systems, applications do that at large scale, with a utility computing model, with a much higher level of quality and reliability and much lower cost. As a result our customers (media companies, banks, Internet companies, government agencies, outsourcers) are able to run a lot more Internet services for a lot more people for much less money. Because of that, we think our approach can help the Internet grow a lot faster over the next 10 years than it would otherwise. As you can tell, we're pretty fired up about it :-).


Cynthia L. Webb: You mentioned Napster and Kazaa in a list of some of the information distribution channels that have been hot on the Net. What do you think is the biggest challenge to P2P services? Despite a slew of lawsuits by the RIAA, people are still finding ways to trade songs, files, etc. on the Net.

Marc Andreessen: P2P is a great example of how the Internet is just going to keep changing and evolving to stay ahead of everyone's expectations. The Internet is an expression of the creativity of a billion people worldwide, and if they want to trade files or do anything else (like make free phone calls!), they're certainly going to be able to do that. People always talk about how the Internet "routes around" network outages or power outages -- well, it also "routes around" government regulation, corporate control, and other attempts to shut down or control how people use it. It will stay exciting for a long time :-). In fact, right now, there are a whole new generation of P2P technologies that are getting traction, with names like eDonkey!


Washington, D.C.: It's seems to me that the Internet's future as a commerce and communications medium is threatened by its highly insecure nature. What can be done to protect users from viruses, spyware, ID theft, DDOS attacks etc.? Do you think IPV6 will solve current problems?

Marc Andreessen: Personally...

I think it's an arms race -- good guys vs bad guys. The good news is that there are a lot of smart good guys working on new technologies for antispam, antivirus, anti-DDOS, anti-ID theft, etc. (For example, my own company's software helps businesses, web sites, and government agencies keep all of their servers configured and patched properly so they can't be hacked.) The bad news is that the bad guys are pretty creative too. The advantages of being on the net are clearly so huge that they will tend to overcome the dangers, but we're all going to be spending a lot more time thinking about security online in the future than we did in the past.

As everyone also knows, there are some big software companies (hint hint) that have some serious work to do to make their products really secure on public networks -- a lot of today's software wasn't really designed to run on an open network like the Internet, and there is still work to be done.


Cynthia L. Webb: We have about 30 minutes left of our chat with Marc. Readers, thanks for your great questions!


Washington, D.C.: I was a darling of the dot-com revolution, jumping from college to a finance consultancy and right into the middle of start-up technology mania. Several companies later, I work part-time doing pretty easy stuff in brick and mortar businesses and working the occasional deal.

Do you think the tech sector will ever really rebound and if so what will it take to make it happen?

Marc Andreessen: I believe there is no tech sector, just like there was no dot com revolution :-). There are individual companies in individual markets with individual products, all of which have to be evaluated one by one, on their own merits. That's the only way to explain why EBay worked, say, and why the hundred or thousand other efforts to set up marketplaces on the Internet failed. The short answer is that if you have the right idea at the right time, you can build a great tech business or a great Internet business, whether you were in 1995 or 1999 or 2002 or 2005... otherwise, you can't...


Great Falls, Va.: Does AOL have a future? I've always been concerned that they experienced success too early and now they don't have anyone who's hungry enough to put in the extra mile.

Marc Andreessen: Dial up Internet access is the future :-).


Belmont, Calif.:

Marc -- What are Silicon Valley's economic prospects for the next year or so?

Cynthia L. Webb: Marc, we have a couple of these questions where readers want you to be a fortune teller of sorts. Any thoughts? And is Opsware seeing business pickup as a result of the mending tech economy?

Marc Andreessen: Sure......

By and large the broader economy seems to be picking up but at a relatively slow pace. It's good enough now to be able to get stuff done but by no means overheated. (It cracks me up to read articles or analysis that say we're in another tech bubble -- don't we all wish :-).

BUT, like I said before, I think the key is that there's no such thing as "tech" anymore -- it's really a matter of individual markets and individual products. Some areas are doing really well (for example I saw yesterday that analysts just raised the global forecast for mobile phone sales to 600 million units this year -- 600 MILLION UNITS!!!). In business technology, Linux is doing well, along with new approaches like what we're doing, but a lot of other things like big Unix servers are biting the dust. It really depends...


Washington, D.C.: By creating Silicon Valley, you created a culture in which law-firm associates were lured away to general-counsel offices at various Internet businesses at highly lucrative salaries, which then prompted a steep and glorious run-up in law-firm salaries in the late 1990s as the firms sought to compete. Particularly in Washington DC, where this effect was quite prominent, you will always have a legion of devoted fans among the lawyer community. Bless you.

Cynthia L. Webb: On a serious note related to this reader's question, there were also a lot of law firms that saw their business die during the Internet bust, including some well-know Valley firms. What's the mood these days? Are VCs and attorneys (sometimes one in the same) coming of the woodwork again?)

Marc Andreessen: When I got to Silicon Valley in early '94, the mood was extremely depressed... the valley had been through a hugely damaging recession and nobody knew what the next big thing was going to be (interactive TV was the consensus, also pen-based computing). Nevertheless, the minute things started to take off again with the Internet and networking, it turned out there was a whole base of lawyers, accountants, VCs, managers, salespeople, marketing people, and (most importantly!) technologists and programmers just waiting to go back to work on new things. The people who weren't serious about technology had bailed out by that point, and the people who were left were incredibly enthusiastic and committed when new opportunities arose. I think we're going through the exact same thing now. Anyone who wasn't really serious about tech -- e.g. lawyers or VCs -- are out of tech by now, but those of us who remain -- and there are a lot! -- are very serious and very committed and these days more and more excited...


Baltimore: What happened to your previous marketing guy, Scott Dunlap who was in the center of the picture in Wired?

Marc Andreessen: Sadly he perished in a horrific blimp accident.


Baltimore: What do you think of the whole stock option expensing debate?

Marc Andreessen: I love the stock option expensing debate!

It's a whole huge pile of hot air about absolutely nothing! Every investor already has all the information they need (in every company's SEC filings) to calculate the expense impact of stock options. Stock option expensing will therefore provide no new data that investors don't already have. Which means stock option expensing won't affect stock prices or anything else. I frankly don't understand why anyone is either pushing for it or against it, it just doesn't matter.

In time this will be viewed as highly amusing... just like the whole idea that companies are more valuable if they issue dividends vs if they don't (they're not -- the shareholders own the money whether the money is distributed as dividends or retained in a company's bank account)... all the studies show that dividends don't affect valuations, and neither will stock option expensing.

The perverse side effect/unintended consequence of stock option expensing will be that companies will have their income statements loaded up with this big non-cash charge (for options) that investors will just ignore when they try to figure out what's actually happening in each company's business. It will just make financial statements harder to understand, not easier.


Washington, D.C.: Mark:

Thanks for taking time to participate in today's online chat. Your generosity is appreciated.

Netscape was a broad solution for a massive problem (viewing information) with unlimited opportunity. Opsware obviously has huge potential, but its niche oriented.

Are the big ideas all taken (or too expensive to pursue) causing smart entrepreneurs to "go where they ain't" and "make money on the margins" in companies build to own a niche?

Marc Andreessen: It depends how you define "niche" (to pull a Clinton :-).

There are 16.8 million servers in the world today, and 5 million are being sold every year, and every one ought to be running something like Opsware, so if we can pull that off, that's a pretty big niche :-).

The moral of the story of most big successful companies is that it was really hard in the early days to tell what was a niche and what wasn't. Routers were certainly a niche when Cisco started in the late 80's, Internet access was a very small niche when AOL started, PC's were a tiny little niche when Microsoft started (and didn't even exist when Intel started!), Unix was a tiny little niche when Sun started, etc. etc. etc. You have to take a good idea and play it out over time to see what will be big and what won't. The world is very unpredictable that way.

Bill Gates always used to say that Microsoft could never be bigger than a $10 million revenue company... then when it passed $10 million he said, OK, $100 million is it, no way it can be bigger than that. (Also, nobody needs more than 640K of RAM in their PC :-).


Boca Raton, Fla.: Marc,

I was a Netscape fan since day 1. I am now using that browser that starts with "Ex" and ends with an "R". The reason that I changed was that Microsoft made it so difficult to use their OS and a non-Microsoft browser.

Was I the only one to go through this experience?

Marc Andreessen: www.mozilla.org :-)


Alexandria, Va.: What do you think of Sun and Microsoft settling their differences?

Marc Andreessen: I think people will be surprised that nothing has been settled at all :-). They're still competitors exactly the same way they were before they did the recent deal. I don't think anything really changed. (As you can probably tell I'm often a contrarian -- my slogan is "often wrong but never in doubt" -- so who knows!! :-)


Cynthia L. Webb: Explain more about your statement that "there is no tech sector." Would you argue then if there was no tech sector or dot-com revolution, there was no bust either? Surely the down-times of tech companies can't be glossed over or forgotten.

Marc Andreessen: Sure, there was an economic recession in the wake of a massive equity bubble, no question about it. My point is that even though you know that happened, you still can't draw any useful conclusions about what's happening in technology without looking at individual products and markets.

Look at what's happened in the last 5 years...

* 400+ million new people on the Internet

* Tens of millions of new people on broadband in the US alone

* Mobile phone sales have risen dramatically to 600 million units/year, and mobile phones have become color, with cameras, with MP3 players, wireless data access, etc.

* Linux has become real and widely adopted

* Open source as a whole has taken off dramatically


* Salesforce.com has proven out a whole new model of delivering software to businesses



etc. etc. etc.

If you don't look at the individual product categories and markets, you miss what's actually going on....


Sarasota, Fla.: Marc, Netscape was more than just the browser. LDAP, app servers, certificates. I agree with you that the first casualty of linux is not Microsoft, it is all the smaller players (ie SUN). So where do all those other insanely great products that AOL sold to Sun go?

Marc Andreessen: Away :-).


Denver: How are you / is Opsware using outsourcing, and how do you see it (outsourcing) fitting into the next phase of growth and expansion globally?

Marc Andreessen: I should start with the observation that (like all economists) I think offshoring is a good thing for the American economy and the American worker because it helps markets grow and helps our economy adapt to new opportunities. But we could spend the whole rest of the chat talking about that :-).

Opsware itself does a little offshoring (we are setting up a small development operation in India), although most of our developers are in the US today and will remain in the US (which is still the best place for a US company to do real R&D, and always will be).

More significantly than that, though, our customers are doing a lot of offshoring. Not to name specific names, but it's a pretty common thing that they are moving some tech operations jobs offshore (to India, or South America, or Eastern Europe), to cut costs on the operations side, and then they are taking many of the dollars that frees up and spending them on new development projects, including hiring new developers, often in the US. Our software helps them do that, since our software makes it a lot easier to put servers one place and the people who run them somewhere else. I'd certainly expect a lot of that over the next 5-10 years.


Washington, D.C.: OK Marc. Here's the most important question: Who you voting for this year for president? As a follow-up, is one party or the other "better" on technology issues?

Marc Andreessen: As a Democrat (New Democrat) historically, I'd sure like to be able to vote for Kerry. I think he's a great guy and would make a great president, except his stance on trade is spooking me out. Not because I think he believes it (I don't think he does), but because I think he's making promises to people that he can't live up to, and that those promises will come back to haunt him and cause him to have to do bad bad things. (For example, he is somehow promising to bring back manufacturing jobs in the midwest... well, those jobs are gone for good -- manufacturing jobs are disappearing all over the world, because of increased use of advanced manufacturing technology -- in fact, China is losing manufacturing jobs even faster than the US is!)

I was also not very happy to be called a "Benedict Arnold" traitor in his speeches...

That said, recently he seems to be moving more back towards a sensible approach (like Clinton and Gore had all through the 90's -- support free trade, but do the right things to help people through the transitions they have to make in their lives when jobs change and industries change -- which is one of the big reasons why the American economy worked so well all through the 90's -- that policy made sense!).


New York: Micropayments for online content are getting a lot of hype again. thoughts?

Marc Andreessen: It seems to work in Japan and in some other countries but Americans at least seem psychologically opposed to being nickeled and dimed (or micronickeled and microdimed). Americans seems to prefer flat rates (or free :-).

So I'm a little skeptical.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out; it may be a great example of subtle little cultural and societal differences from country to country that make the world such an interesting place.


Chevy Chase, Md.: What's the future for My SQL?

Marc Andreessen: Disclosure: I'm a small investor in a venture fund (Benchmark) that has an investment in the company behind MySQL.

That said... :-)

I think it's going to be huge. I think it's huge already -- the number of installations of MySQL worldwide as far as I can tell is already much larger than any commercial database. I think the MySQL folks are doing a great job going after the market. I think the smartest thing they're doing is to not try to displace Oracle or IBM databases for the traditional big huge serious databases like airline reservations and credit cards, but rather instead MySQL is focused on all the NEW databases being built to support web sites, web services, marketing analysis, customer support, etc etc etc. If it works out, in the long run it could be just like Linux, eventually being by far the market leader...


Cynthia L. Webb: Marc is staying online with us for a few extra minutes today to answer some more questions. Marc, thanks for the time -- and your fast typing today!


Ellicott City, Md.: Marc,

Do you think that our ability to create new technologies and new companies that leverage these technologies is being compromised by extensive outsourcing?

Thank you for addressing this question!;

Marc Andreessen: Great question!

Nope, actually the opposite. To get philosophical for a minute, I believe (as Milton Friedman says) that human wants and needs are infinite. There are no limits to the things and services that people want or need, so there are no limits to the number of new technologies, companies, and industries we can create. The questions are: how many people worldwide are able to contribute, how much capital is available to them, and how free are they to pursue new ideas?

Within a specific market, one company can win while another company can lose. In general, though, if you and I have two different ideas, we can both win -- I can build my company and it will be huge, and you can build your company and it will be huge, and we wil both succeed. The global economy works the same way overall, and innovation globally works the same way.

To bring it back down to earth, the more entrepreneurs and new companies and new innovations that happen in Europe, or China, or India, or anywhere else, the better FOR THOSE OF US IN THE UNITED STATES as well as everyone else worldwide. When a new gadget, a new piece of software, a new computer, a new form of entertainment, a new drug, etc. is invented anywhere in the world, we all benefit.

Personally, I think we should all go to sleep at night hoping that there are a huge new generation of entrepreneurs in India and China and Eastern Europe and Russia about to start new companies and create all kinds of new interesting things.


Cynthia L. Webb: FYI: For any of those worried about Marc's former marketing staffer, there was no blimp accident. Just a bit of Andreessen humor :-)


Washington, D.C.: What's your view on the Oracle-PeopleSoft takeover attempt? Does Oracle have a case in court? And what's with Larry Ellison? He is really as obsessive/predatory as he seems to be?

Marc Andreessen: I think Larry is a brilliantly smart guy, and he's built an amazing company. He's also very funny!

I don't have a specific opinion on Oracle/Peoplesoft (I actually tend to think it would be just fine, I don't think big monolithic enterprise applications are where the future of the software industry is, but that's just me).

Larry is a fierce competitor, BUT he is not nearly as acquisitive as he claims. Peoplesoft is the first big acquisition he has ever really tried to do, in almost 30 years of Oracle's existence! His previous biggest one that I'm aware of was when he bought DEC's dying database business, which was a small deal. So take him with a grain of salt when he says the whole industry is consolidating -- if it does, it's unlikely to be because it's Larry doing the consolidating :-).

(I have some personal experience here because he almost bought Netscape in 1996, but walked away... he's very gun-shy on these things in general.)


Chicago: Hi Marc,

Considering your position on the outsourcing debate, do you believe that there is a possibility that government regulation will occur in the future?


Marc Andreessen: Yes, absolutely. It's already happening at the state level as well as the federal level. The big trend is "Buy American" laws that restrict state and federal government agencies to only buy products and services from American companies (and specifically those that don't offshore). Which is absolutely silly... every such new law is a new tax on the citizens of that state of country which has the sole purpose of subsidizing noncompetitive American companies, which just keeps them from adapting to the realities of the marketplace. It's purely destructive. The good news is that such laws will be almost impossible to enforce, since it's incredibly hard to find any American company of any size these days that doesn't have some level of overseas operation (which is why prices have come down so dramatically and quality has gone up so dramatically in so many different product categories for American consumers).

For a good example of this, to quote LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bridges29may29,1,987694.story):

When officials six years ago unveiled their plans to rebuild portions of the earthquake-damaged San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, they said the span would rival even the famed Golden Gate Bridge.

But this gem is proving to be costly. Caltrans says it will cost about $4 billion to build the bridge ? three times more than the agency expected in 2001. This week, officials announced that the suspension tower alone would cost $1 billion more than originally expected.

One reason, they said, is the state's "Buy America" rules, which dictate that Caltrans can use foreign steel on the bridge only if its cost is at least 25% less than domestic steel. In this case, the difference is only 23%, so the state must go with domestic steel. That added $400 million to the price tag.

[So tell me, who exactly benefits from that? :-)]


Washington, D.C.: Mac or PC?

Marc Andreessen: PC, although I visit store.apple.com about once a week and price out a new Mac :-).


Cynthia L. Webb: We are out of time today to take more reader questions. Readers, thanks for your input! Marc, thanks for being so candid and taking on so many questions. And for your sense of humor too. A very fun chat and hopefully we can do it again! Can you wrap up our chat by answering this: For all the other young programmers and technologists out there tinkering with their own inventions and research, any words of wisdom that you can pass along as a technology pioneer yourself?

Marc Andreessen: The only thing worth saying...

Don't listen to anyone who tells you it can't be done!


Cynthia L. Webb: Thanks again everyone for a great chat. Have a wonderful day!


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