Marc Andreessen, who became an icon of the Internet age as a co-founder of Netscape Communication Corp. before it was acquired by America Online Inc. last year, is stepping down after seven months as AOL's chief technology officer, the company said yesterday.
In his place, the company hired William Raduchel, the chief strategist of Sun Microsystems Inc.
The chief technology officer's job at AOL is not to run its vast computer network, but to plan a network of the future that will connect not only to computers but to telephones, televisions and all manner of new gadgets.
Raduchel's background may fill the bill better than Andreessen's. He has been very involved in Sun's Internet strategy and forging alliances with other big companies, including Fujitsu, Sony and, more recently, AOL. Moreover, Raduchel, a 53-year-old former Harvard professor and veteran technology executive, may be more suited to the ways of AOL, where executives tend to be in their late 30s and 40s, than the 28-year-old Andreessen, who was a graduate student before forming Netscape.
Of course, when Andreessen took the job at AOL in February, it was seen as a sign that the sprawling company in Dulles, Va., was reaching out to former Netscape employees and to Silicon Valley in general. As one of the inventors of the Internet browser at 23, Andreessen was among the first of the young entrepreneurs who were changing the world -- and getting rich -- building the World Wide Web.
But Andreessen said he figured out he would rather be investing in and working with new companies rather than attending meetings about corporate strategy.
"America Online's mission is to bring the Internet to everyone and to accomplish that mission is clearly a matter of size and scale," Andreessen said. "Start-ups have a different role. They are about breaking the rules and trying new things that might fail or might change the world."
So he has arranged a part-time position with AOL that will allow him to make personal investments in start-up companies and advise AOL about investing in or acquiring them.
"I look at all the creativity in the start-up world and it's like white-water rafting," Andreessen said. "You can't tell what's going on from the shore. You have to be in the middle of the rapids."
Andreessen was the last AOL employee among the small group of engineers from the University of Illinois who founded Netscape with Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics Inc.
Of the top seven executives at Netscape at the time of the acquisition in November, one still works for the company full-time. Barry Ariko, Netscape's chief operating officer, is the No. 2 executive in Iplanet, the joint venture between AOL and Sun to sell software that runs Web sites.