By MIGUEL HELFT for Technolgy via The New York Times
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Silicon Valley is awash in tales of the “PayPal Mafia,” the tight-knit group of PayPal alumni who have helped one another start and finance a crop of new companies.
“Had we known about Facebook and Twitter and Google back in ’92 or ’93, we would have built them into the browser,” Marc Andreessen said.
But William V. Campbell, who is something of a godfather figure in the Valley, said, in a rare interview, “There is a ‘Netscape Mafia,’ too.”
And as Mafia families sometimes do, the Netscape Mafia is coming together for a reunion.
On Monday, RockMelt, a company founded and financed by a group of Netscape alumni, will release a new Web browser, 16 years after Netscape introduced the first commercial Internet browser, and 12 years after the company was sold to AOL after its defeat by Microsoft in the so-called browser wars.
“We think it is a fantastic time to build a company around a browser,” said Marc Andreessen, who co-founded Netscape, and whose venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, is the principal financial backer of RockMelt.
Although most people spend more time using their Web browser than any other program on their computers, most browsers have not kept up with the evolution of the Web into a social media hub, Mr. Andreessen said. He and Mr. Campbell, a former Netscape board member who is advising the new company as well as investing in it, say RockMelt is a browser for the Facebook era.
At first glance, RockMelt looks like an ordinary browser, a digital windowpane onto the Web. But along the side of its main window are two thin rails with icons, one showing a user’s friends on the left, and another displaying a user’s favorite social sites, including Twitter and Facebook, on the right.
A “share” button makes it easy to post a Web page, a YouTube video or any other items, to Facebook, Twitter or other sites. Similarly, users can update their status or keep tabs on their friends’ activities on any social network right on their main browser window. They can also easily add and remove friends, or chat with them, on the left-side rail.