In “How the Web Was Won”, Paul Andrews writes about Microsoft circa 1991-1995, as it was becoming clear that Internet connectivity was going to change the way people use computers.
Andrews’ angle is that Bill Gates and Microsoft were successful in making Microsoft more of an Internet-focused company. I think the jury is still out on that one. One could argue this was the time Internet search innovation should have been happening. But it’s clear Microsoft was focused on the software in the computer, not the new content that was becoming available on the Web.
It wasn’t a straightforward decision to build a separate browser. There was concern over whether the Internet would make the operating system, and Microsoft, less relevant. Microsoft could have built Internet connectivity into Microsoft Office. But they saw Netscape’s success and realized the importance of owning the browser.
There’s some interesting stories about Netscape and other companies that developed long-forgotten web browsers. Did you know BookLink was the first company to gain traction in the browser market? AOL bought BookLink which didn’t make Microsoft very happy.
So MSFT and AOL competed intensely in the mid 90′s, and 15 years later may be looking at a merger!