April 19, 2004 5:29 PM PDT

AOL plans to revitalize Netscape?

In an attempt to revitalize its mostly gutted Netscape division, America Online is seeking to hire product management and business development professionals.

On Monday, Jeremy Liew, general manager of Netscape.com, posted a message on a jobs mailing list calling for candidates to apply to work for the organization, which played a key role in the development of the Web but has since faded from glory.

"Netscape is aggressively hiring right now," Jeremy Liew said in the posting. "We are treating Netscape as a 'restart,' with a mandate and a budget to take Netscape in a dramatically different direction, although still focusing on its current businesses as the No. 2 Web browser and No. 3 general audience portal."

Liew said the company had multiple positions in product management, with "experience in search, browsers, consumer-facing Web sites, consumer software, authentication/personalization, or Web publishing all valuable."

The openings are for positions in Columbus, Ohio, Liew said. An AOL representative was unable to give a current employee count for the Netscape division, partly because programmers may work on other AOL properties as well.

A source close to AOL confirmed that the message was authentic. AOL on Monday declined to give details about plans for Netscape. "Netscape is a terrific brand and there's a lot more we can do with the portal," spokesman Jim Whitney said. "But we're not prepared to discuss our plans at this time."

Netscape helped make the Internet a household name with its browser software. In 1994, the company launched Version 1.0 of Netscape Navigator, which was a commercial version of the pioneering Mosaic program.

Netscape largely owned the browser market when it went public in 1995 and was still a contender in 1998, when the Netscape browser's market share ran neck-and-neck with that of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Also in 1998, America Online said it would buy Netscape in a deal then valued at $4.3 billion. Given the Internet stock boom, the transaction's value rose to $8.98 billion by the time shareholders approved it.

But America Online, which later merged with Time Warner, began devoting fewer and fewer resources to the Netscape browser, and Microsoft's IE came to dominate the browser arena.

The settlement last year between Microsoft and AOL Time Warner (which has since dropped the AOL from its name) seemed to formalize the Netscape browser's demise, as Time Warner inked a seven-year contract to use IE in its flagship service.

Netscape at this point offers a discount Internet access service and serves as a portal that boasts 19 million unique users a month, Liew said in his jobs posting. Netscape also had about 18 million downloads of its browser in the last 12 months, he said.

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