AOL and Netscape in $4bn talks

IN A STUNNING alliance that would change the landscape of the US technology industry, America Online is reportedly in talks to buy Netscape Communications in a deal that also involves Sun Microsystems

All the companies declined to comment, but Newsweek magazine and The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that under one scenario the $4bn, all-stock transaction would leave AOL to run Netscape's "Netcenter" website to distribute Netscape's popular browser, the software that lets people view information on the internet.

Sun would benefit in two ways. It would take control of Netscape's business- level server software, and enjoy widespread distribution among the 13 million subscribers to AOL's Java technology for the running of internet programs. The Journal reported that AOL, Sun and Netscape were in talks all week and over the weekend, and that a final agreement may not be reached.

An AOL-Netscape deal had been seriously considered before, in part to stem competition from Microsoft. In 1995, AOL chairman Steve Case negotiated with Netscape to distribute the company's browser to AOL subscribers.