He’s not a household name like Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg. His face isn’t known to millions. But during his remarkable 20-year career, no one has done more than Marc Andreessen to change the way we communicate. At 22, he invented Mosaic, the first graphical web browser—an innovation that is perhaps more responsible than any other for popularizing the Internet and bringing it into hundreds of millions of homes. He cofounded Netscape and took it public in a massive (for that time) stock offering that helped catalyze the dotcom boom. He started Loudcloud, a visionary service to bring cloud computing to business clients. And more recently, as a venture capitalist, he has backed an astonishing array of web 2.0 companies, from Twitter to Skype to Groupon to Instagram to Airbnb.
As Wired prepares for its 20th anniversary issue in January 2013, we are launching a series called Wired Icons: in-depth interviews with our biggest heroes, the tenacious pioneers who built digital culture and evangelized it to the world over the past two decades. There’s not a more fitting choice for our first icon than Andreessen—a man whose career, which almost exactly spans the history of our magazine, is a lesson in how to spot the future. In an interview at Andreessen’s office in Palo Alto, California, Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson talked with him about technological transformation, and about the five big ideas that Andreessen had before everyone else.