The Death of Netscape Navigator

It had to happen to one or the other… It happened to AOL first.  Alas…poor Netscape.  I knew him, IE.


Those of us who have been around computers for a while will remember the browser wars back in the day.  This is when Netscape was Netscape, before they were bought by AOL (or Time-Warner/AOL…the timing is a bit fuzzy for me).  IE and Netscape were duking it out, for dominance in the Internet space.  It is perhaps the one single issue that eventually led to the antitrust case against Microsoft.



I saw the announcement hit my Blackjack while I was on the train going home last night…AOL has finally pulled the plug on Netscape Navigator and will be putting it to rest on February 1, 2008. I was sitting with a new employee of mine, an ex-Microsoft employee for that matter (he was the Build Manager in the Windows Division, responsible for creating all of the daily, beta, RC and RTM builds for Windows 95/98/98SE back in the day…Darren is a really COOL guy), and the news caught us both by surprise. 

I say surprise because while both of us weren’t "surprised" that it had happened, neither of us thought it would happen any time soon. Boy were we wrong…

Tom Drapeau, Director of AOL’s Netscape Brand said they were ending development of the browser and would stop releasing security updates for it on 01-Feb-08. According to Drapeau, with The Mozilla Foundation’s success and the wide acceptance of its FireFox browser, Netscape is passing the torch.  AOL is actively encouraging its Netscape users to download, install and use FireFox for their all of their Internet browsing needs.

A Brief History
Netscape Navigator was first released back in 1994 when Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark formed Mosaic Communications Corp. The first version was released on 15-Dec-94. By the middle of 1995, Netscape basically owned the Internet and accounted for approximately an 80% share of all browsers used. Microsoft caught wind of this, and launched IE in August 1995. By the end of 1998, they had surpassed Netscape and had taken the lead in the browser war.

To combat their slipping share, Netscape announced that they would stop charging users for the purchase of their browser, and began giving it away in January of 1998. The Mozilla Foundation was formed between January-February 1998, and officially took control of the code as an open-source, non-profit organization. Later that year, AOL bought Netscape in a $4.2B dollar deal.

Since then the browser has effectively lost 100% of its user base. Last month, according to Net Applications (a web metrics company) estimated browser share for IE at 77.4%, FireFox at 16%, and Netscape at 0.60% (yes, that’s just over 1/2 of 1 percent). It is truly, the end of an era…


The browser fell on hard times, however, and quickly lost what users it had to IE as well as the successor from Mozilla, FireFox. Last month, for instance, Web metrics company Net Applications tracked Netscape’s browser share at just 0.60%, while IE owned 77.4% and Firefox accounted for 16%.

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