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Netscape RIP

The once mighty web browser was down to less than 1% of market share.

AOL on Friday stopped development of the Netscape browser, saying the respected brand that launched the commercial Internet in 1994 had little chance of ever regaining market share against its archrival Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

The Web portal, which took over Netscape Navigator in the $4.2 billion acquisition of Netscape Communications in 1999, said development on the browser had recently devolved into a "handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions." Firefox is the open source browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation.

"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer," Tom Drapeau, director of development, said in a Netscape blog post.

While once commanding 90% of the browser market, Netscape Navigator now accounts for less than 1%, and AOL had no interest in spending what it would take to revive the brand. Instead, the company, which was once a subscriber-supported portal, preferred to spend its resources on its transition into an ad-supported Web business. The change left "little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be," Drapeau said.

Back in the late 90's or early 00's I used to use Netscape quite a bit. There was a online chat room I liked to frequent and it didn't work properly if you entered through AOL's web portal or if you used IE.

Gradually I stopped visiting that website, and my use of Netscape Navigator became very rare. When I bought a laptop in 2006, I downloaded Netscape, but never used the browser more than a couple of times. Now I use IE or Firefox.

As James Joyner at OTB notes the once giants of the internet- Prodigy, CompuServe, Mosiac, Delphi and others, are almost all gone. Technology improves, and what was once popular dies a slow or sometimes quick death. Any one play 8-tracks any more? I didn't think so.


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Comments (17)

Hey, my dad still has his G... (Below threshold)

Hey, my dad still has his Galaxy 500 convertable with 8 track. He has about 30 tapes that amazingly still plays. A good day is driving the car, top down, listening to Simon and Garfield in the mountains of NM. Netscape, not such memories.

I think this is the result ... (Below threshold)

I think this is the result of hiring lawyers instead of engineers to try and compete in the browser market. Netscape's market share has plummeted since it lawyered up and sued Microsoft while Firefox takes more market share directly from Internet Explorer every year with good old fashioned innovation.

Opera is going to try the lawyer route in Europe. I suspect they'll be following Netscape down the great porcelain bowl of history with that strategy.

It used to be common for te... (Below threshold)

It used to be common for technology companies to ride a certain technology all the way to their grave (see list in the post) (Four Phase anyone?), so it is good AOL recognized the inevitable and at least stopped one bleeding development project. And even marginally superior technologies get overwhelmed by better marketing machines and buzz (BETAMAX versus VHS is the one most cited).

I started to get incensed by the 8-track remark (I have about 300 of them moldering away in boxes) until I realized it had been a couple of
years since I even had played one (a recording of a long dead FM station from 1972).

R.I.P. Netscape.

Wasn't FireFox started by e... (Below threshold)

Wasn't FireFox started by ex-Netscape people, or based on it? Maybe I have schtuff mixed up but I thought there was a Netscape FireFox connection.

JoeC, the BetaMax was impro... (Below threshold)

JoeC, the BetaMax was improved into the BetacamSP and was the standard for television video tapes all through the 90s so there was life beyond that format.

The basic root of Netscape ... (Below threshold)

The basic root of Netscape is Monzilla (sp?) which is also the root of firefox. But think of this in car terms, a great engine in a worthless body is, well worthless. Netscape never found its value, great engine/horrible body. Firefox is better as it tries to address the body problem.

By the way, for what it is worth, IE sucks.

How could they possibly com... (Below threshold)

How could they possibly compete with Free anyway? With the cost of the IE browser baked into the cost of the Windows OS, Netscape had no realizable source of revenue to compete with IE.

IE was not only "bundled" f... (Below threshold)

IE was not only "bundled" free with Windows, anyone could download the latest version for free. AOL thought the market would never change, overpaid for Netscape (which was a much better browser than IE in the early versions) and, as TheDelawarian points out above, decided to rely on lawsuits to cover their own stupidity.

That stupidity wasn't limited to browsers, of course. At one time, AOL had the lion's share of all US internet users, but refused to react to the marketplace and saw their share value disappear.

Netscape Composer, bundled ... (Below threshold)

Netscape Composer, bundled in the package, was my introduction to html. Any wonder why I still don't bother to put in any style markers?

Firefox takes more... (Below threshold)
Firefox takes more market share directly from Internet Explorer every year with good old fashioned innovation.

Yes, and if they can just now fix it so that Firefox isn't such a $#*! memory hog, they'd really have a killer app.

Also, there is a small but ... (Below threshold)

Also, there is a small but non-zero percentage of sites that absolutely will not load correctly for any browser other than IE.

I wish this wasn't true, but it is.

"It used to be common for t... (Below threshold)
Eneils Bailey:

"It used to be common for technology companies to ride a certain technology all the way to their grave."

So right, anyone remember Ken Olsen of DEC(Digital Equipment Corporation.) Back in the eigthties he rode the VAX horse off the bow into the drink. He had IBM trying to re-market the old 370 as the 970 and a viable technical/ minicomputer. You gotta change, you have to stay on the foreskin of technology. Otherwise you will be a minor fart strain and oder in the underwear of progressing technology.
There have been companies, great innovators, that brought new ideas to the market, but most of them failed because they tried to make engineers marketing genieus'.

Also, there is a s... (Below threshold)
Also, there is a small but non-zero percentage of sites that absolutely will not load correctly for any browser other than IE.

I wish this wasn't true, but it is.

Yup. That, and lots of links from within programs--generally games, in my case--still try to open with IE, even though Firefox is my default browser. That's really the only reason I still have IE on my computer.

The trouble with Netscape w... (Below threshold)

The trouble with Netscape was the unbelievably poor coding in it. The Mozilla people had to rewrite most of the code from scratch. Netscape did not follow ANY standards, so creating a website that worked around its terrible behavior was nearly impossible. Now don't get me wrong, IE does not follow any standards, either, even though MS representatives sit on all the standards committees.

But we will not shed too many tears for Netscape. It filled a role once, but any attempt to keep it alive now is counterproductive.

AOL is still in business?</... (Below threshold)

AOL is still in business?

Mozilla was started by the ... (Below threshold)

Mozilla was started by the core Netscape group, not Firefox.

firefox is an offshoot of the Mozilla group project.

Mozilla Suite is an open-source suite based on the Netscape Communicator Suite, whereas Firefox was a stripped-down browser only based on the Mozilla Core browser.

That being said, I still use Firefox.

Funny, I'm reading (and wri... (Below threshold)
John S:

Funny, I'm reading (and writing) this on Netscape. Been using it since 1995. For those rare sites that don't work correctly, I use Firefox. IE is there too (it's not like you can remove it) but I rarely use IE because the shortcuts have been deleted.






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