Netscape: The Browser That Started it All Dies a Quiet Death
It birthed the web as we know it. But tomorrow, February 1, marks the demise of Netscape Navigator, the first commercial web browser.
Navigator will continue to function should you happen to have a recent copy stashed away. But American Online, which has been Netscape’s guardian during its long, downward slide in popularity, will no longer support the browser and will stop releasing updates. Support for all versions of the software will be off-loaded to the Netscape community forum. Netscape.com will continue to live on as a web portal.
How did it come to this? In two words, Internet Explorer.
When Netscape arrived back in 1994, the screeching wail of the dial-up modem was not yet a household sound. But the browser changed that and ignited the growth of the internet by making it easy for anyone to use.
Then came Microsoft’s party-crashing Internet Explorer browser, which, rather infamously, was bundled with Windows. That bundling marked the beginning of the end for Netscape. In an effort to compete with Explorer, Netscape began to add new features at a rapid pace and quickly became, in the eyes of many, a bloated, overwrought piece of software.
Netscape released its browser’s source code and created the Mozilla project in 1998. AOL then acquired Netscape in 1999. Recognizing that Netscape got some things right and others wrong, Blake Ross and some of his developer friends branched off to create Firefox, which for all practical purposes is the current incarnation of Netscape.
Many believe the original Netscape died with the AOL purchase. Since then, the web browser scene has been rife with change — Mozilla gave way to the leaner, faster Firefox and Apple developed its own Safari browser — and Netscape’s browser has been rendered largely irrelevant. Indeed, as AOL's director of the Netscape brand Tom Drapeau points out, his team has failed to put a dent in IE’s dominance, and the latest release of the Netscape browser is simply “a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.”
Users feeling nostalgic for the days of old can install Netscape’s theme and extensions pack for Firefox.