Hang your heads low, boys, hang your heads low.
Netscape was THE original Internet browser! Back in the days when the Internet was still seen as just a “geek’s toy”, Netscape was THE browser! Yes, Microsoft still had Internet Explorer, but guess what? IT SUCKED! It SUCKED along with pretty much every other web browser that other people were cranking out, including the big online services such as America Online.
The folks at the Mozilla Foundation came through with Netscape and they put it out on the Internet and they told everyone “Hey, come on over and download this FOR FREE! No strings attached!”
Web designers began using Netscape as the standard for their websites. (And, yes, that included the original Brutally Honest website when it got started in 1996.) Mozilla even released the source code for its browser back in 1998, which was seen as a MAJOR step for designers to develop add-ons and find ways to improve the program.
Netscape helped early Internet Service Providers like Mindspring (now Earthlink) compete with the online giants AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe (two of which no longer exist) not only by providing a web browser, but also later email and newsgroup applications which rivaled Eudora. They gave people more and more reasons to just get a simply ISP instead of the supposed “content-rich” Online Service Providers like AOL.
Here’s the funny thing: when Microsoft realized that their Internet Explorer SUCKED compared to Netscape, guess whom they turned to? Yup! They brought in the Mozilla Foundation to fix Internet Explorer!
Sadly, Netscape’s demise was probably sealed back in 1999 when America Online bought it out from Mozilla.
AOL COULD have incorporated Netscape into their system. They COULD have used it to enhance their email and web browsing capabilities instead of using elements from IE. But, no, that would have required THINKING. AOL executives weren’t really THINKING back then. They were too busy going on BUYING SPREES! They bought out Netscape for the same reason that they bought out ICQ… BECAUSE THEY COULD! They didn’t DO anything with it. They just bought it.
Well Mozilla washed their hands clean of Netscape and then came up with an even BETTER web browser called Firefox! And of course because this was a completely open source project, it wasn’t long before elements of Firefox showed up in Internet Explorer 7 and AOL’s “revised” Netscape.
So now it’s officially the end of the road for Netscape. America Online will stop all updates and upgrades after February 1st of 2008, almost nine years after they bought their precious “toy”. After that, users will be on their own. Well, as I understand it, if they’ve been using Netscape as their primary browser, they’ve been on their own for a while now.
Oh, by the way, you should check out this blog entry from one of the Mozilla people about his experience with the AOL-owned Netscape.
If there’s anyone who still uses Netscape (and yes, I have a copy of it too), I SERIOUSLY recommend that you just switch to Firefox. This is going to infuriate the folks at Microsoft, but the Firefox really IS the new standard!
Feel free to lament about Netscape's demise in the comments section.