Thursday, 28 February 2008

Goodbye, Netscape

The first dominant web browser, Netscape Navigator, has been discontinued by AOL. Product support for Netscape will end on March 1st. (Link)

AOL (America Online) acquired Netscape Communications in late 1998, by which point the company's browser had ceased to dominate the market, being reduced to 40% (Link). The project was not helped by buggy releases and unwise decisions on the part of AOL, and Navigator's market share continued to dwindle.

Mozilla Firefox is descended from what was originally an experimental open source branch of the Mozilla browser engine development project (Link). Now it is the main competitor to Internet Explorer, and has approximately 15% market share.

Netscape added commercial content to keep partners onside, producing a bloated browser with a poor user interface that provided little incentive for most users to switch from Internet Explorer (which, at least for Windows users, is always the default browser option as a result of its bundling with the operating system). Firefox, on the other hand, came up with a streamlined, user-friendly alternative with genuinely useful features (tabbed browsing in particular).

Netscape may be consigned to the Internet history books, but Mozilla is going from strength to strength.

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