Netscape Officially Dead
We’ve known it for years but AOL has made it official: Netscape is dead.
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.
This was inevitable but Netscape’s passage is worth noting. The giants at the start of the modern Internet — Prodigy, CompuServe, Mosiac, Delphi, and many others — are almost all gone. Indeed, AOL itself is a shadow of what it once was and shows no signs of resurgence. Microsoft and comparative upstart Google have slowly absorbed rivals and/or figured out how to do what they did better.