Netscape Officially Dead

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Tlaloc says:

    Here’s to the day Microsoft follows Netscape to the grave.

  2. Michael says:

    And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced.
    But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird.
    The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire
    and thunder upon them. For the beast had been
    reborn with its strength renewed, and the
    followers of Mammon cowered in horror.

    from The Book of Mozilla, 7:15

  3. hln says:

    Yeah, sort of.

    Mozilla still lives on in Firefox and Thunderbird and other variations favored by the geek world. Netscape’s not DEAD – it’s just dead by name to the masses.

    The Mozilla engine is much more accurate, exposing scripting gaffes to the public. IE and other browsers tend to be more forgiving.


  4. Patrick T McGuire says:

    …or figured out how to do what they did better.

    It’s called progress.