Friday, December 28, 2007

R.I.P. Netscape Navigator (1994-2008)

Web icon set to be discontinued

The browser that helped kick-start the commercial web is to cease development because of lack of users.

Netscape Navigator, now owned by AOL, will no longer be supported after 1 February 2008, the company has said.

In the mid-1990s the browser was used by more than 90% of the web population, but numbers have slipped to just 0.6%.

In particular, the browser has faced competition from Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), which is now used by nearly 80% of all web users.

"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," said Tom Drapeau on the company's blog.

Browser wars

Netscape was developed by Marc Andreessen, co-author of Mosaic, the first popular web browser.

Mosaic was written while Mr Andreessen was a student at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois in 1992.

After graduation he set up Netscape Communications Corporation and began development of the Navigator browser. The first version was released in 1994.

It was quickly a success and dominated the browser market in the mid-1990s.

But other companies followed its success, notably Microsoft, which bundled its Explorer software with its operating systems.

This culminated in a highly-publicised legal battle, which saw Microsoft accused of anti-competitive behaviour.

Although the settlement saw Netscape gain many concessions from Microsoft including the ability to exploit IE code, it has been unable to gain back its market share.

The demise of Navigator was compounded in 2003 when AOL, which bought Netscape in 1998, made redundant most of the staff working on new versions of the browser.

Many of the staff moved to the Mozilla Foundation which develops the popular Firefox browser. This browser has a 16% share of the browser market.

Fade away

Although a core team has continued to work on the secure browser - it is currently on version nine - AOL has decided to finally pull the plug.

"After 1 February, there will be no more active product support for Navigator nine, or any previous Netscape Navigator browser," wrote Mr Drapeau.

"We feel it's the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox," he said.

Users of the browser will no longer receive security or software updates after the date.

Old versions of the browser will still be available for download, but will no longer be supported.

Microsoft is expected to launch a new version of IE in 2008, whilst the third version of Firefox is currently available as a beta, or test version.

Source [BBC]

For the official announcement and more info visit AOL's Netscape Blog

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