What Happened to Netscape
Today we have a lot of internet browsers to choose from whenever we need to access the web. Back in the early nineties, the choices were limited to only a few and they had to adhere to specific rules when it comes to showing information, not to mention the limited capabilities of browsers. But it was during those years when one browser emerged and forever shaped cyberspace.
The Rise of Netscape
Come April 1994 when Jim Clark of Silicon Graphics and fresh graduate Marc Andreessen created Mosaic Communications Corporation, with the latter’s experience in working part-time on the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) Mosaic browser proved immensely useful in this endeavor. At October of the same year they released Mosaic Netscape which was eventually renamed into Netscape Navigator to avoid trademark problems with the NCSA’s Mosaic browser.
The company was extremely successful with Netscape Navigator. It was the go-to browser for everyone without any real competition. Stock offerings spiked from $14 to $75 and valued Netscape at $2.9 billion. The incredible initial public offering coined the term “Netscape moment” and is still used nowadays for the same reason.
One of the innovations of Netscape Navigator was the ability to load images and text as the page loaded, which was useful for those with dial-up connection as they can read information on the page while it still downloaded. Other browsers during that time loaded information over the network connection, which forced users to wait with nothing but a blank page on their screen.
The browser was free for download in November 1994 and March 1995. However, the company eventually made the browser free only for academic and non-profit organizational use.
On August 24, 1995 Microsoft released the first version of Internet Explorer as part of Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95. It proved to be a solid competitor as Internet Explorer was free of charge and had quick releases of new versions.
The Fall of Netscape
The emergence of Internet Explorer in the arena sparked the infamous “browser wars” where Netscape and Microsoft competed with each other through releases of new features, although the latter had the upper hand with the free and more stable browser. Netscape, on the other hand, was bogged down with numerous bugs as they focused on new features instead of ensuring their stability, and their browser wasn’t for free until January 1998.
Netscape Navigator 3.0 was then released with two versions: Standard and Gold Edition. They stuffed the Gold Edition with numerous functions like news readers and integrated email, but this only burdened the browser and made it crash a lot. Internet Explorer 5.0 was later released and the current Netscape Communicator 4.x (a renamed Netscape Gold Edition) paled in comparison.
Also in the same year, Netscape released its source code for Netscape Communicator to the public. This paved way to the creation of the Mozilla Organization (a portmanteau of Mosaic and Godzilla), but it cost the company significant progress in its browsers. Microsoft eventually overtook them and became the leading web browser, and Netscape was unable to reclaim the title anymore.
On November 24, 1998, America Online (AOL) came into the scene and acquired Netscape Communications for $4.2 billion. The acquisition, however, didn’t contribute to the development of more browsers until two years later.
Netscape 5 was scrapped and Netscape 6 was released on November 14, 2000 with a new graphical user interface but based on the unstable Mozilla 0.6 source code, which made the public steer more towards Internet Explorer. Two years later, Netscape 7.0 was released, and it was the last version that used the Mozilla source code.
Netscape was then disbanded on July 15, 2003 by Time Warner, formerly AOL Time Warner. Netscape 7.2 was still developed by in-house staff and was released on August 18, 2004. Successive releases were outsourced to the Canadian software developer Mercurial Communications until Netscape 8.1, but the public was no longer interested.
Finally, Netscape 9 was released in October 2007 but at that time Internet Explorer was leading the browser market, followed by Firefox. Netscape barely made its presence visible on the market. AOL then decided to discontinue the development of browsers and support of existing ones in March 2008, but prior to that they released a major update to Netscape 9 to help users with the migration to other browsers.
Today AOL still runs the Netscape brand as Netscape ISP, a provider of low cost internet access which stated on January 8, 2004. It provided efficient surfing speeds through the compression of webpages at the cost of loss in graphical quality.
Also DMOZ, derived from directory.mozilla.org, functions as a directory of web links that can be modified by anyone, is owned by Netscape / AOL but maintained by a group of volunteers.
And lastly the Mozilla Organization launched the Mozilla Foundation on July 15, 2003 after AOL became less involved with its development. Eventually they developed highly-successful Mozilla products such as Firefox and Thunderbird.
Even though Netscape crumbled and is now forgotten by many, one can’t argue with the fact that it’s brief spot as the number one browser in the early days of the internet helped steer the future of cyberspace towards innovative grounds that we now enjoy today.