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Farewell Netscape

By Ian Lloyd | December 28th, 2007 | Filed in Browsers

So, the web browser we know as Netscape is no more. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-browser. But how do we all feel about this really? Will the browser ‘be sorely missed’? Did it pass away peacefully in the night, a lot later than many of us thought it would? Or are some people out there in denial that it has actually happened, grieving for this once great web icon?

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Not so long ago, I said farewell to my father for the final time but because of various historical reasons, it was not exactly a fond farewell. I wished at the time that it could have been different. Now, here I am thinking of what to write about the passing of Netscape, and finding myself with similar feelings. Sure, many years ago, you meant something to me, Netscape, but in recent years news of updates has left me thinking ‘meh’, and as we learn today that Netscape is to be killed off for good by AOL, once again I’m thinking "wow, it took this long?"  and wishing I actually cared more about it. Because there was a time that I would have been damn upset about this.

I mean, seriously, who installed Netscape 9 – and then actually used it? (Installing it, firing it up once to what the UI was like and never opening it again doesn’t count, by the way).

And just as I had done when my father shuffled off this mortal coil, I wanted to cast my mind back beyond the more recent years, during which good news stories were hard to find, and to once again remember some of the shining moments from further back. Like when Netscape was the dominant browser with over 90% of people using it to surf the web. I remember showing people how they could create their own web pages using Netscape Composer – for free! And let’s not forget that Netscape took an incredibly brave decision after the first browser wars to completely scrap its codebase that would have formed the basis of Netscape 5 (the browser that never was), instead coming out with a much more standards-compliant Netscape 6. This was the moment that the fork in the road that started diverging with Netscape 3 and IE 3, and widened even further in the version 4 browsers, started to converge back again. Had this not happened, who knows what divergence we might have in web browsers today? Sadly, though, this might also have been the moment that Netscape started to fall on its own sword.

While new skirmishes have recently cropped up in the browser world, proving that the war may not truly be over, for this weary old fighter it’s one battle too many to fight, and will be on mere ‘clerical duties’ until February of next year, upon which time it can hang up its combat fatigues for good.

Farewell, Netscape. We may not necessarily notice you’ve gone, and you may have taken a kicking or two along the way for some of your misadventures, but you weren’t all bad.

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#1 On December 29th, 2007 2:20 am