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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.

This post also available in Polish

Your Replies

#1 On December 29th, 2007 2:20 am Farewell, Netscape! | K-Squared Ramblings replied:

[...] Update 3: Some commentary from the Web Standards Project, with a somewhat familiar-looking title. [...]

#2 On December 29th, 2007 6:28 pm Vijaya replied:

Isn’t this really the death of a brand, not of a piece of software? As far as I understand it, Netscape is just a rebranded Mozilla browser anyway. Oh, and your intro about your father may have been overshare and was a bit creepy.

#3 On December 29th, 2007 7:28 pm WaSP Member lloydi replied:

@Vijaya. Sorry, wasn’t meant to be creepy. I’ve toned it down somewhat, but the sentiment’s the same – “I wish it could have been a fond farewell”

#4 On December 30th, 2007 8:01 am Vectorpedia (Rick) replied:

I remember surfing the internet back in 1996 when Netscape was at the forefront. IE just couldn’t cut it as a browser for certain things and Netscape’s built in utilities made it really easy to develop personal web pages. I remember Navigator Gold which quite honestly was a great browser…until they screwed it up and went to the Communicator suite. AOL tarnished Time-Warner, one of this nations most premiere, well-known, Fortune 500, blue-chip corporations. Investing in AOL was easily the biggest mistake Time-Warner has ever made in its history. AOL went from being a company of good original ideas, to a company of bad ideas…….then no ideas.

I do hope history will be kind to the death of Netscape.

#5 On December 30th, 2007 9:45 pm Farewell Netscape replied:

[...] Farewell Netscape 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. [...]

#6 On December 31st, 2007 3:25 am La domo de karotoj » Netskapo estas (ree) morta replied:

[...] Komenciĝante la unuan de februaro en 2008 AOL mortigos Navigilon kaj ne eĉ plu donos subtenon (eble pro novaj interrilatoj kun Mikrosofto). AOL proponas, ke oni uzu Fajrovulpon, aldonante la promeson “vi ŝatos ĝin”. Laŭ mi la fasado de Fajrovulpo estas malbona (mi ne ŝatas ĝin), sed ĝi nedisputeble estas pli bona ol la fasado de eldonoj oka kaj naŭa de Navigilo. Komentoj (0) | Reenaĵoj (0) [...]

#7 On January 1st, 2008 6:53 am Selena Jacksons » Blog Archive » Netscape says good bye replied:

[...] along the way for some of your misadventures, but you weren’t all bad.     Read More    Post aComment [...]

#8 On January 1st, 2008 9:58 pm افكار و احلام » Requiem for a rendering engine replied:

[...] While the rest of the web is marking the ignominious final death of the browser bearing one of the greatest names of the pre-War Internet, I want to lament the death of a very different thing, a remarkable yet unheralded rendering engine. [...]

#9 On January 2nd, 2008 9:56 am WaSP Member kblessing replied: (the portal) will continue to live on, of course. But for what was once the premier browser on the Web, it’s a sad, sad death.

#10 On January 2nd, 2008 7:20 pm WaSP Member faruk replied:

It’s important to remember that Netscape played a huge part in convincing Microsoft of the need to support standards in the first place. Way back in earlier days of the browser wars (though not the earliest ones), standards-support was a competitive attraction for the browser vendors.

It didn’t last long, but it’s notable nonetheless at a time like this.

#11 On January 9th, 2008 9:57 am Alex replied:

I also remember as in 1997 I opened the world of Internet with the help of Netscape 4. All that Microsoft was able to suggest at that time was IE3, which was practically impossible to use. At the same time somebody of the Netscape officials made a declaration that in 10 years we would forget who Microsoft was.

And 10 years have passed. And the Netscape browser does not exist any longer, and Microsoft are thriving. It all might have been different if they had not started to write their version 5 from scratch, if Netscape hadn’t bought AOL no one knows what for, etc.

And now farewell, Netscape.

#12 On January 9th, 2008 10:08 am jim replied:

Just like ICQ bought by AOL

#13 On January 10th, 2008 11:33 am Forum On Web Design and Internet » Blog Archive » WHEN PEOPLE STARTED TALKING ABOUT USING WEB STANDARDS I REGAINED MY INTEREST IN THE WEB replied:

[...] The WWW has recently lost web browser previously known as Netscape. Ian Lloyd in his post Farewell Netscape says “We may not necessarily notice you’ve gone… but you weren’t all bad.” What are your feelings? Do you think Netscape will be missed? [...]

#14 On January 11th, 2008 12:36 pm Daniel replied:

@faruk and Alex:
I can understand your feelings an all. But please remember. If “Mozilla” had not been rewritten from scratch, web standards probalby weren’t where they are now today.

Sadly, NS 4 made IE 5 to implement the CSS Box model wrong, which is just awful…

Anyway. Could you guys please chat with Netscape again? The german portal ( still offers NS7.1 which is old and unsupported. Why is AOL still doing this? It’s annoying to have this old browser on the market. They should recommend Firefox there as well!

#15 On January 13th, 2008 7:42 am Markus replied:

I do agree with Ian’s article. Netscape had his importance, but management obviously made many wrong decisions. A good indication for this is offered by the Alexa Tool. Looking at the traffic details, you can see that currently around 0,06 % of the Alexa user visit every day versus nearly 1 % in the years 2002 and 2003. So the website was amongs the 200 most visited websites in the www:

As Google has showed us impressively, a good product will automaticly find more users. Netscape already hat the users, but they did not recommend the browser to their friends, while Google users recommended search and nowadays maps, news, finance to their friends.

The world is moving forward and obviously Netscape has moved and improved too slowly …

#16 On January 15th, 2008 1:24 pm Daemon replied:

I am curious whether there again in a few years looks different. Nobody knows how the Internet will develop. Netscape is certainly in the next few years to come, the only question is how!

#17 On January 16th, 2008 4:56 am Télécharger des fichier .DLL replied:

Too much choices now.
But I still missing the time when I suf with netscape. Like the first girl in your life, you love her forever, even can’t accompany her forever.

#18 On January 16th, 2008 12:33 pm Dave replied:

Wow I don’t remember seeing to many reviews about software that compare the experience to a mortal passing. But beyond that fact the netscape demise just shows what happens when corporate companies try to wrestle with independent internet business models. It been over for Netscape for sometime but now its official.

#19 On January 23rd, 2008 2:32 am Uhren Tom replied:

I use ICQ for a long time, but I got back to do my conversation by email, becauce you allways get interupt in your work by an ICQ call. Nevertheless I wont be rechable for anyone at any time in the internet….

#20 On January 25th, 2008 5:11 pm Best Of January 2008 | Best of the Month | Smashing Magazine replied:

[...] Farewell NetscapeAOL announced that it won’t support Netscape any longer. Will the browser ‘be sorely missed’? Did it pass away peacefully in the night, a lot later than many of us thought it would? The discussion about the browser many of us used once and dismissed afterwards. [...]

#21 On January 27th, 2008 1:45 pm Memoria de Acceso Aleatorio » Requiem por un motor de visualización web replied:

[...] Mientras el resto de la web está haciendo notar la ignominiosa y definitiva muerte del navegador que se hizo con uno de los más importantes nombres de la Internet de antes de la guerra, yo quisiera lamentar la muerte de algo diferente, la de un motor de visualización web notorio aunque nunca demasiado sonado. [...]

#22 On February 3rd, 2008 8:59 am KillerT replied:

The closure of support for Netscape was a really negative surprise. I didn’t understand why this had to happen after Netscape had started off with a completely revised and easy-to-use interface in the version 9. Hey – the browser wasn’t even given the time to get known among the old Netscape users, of whom there are tens of millions (if not hundreds). That just wasn’t an honest test! The dumbest thing about it all was the lack of advertisement for Netscape by AOL, even on its own sites – I mean, why pay almost ten billion for a company and then do nothing for the acquisition? Just doesn’t make economic sense!

Well, I’ve been using Netscape since early 1998 and I’ll continue using version in the near future (It usually takes something like two to three years before a browser starts developing insufficiency problems). Still got to try out the e-mail suite, but at the moment the 7.1 client is sufficient.

I do hope somebody with the necessary intelligence and finances takes over the brand and restarts it under more favourable circumstances than NS got from AOL! I mean – the name is a household word in the Internet!

Some years ago I owned an Internet cafe here in Germany with 24 PCs for visitors – Netscape 4.78 was the last standard browser we used. Sometime we were forced to uninstall Outlook from all systems because of the increasing number of virus infections caused by careless e-mail users.

- KillerT

Netscape for ever!

#23 On February 4th, 2008 9:10 pm News » Best Of January 2008 replied:

[...] Farewell Netscape AOL announced that it won’t support Netscape any longer. Will the browser ‘be sorely missed’? Did it pass away peacefully in the night, a lot later than many of us thought it would? The discussion about the browser many of us used once and dismissed afterwards. [...]

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