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Netscape Closes Shop

Yup, it’s true. I wish it weren’t, but it is. Netscape has finally decided to discontinue development. AOL has decided that as of Feb 1st 2008 they will discontinue releasing any further revisions, including security updates for the Netscape browser. Honestly, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me given how things have been going for the last 4-5 years now for them, but it’s still a bummer to lose the only other existing survivor from the original browser wars. That leaves only Internet Explorer the current reigning king of browser dominance.

On Netscape’s blog they suggest you download Mozilla’s Firefox and use the Netscape theme going forward if you want current updates with a similar user interface to the original Netscape design. I suspect there will be a number of stragglers in the user community that either don’t hear the news, or want to stick with the older browser, which will continue to have holes in it that remain unpatched after the Feb 1st date - in perpetuity. Not that I have recently believed Netscape was a reasonable choice as a browser since their patching mechanism changed to be based on updates to the IE or Firefox rendering engine which meant it was weeks or months behind Firefox (first tested in 2005 with the punycode homograph attack that haunted Mozilla which took months for a patch to reach Netscape).

Even still, Netscape has come a long way. I remember we found issues in it that would leak your email address back in 1996-7 that was later used by spammers. Countless bugs, corrections, mistakes… all the way to now, and through it all it retained a decent user base through innovation and relatively good security (myself included for a number of years). It’s amazing it lasted as long as it has. It’s been a decade that I’ve been hacking on the defunct browser so it’s with sadness I say, so long Netscape!

5 Responses to “Netscape Closes Shop”

  1. Spyware Says:

    One minute of silence seems appropriate. Rest now, Netscape. Your battle is over. You can rest in peace…

  2. Spyware Says:

    Couldn’t help but to notice this.

  3. Wladimir Palant Says:

    I think that’s very good news. Netscape as innovator died when AOL bought it in 1999, after that they were only trying to monetize Mozilla development. Netscape security was always horrible and never a priority.

    There sure will be people who will stick with Netscape - just as there are still some who choose (!!!) to use Netscape 7.1. I can only feel pity with them, but that’s their choice. In the end it is better if Netscape’s death is official, many people seem to connect hopes to the name “Netscape” (which is only a name, there is nothing behind it nowadays).

  4. Jon Longoria Says:

    Frankly I can’t see why they didn’t do this sooner in all honestly. Netscape lost the battle for browser dominance and/or equality in the late-90s. Between their bulky, slow code (which sadly still performs under expectations in the benchmarking between it and Internet Explorer) and their good-intentioned / poorly-executed PA attacks on Microsoft, they cut their own throat. AOL’s purchase of the Netscape brand and development was (and is) simply a well-masked exit strategy for the application provider, from a business perspective.

    Beyond that, Mozilla Firefox got a leg up on them with open development strategy, a modular design, a flexible/pluggable interface and a more amicable security featureset. Netscape went heavy into a bundling format as well, thanks to AOL’s marketing department (the unsolicited marketing whore of all ISPs), which meant it had a greater avenue for inclusion in bundled/spamware packages across the board to try and “persuade” industry consumers to use it’s software.

    Personally, I bid it good riddance. I always dreaded using the browser application on any platform and developing for it with all the silly formatting wars between it and Microsoft of basic HTML / DHTML source was a unavoidable headache. It is sad to see a part of history come to an end, but I am comforted by the fact that we have much more viable alternatives to it - beyond that, we can always look back and realize that it helped lay the groundwork for a more accessible and richer Internet that we have today and this lends credit, not discredit, to the software engineers that pushed that application to the bleeding edge on more than one occassion.

    Last point, the Netscape name became synonymous with a rebellion/revolution against big business in competition to dominate the market (as some would describe Microsoft). In that fight, it unfortunately succumbed to it’s own evils and the Netscape name became associated with hypocracy (not in the sense that they committed anti-competitive violations, but in the sense that they manipulated public opinion through the AOL porthole).

    I am sure there will be many that won’t agree with this perspective, but it is what I lived from the frontlines as a developer and as a professional in two of the big three ISPs of the day. In all, it’s efforts initially were valiant, innovative and honorable, but ultimately it’s mission was corrupted, poorly asserted and failed.

    What you’re seeing here is a decade-long strategic motion of “exit stage-right”.

  5. Jim Manico Says:

    I remember deploying Java 1.0.2 applets over Netscape 3.0 for G.E. back in 1997. It’s a long defunct project - but Netscape 3 was a solid stable *insecure, cough* browser that rarely crashed. *sigh* The good ol days. Netscape, we shall miss you.