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!