back to article AOL tosses Netscape into the dustbin of history

AOL is abandoning all work on the Netscape browser and wants users to migrate to Firefox. Not that there are many left: in the mid-1990s, Netscape commanded well over 80 per cent of the internet browser market. But it has been moribund for many years, with share down to one per cent, at best. In an obituary on the Netscape …


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  1. charlie wallace

    don't let the door hit you on the way out

    1 down, 2 to go.

  2. Dan Reeder

    and it's about time too...

    nowadays, the Netscape browser is thought of in equal terms with other such glory-days nostalgia... like the Hackers movie, 2x CD-ROMs connected via your sound card instead of to the IDE bus, dotmatrix printers, spending 3 hours waiting for the latest netscape browser to download over 14.4k dialup from your ISP and wondering whether you should try that wacky 'Mosaic' instead.

    Hell, the last time I saw the Netscape logo was on a Discovery Science channel doco, and I exclaimed "oh ffs this show must be a decade old!"

    AOL, you should have ditched it 5 years ago, or not even bought it in the first place. It's never good when your product is associated with antiquity.

  3. umacf24


    A shame that the announcement doesn't seem to render the subhead tag list properly in my Firefox....

  4. Joseph Helenihi

    I remember when...

    a modem dialup shell account at 28.8 kbps with netcom and a SLIP to PPP emulator got you the .html goodness of a pretty graphics thingy via an app known as Netscape 1.something. <grasps sides of walker handles and shuffles away from keyboard muttering bitterly about how good the whippersnappers have it these days>

  5. Glenn Gilbert

    Goodbye Netscape, you won't be missed

    It's interesting to compare Netscape with WordPerfect which it's joining in the dustbin of history.

    In the beginning there was WordStar. WordPerfect was a much better product and quickly replaced WordStar much as Netscape replaced the original Mosaic browser.

    Then along came Word on Windows. A much better proposition. Easier to use with many better features. WordPerfect fought back, but it was a rearguard action and failed. Similarly Netscape, with all it's bugs, quirks and legendary intolerance of page errors was replaced with Internet Explorer. Both WordPerfect and Netscape are no more.

    Now these markets are in a new phase. The dominant player's stopped innovating and the competition is hotting up again. The 'office' products are a lesson in bloat and form over function. Similarly with Internet Explorer; bloated, unreliable, poor standards support, huge security risks, etc.

    Will Microsoft win the battle for the next generation?

    There's the free 'office' people who's products are getting better and who's price is certainly much more attractive. On the Mac, Apple's iWork is competing against Office and as a consequence the price of MS Office 2008 for the Mac is a fraction of that for Windows.

    Similarly with the browser; nobody in their right mind would use IE7 in preference to Firefox. If it weren't for IE being bundled with Windows who knows what would happen to the browser.

  6. Dai

    3G users...

    Already know how useful early versions of netscape (optimised for low-bandwidth connections) can be....

  7. James Le Cuirot

    "Netscape 4 compatible"

    I have fond memories of Netscape 2.0. But having said that, would the web please stop using that bloody stupid phrase "Netscape 4 compatible". It's just a ridiculous concept these days.

  8. StillNoCouch

    Better to Decrease the Surplus Population

    I had no clue they even made the stuff anymore. I hear AOL is still alive too, but that's just an unconfirmed rummor.

  9. Anonymous John

    My first ISP sent me a copy of Netscape 0.9 on a single floppy disk.

    Happy days!

  10. TheMadProfessor

    Out of interest..

    What's the breakdown of browsers used by El Reg readers?

  11. unhuman
    Black Helicopters

    Who bought who...

    AOL bought TW, not the other way around - it just seems that way due to PR and market perception.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    WordPerfect No More? I'm sure that will come as news to Corel!

    and a lot of law offices that still use it.

  13. AngrySup

    Say Goodnight Gracie.

    Goodnight Gracie.

  14. David Cornes


    After reading about this last night, my first thought was "wow I didn't even KNOW Netscape Navigator was still available!".

    I promptly tracked it down via Google, downloaded v9 and installed it (in less than a minute!). It looked nice, seemed fast, quite nice I thought. For those looking for a retro experience they also have all versions back to 4.78 available too ;-)

    Next I downloaded Firefox 2, and did the same. The install was practically identical, and when started up it looked pretty much like the same browser! So the point of having maintaining NN when there exists Firefox is...?

    I've already got Opera 9 (been using Opera for years), which although slow to load initially I still use a fair bit, if only 'cos I love the gesture controls for back, refresh, etc. Inspired!

    Finally I thought I'd go for broke and finally succumb to IE 7, which I've been avoiding so far and sticking with IE 6 on my XP SP2 box. In contrast to all the others this took about 20 minutes to install, including some stuff I'm not sure I'll ever be able to remove if I ever decide I don't like it, AND it required a reboot when it had completed. I'm now getting to use it's slightly odd Cleartyped rendering, including doing strange things to the kerning of the text in this box I'm typing in.... :-\

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time Warner bought AOL?

    Really? It was actually presented as a merger but was in essence a shares-and-debt deal. AOL shareholders ended up with the majority of the combined company so it was more the reverse that was true.

    Of course, that only highlights the lunacy of the merger in the first place - who would say AOL itself is worth very much today? The Time Warner shareholders certainly got the worse part of the deal there.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    I think it's discusting that you can put a sick dog down just because it sneezed funny while web browsers are left to suffer the public indignity of festering in their own legacy for years on end.

    So now Netscape has been shown 'the kind option', how about the remaining Acorn users are barred from taking any more riscs?

  17. Gerrit Tijhof
    Paris Hilton

    Ah, Netscape...

    What was the version that came with the unfreeze extension for the mac? 2.0?

  18. Power Pentode

    re: Irony

    Well, don't feel like the Lone Ranger; it doesn't render correctly with either FF or ie6 on my laptop. Maybe all of the competent web designers have fled?

  19. Cliff

    In all fairness...

    I used Lynx on an IBM3090 as my first web browser, Mosaic was available on a few Unix x-windowed boxes, but Netscape (v0.94, I think) was my first PC-based graphical web experience, and it was great.

    I reckon the only reason Netscape lost the dominant position was choosing to charge $50 (it was previously free) at a time when MS suddenly woke up and smelled the potential of the internet - a free browser against $50, frankly never stood a chance regardless of the bundling of ie with Windows. By the time they decided to go back to the 'free' model, the damage was done and they never recovered...

  20. Andy

    AOL Netscape Popups

    A must read

  21. Anonymous Coward

    @Irony By umacf24


    The HTML is rendered correctly.









    Sigh. It also renders correctly (as it is written) in IE7 and Opera.

  22. Roger Campbell

    I like Netscape.

    I've used Netscape 7.2 as my main browser for years What other browser has the equivalent of the File > Edit, where you can play with the code of any web page and see the effects. If it is your own web page, you can make changes and save the changes back. That feature does not exist in Firefox or IE. I also like the fact that Netscape's e-mail is tied to the browser. Try that with Firefox and Thunderbird without trying to track down a plugin.

  23. Sean

    @Roger Campbell

    If you want integrated mail like Netscape hadyou should try SeaMonkey from Mozilla. SeaMonkey is the browser and mail app in one, very similar to Netscape 7.2.

  24. b4k4

    I remember when

    downloading the 11MB Navigator 4.something was an overnight, fingers-crossed download. Expensive also, when I only got 40 hrs a month with my dial up. Computer magazine CDs were actually useful in those days.

    I liked the way the status bar told you how many images were left and how big they were, so you could see whether to continue waiting for a page to come in or not.

    Netscape was the foundation on which Mozilla built. Respect is due - they did the right thing and open sourced it. Thanks Netscape.

  25. Matt Bucknall


    I agree with b4k4. If Netscape had not gone open-source, Firefox would not be where it is now, so I would say at least some respect is due.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @I remember when

    Well, I remember my first venture into the net had me using Netscape 3 Gold (copied from a friend on two floppies, who copied it from someone else) and creating my first webpage on Geocities using the Netscape Editor, and browsing usenet using Netscape Mail. It was over a 28.8k with an account shared with my cousin, and I was running Windows 95 on the then-beefy specs of 32MB RAM and 166MHz Pentium with a whopping 2.5 GB Quantum Bigfoot.

    I remember waiting 4 hours to download Netscape 4 with my fingers crossed. I believe I still have the installer on one of the dozen ancient zip-disks in my drawer.

    I would miss Netscape, but it lives on as SeaMonkey/IceApe for me.

  27. Leo Davidson

    IE is bloated? Eh?

    Glenn Gilbert wrote:

    "Similarly with Internet Explorer; bloated, unreliable, poor standards support, huge security risks, etc."

    People seem to throw "bloated" into lists of software insults whether it applies or not. IE seems fairly light-weight to me. It loads quickly (of course being cached due to use in other OS components helps there!) and it isn't overflowing with useless features, so calling it bloated seems unfair to me. In fact, the very reason I *don't* use IE is that it doesn't have all the features (and extensions) that Firefox offers.

    I've found IE to be reliable as well.

    I do agree that IE's current standards support is terrible and IE has made me spend many *days* trying to make my own personal and fairly simple website work properly in it so I do hold a grudge there.

    Firefox has shown it has lots of security holes just like IE, but it's still probably more secure because fewer people are attacking it. I think it's a combination of luck and common sense whether you get hit by an attack, though, so I choose my browser based on features, not security. IE7 on Vista also has the low-integrity mode which is interesting and hopefully something that Firefox (and other Internet apps) will adopt, but that increase in security wouldn't make up for all the features of Firefox that I'd lose.

  28. Steven Knox

    @Roger Cambell

    "What other browser has the equivalent of the File > Edit, where you can play with the code of any web page and see the effects."

    Try Opera. Ctrl-F3 or right-click and choose "Source" will open the source code in a separate tab. There you can edit and apply the changes to the browsing tab.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    At work (BT plc)...

    ... there are some applications that ONLY work in Netscape!

  30. Joseph Helenihi


    "downloading the 11MB Navigator 4.something was an overnight, fingers-crossed download"

    Which made me miss the days of z-modem file transfer, (z-modem picks up the download where you left off if the call is dropped by retaining the already downloaded fraction of the file). Downloading apps from bulletin boards, of course.

    If I remember correctly, that Netscape download over a dial modem with the TCP/IP internet thing had to be restarted from scratch if the call dropped. Good times.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    IE7 reliable?


    Try supporting it day in and day out. Try dealing with all of the Vista users who can't browse the web or get their mail because IE7 decided to be "reliable."

    I spent two hours trying to connect one user throwing every trick I could think of at the damned thing (except for my Harry Potter wand) before throwing my hands up and reinstalling the whole kit and kaboodle. Then I had to come home and face my own broken version of IE7/6 (yup, rolled over and corrupted 6...can't uninstall-reinstall to fix it, either, tried). All I can say is = Thank God for Firefox.

  32. Rebecca Putman

    I remember Mosaic...

    ...and fondly. Then I switched to the then-superior Netscape. It was fantastic, and I preferred it to IE any day - that is, until AOHELL bought it. As soon as I found out, I went back to IE until I found Firefox. I will never, *ever* willingly or knowingly buy/use an AOHELL product. Even to the point of using a *shudder* Microsoft product instead.

    Thank goodness for Linux and Firefox!

  33. Anonymous Coward

    If I can't read it using lynx, its not worth reading...

    ...sod off Netscape. You made life hell in 1993 and haven't stopped since.

  34. Tim Bates

    Re: IE is bloated? Eh?

    Tried downloading IE7? 20MB for a web browser that really doesn't do anything special. Firefox does the same job in a 4MB download.

    And for what? IE7's improvements are all very confusing and backwards. SSL error... Click the green thing for cancel or the red thing for continue. Tab bar doesn't disappear if not needed, wasting space. And that new tab tab... That confuses most people to the point they have 3 tabs before they've worked out what that tab is.

    And who knows what it takes installed, because it puts crap all over your hard drive... Remember when a program was fully installed within the directory you tell it to, which meant a small system partition and a larger programs and data partition was possible?

  35. vincent himpe

    has it really been that long ....

    [ quivery voice mode on ] I remember when i was a kid i had to walk 2 hours to get to the intenet... And in wintertime that was even through drizzle and snow !. Tsss. young folk these days. They take it all for granted. One click and bazillions of bytes are under their command. Time for my strained peas ... [ quivery voice mode off]

    RIP netscape. Time to move it to my write-only memory ( )

  36. Joseph Helenihi

    @vincent himpe

    "...Time to move it to my write-only memory"

    So, this must be the memory process at work deep within the brains of public figures who are caught red handed in various nefarious shenanagins when they say such things as, "I do not recall, do not remember the details, I have no specifics, etc.".

    Makes sense to me, ah, yes, that is my coat and there is my ride pulling up to the curb now, thanks.

  37. Bill Coleman

    My $0.02

    Netscape jumped the shark when it went from being plane old "Netscape Navigator" to "Netscape Navigator, a part of the Netscape Communicator Package"

    ...also the real crime MS perpetrated on the internet browser business (and is still doing to a lesser extent today) was a deliberate mis-application of html/css/JS/dom standards, which forced designers to optimise their web sites for IE, meaning that the sites looked "wrong" on other browsers that did things right!!!! Thusly, consumer confidence in the competition was undermined. The quality of internet sites suffered as a result. I would go so far as to say that this practice severely stunted the natural evolution of the web. (not to mention frying every last nerve of css early adapters)

  38. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    Pride Cometh before the fall.

    Back in the early days of public Internet, the only TCP/IP stack, dialer, and browser package was NETSCAPE.

    As an ISP, i had no choice but to pay NETSCAPE $5 (i'm assuming the NDC has expired) for every single new user.

    Thats right, NETSCAPE was getting five bucks (more or less) for every new user of the Internet.

    Meanwhile, Bill Gates believed nobody would be Interested in the new "internet" stuff untill it was fast enough to watch movies. NETSCAPE was totally under his radar.

    Then one day, Marc Andreeson, the main Wonk at NETSCAPE gave a great speech, not only extolling the virtues of their products, but bragging that they were no only growing faster than Microsoft, but that they had a replacement desktop in tyhe works.

    HINT: do not prod sleeping giants with pointy sticks.

    The first version of the Microsoft IEAK was rushed into distribution, gicing ISP's a free alternative to netscape.

    That was the beginning of the wimpering ending we will see Feb 1.

  39. Mark
    Thumb Up

    @Roger Cambell

    Try Firefox with the web developer plugin.

    You can modify the source and the css and apply it to the page you are currently viewing.

  40. stizzleswick

    @ Roger Campbell

    You might want to try Amaya, available from the W3C.

  41. stizzleswick

    'bye, 'scape...

    Having started out with Mosaic and lynx, I think I can say that Netscape in its early versions was a pretty good browser, before the browser wars began to add useless features to both MS Internet Exploder and Netscape Navigator. Among my favourites are such non-standard niceties as the marquee and blink tags.

    When the Netscape source code was opensourced, something typical of OSS projects in the startup phase happened: nothing visible for about a year. Netscape stagnated on a geriatric codebase while Opera grabbed market share with good standards compliance while also supporting MSIE quirks.

    Then, the Mozilla project began putting out early versions of the upcoming web suite (yes, it was still a suite back then), and began picking up steam.

    I tend to think that the Netscape suite as a product was practically dead at that point. The Mozilla project very quickly overtook MSIE and most other browsers on the market in standards compliance and speed (though it has been overtaken itself in the meantime), and Netscape began putting out Netscape-branded Mozillas that were at least half a year out of date, full of AOL cruft, and shy some nice features the OSS version had.

    For Netscape users, changing to Firefox (or Seamonkey, for that matter) will be a good choice; they're up to date and don't drown the desktop in AOL icons during installation.

    So, no need to kill Netscape Navigator; it's been dead for a few years. Just bury it and plant a filesystem tree on its grave.

    And in memoriam Netscape, occasionally go to the URL about:mozilla in your Firefox/Seamonkey/Netscape browser.

  42. Morely Dotes

    AOL still exists?

    What sort of moronic loser would want a walled garden Internet experience? Apart from the Australian government, I mean.

    I was on the tech support team for Netscape 1.0 (which gives you an idea of how long I've been browsing). The dialer was a nightmare, but it was better than anything else that came along for many years.

  43. David Cornes
    Thumb Down

    IE7 reliable?

    Well, as I stated earlier IE7 took 20 times as long to install as Firefox and NN9, supposedly downloading updates and patches as it went...

    But three days on since the (mandatory) reboot I've had *WINDOWS* Explorer crash on me 3 times whilst browsing thumbnail views... go figure :-\

  44. Risky


    I remember Netscape (actually I found it on a unix box recently) but it was soundly beaten by IE at the time and is hardly going to be missed.

    As for Firefox2/IE7, I can't find a lot between them, to be honest. I prefer the feel of IE, but I use firefox for a few sites where I need extensions. Can be very moody about remembering passwords on certain sites which is a pain.

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