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I ran my own blog from November 2006 till October 2014. All posts are still online, but I don't have time to update it anymore. Please note that all images and media files have been removed when the backup was moved to a new host in early 2016. Enjoy!

Goodbye Netscape. Long Live Firefox!

1. january 2008

Today an era in computer and internet history ended. The Netscape browser has been buried.

The first browser to reach a certain popularity in the early 1990s was NCSA Mosaic. Marc Andreessen, one of the Mosaic developers, founded the Mosaic Communications Corporation and created a new web browser from scratch - it was Mosaic Netscape, released as beta in late 1994. After legal disputes with the NCSA the name was finally changed to "Netscape Navigator".

When it was first launched in December 1994, Netscape Navigator was the most advanced web browser available and it instantly became the market leader. Netscape Navigator 2.0 became available in March 1996 and added an e-mail client.

Netscape Navigator 3.0, which was released on August 19, 1996, was a tremendous success and became the undisputed market leader of its time. Version 3.0 added plug-ins as well as new HTML features. The 3. 0 "Gold" edition also offered a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Microsoft released Internet Explorer 3.0 the same month, which became the first widely used and popular version of Internet Explorer.

In June 1997 Netscape Communicator 4.0 was released - the "Communicator" name had been chosen to allow better differenciation between the browser ("Navigator") and the other applications of the package. There was an increasing competition from Internet Explorer 4.0 (released a few months later, in September 1997) which deepened the level of integration between the web browser and the underlying operating system, and Netscape was struggling with their outdated HTML rendering core.

In January 1998 Netscape launched the Mozilla Community. Netscape Communicator 5.0 was announced, but it was delayed over and over again. In November 1998, Netscape Communications Corporation was bought by AOL and Netscape 5.0 (still based on the legacy Netscape code) was officially cancelled in favour of a completely new code base.

On March 18, 1999, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 5.0 while Netscape was still stuck with Navigator 4. IE 5.0 offered better support of HTML 4, CSS, DOM, XML, XSL and JavaScript. In the mean time Mozilla was working on the completely rewritten Netscape 6 core and wasn't able to offer any new product for a long time, so that Netscape finally lost its leading position.

Netscape 6 development progressed slowly, and in 2000 AOL forced the release of Netscape 6 which was still uncompleted, had tons of severe bug and was extremely slow. Users were disappointed and Netscape 6 became a flop, although later updated fixed most of the big problems. Nevertheless Netscape was not able to regain any market share.

In August 2002 Netscape 7 was released, and Mozilla 1 was released in parallel. One year later, in 2003, AOL closed the Netscape division and halted most of the development. The Mozilla Foundation continued their work on the code base and in August 2004 the last version based on the classic Mozilla was released as Netscape 7.2.

AOL then released the Netscape Browser 8 in May 2005, which is a proprietary Windows web browser based on Mozilla Firefox, but additionally using the Microsoft Internet Explorer engine. This also means that Netscape 8 was no longer an application suite, but a standalone browser. It was succeeded by Netscape Navigator 9 but on December 28, 2007, AOL finally announced to discontinue their web browser on February 1, 2008.

While the Netscape label itself may be dead, Mozilla Firefox has become the second-most-popular browser in current use worldwide. As of December 2007, Firefox had about 15% of the recorded market share, followed by Apple Safari with about 3%. Microsoft Internet Explorer still leads the browser market with a market share of about 80%.