Netscape Navigator Turns 15

Ryan Whitwam

The Internet was just beginning to find a mainstream audience in 1994. It could be said that the introduction of Netscape Navigator on October 13th of that year had a lot to do with increasing internet adoption. Netscape was a huge leap forward, easily leapfrogging other graphical browsers. It supported colored backgrounds, text styling, JavaScript, and media embedding. In many ways, it was the first modern web browser.

By 1996, Netscape had captured 80% market share. Development was rapid, seeing the incorporation of CSS and table layout features as time passed. Microsoft put out the first version of Internet Explorer a year after Netscape, but found little success.

The good times couldn’t last forever, though. Microsoft released IE 4 in 1998. Thanks to some advanced features, IE captured the number one spot in only 12 months. A series of poor decisions left the Netscape browser in the hands of AOL, and we all know how that went. Development slowed, and the once great browser languished. Support was finally completely dropped in 2008.

Amid all the dark times, one great thing did happen with Netscape. The browser code was open-sourced in February 1998. It wouldn’t become apparent until years later how well that worked out for the web. From Netscape, the Mozilla Foundation built Firefox. Many feel that the Firefox browser is the best available, and it enjoys a healthy 27% market share. Let’s all have a moment of silence to remember Netscape on, this, its 15th birthday. Was Netscape your first browser? Any fond memories of those dial-up days?

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