BBC News reports that AOL is preparing to shut down development of Netscape Navigator, the dominant web browser of the mid-1990s, as of February 1, 2008. The Netscape Blog provides a roundup of options for existing Netscape 9.x users (v9 was introduced, ironically enough, just a month ago) and a recap of Netscape's recent history. However, if you're a relative newcomer to the Web, you might not understand the importance of Netscape to the Internet, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
From Mosaic to Netscape to Mozilla
Netscape Navigator wasn't the first successful web browser; that honor goes to Mosaic, developed by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina in 1993 for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. Andreesen went on to help develop Netscape Navigator, which rapidly replaced Mosaic when it was introduced in 1994.
Early in its history, Netscape Navigator was known as Mosaic Navigator, but the company changed its name from Mosaic Communications Corporation to Netscape Communications. The 'Mozilla' name, now used by the development team for Firefox, which has superseded Navigator as the leading alternative to Internet Explorer, was originally used as a code name for Navigator during its development.
From Leader to Vanished Relic
The Answers.com website provides an excellent history of the rise and fall of Netscape Navigator. A chart on the page says it all: at its peak in 1996, virtually everyone surfing the web used some version of Netscape Navigator, which was available for virtually every PC and Unix platform. However, by 1999, Internet Explorer, which had gone from being virtually unusable in early versions to a better product than Navigator in IE5, had reduced Navigator's share to 40%. By 2002, Navigator's market share had essentially vanished.
Navigator is Dead! Long Live Navigator!
If you're still a Netscape Navigator fan, you can still enjoy the look and feel of Netscape Navigator 9 after February 1, 2008: download the Netstripe theme for Mozilla Firefox to make it mimic your favorite browser. Archived versions of 'classic' (pre-Mozilla) Netscape Navigator browsers from versions 2.x through 4.x are available from the Netscape Archived Products page. Modern versions of Netscape Navigator (4.78-9.x) are available here.
For many readers, Netscape Navigator is a real blast from a distant past. Let's return to 2007 for more of my favorite entries from the Windows blog (see page 2). Catch part 1 of my "best of 2007" series here.
5. Broken Windows Fixed Quick with Dial-a-Fix This September posting about a great utility for fixing Windows problems brought several Diggs, some heavy discussions about why utilities like this are useful, as well as a note from the developer himself.