On New Year’s Eve, the news went out from AOL that the long life of the Netscape Browser was coming to an end.
The End of Support announcement was respectful of the browser’s long history—longer than any other browser still in general use—as it acknowledged that it was time to call it quits:
“While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Recently, support for the Netscape browser has been limited to a handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.”
It’s interesting that the announcement names Internet Explorer as Netscape’s chief rival. While this was true once upon a time, it seems to me Netscape might have been more successful—if only marginally so—if it had focused on marketing to Firefox users, perhaps even getting Firefox users to recommend it to their less tech-savvy friends and family.
In any case, active development of Netscape Navigator has now ceased, and security fixes will not be issued after February 1st.
Though this news will have little or no impact on the vast majority of web developers, those of us for whom Netscape was their first browser will give a wistful sigh of rememberance. Still, no browser could hope for a better legacy than that currently being forged by the Mozilla Foundation with Firefox.