The Netscape Browser Will Be Missed

Posted Jan 4, 2008

Thomas L. Friedman, a contributor to The New York Times and author of best-selling book, The World is Flat wrote that there are “10 flatteners” that contributed to mass-globalization. The 10 flatteners are:
1.) Collapse of Berlin Wall (11/9/1989) – The end of the Cold War allowed those on the other side to join mainstream economics
2.) Netscape’s IPO (8/9/1995) – Netscape’s IPO was offered at $28 per share, but raised to $75 on the first day of trading. The web became hot from that point on and people saw money in it… lots of money.
3.) Workflow software – Machines ability to talk to other machines
4.) Open sourcing – Collaboration of online projects (such as Wikipedia)
5.) Outsourcing – The ability for companies to split services into components across the globe, saving money and increasing production possibilities
6.) Offshoring – Manufacturing outsourcing
7.) Supply chaining – Streamlining sales, distribution, and shipping
8.) Insourcing – When a company’s employees perform services for other companies (like UPS).
9.) In-forming – The ability to find information about so many things with services like Google
10) “The Steroids” – mobile phones, iPods, PDAs, IM, and VoIP

When Netscape had their IPO I was 12 years old and often times found myself using their browser to get on and search for the information I needed to put together middle school assignments. Yahoo!’s creation and Netscape’s IPO msut have worked out harmoniously because that is the only web site my friends and I knew and we always used Netscape. Without the mainstream use of Netscape, who knows how big the Internet would be today? Internet Explorer’s existence would certainly be questionable since Bill Gates rounded up his Microsoft cadets and made sure they had a way to compete against Netscape.

In January 1998, Netscape started the open source Mozilla project that is now especially known for producing popular browser, Firefox. Based on my observations, I have seen Apple and Google endorsing Firefox more than Internet Explorer.

On November 24, 1998, America Online acquired Netscape for $4.2 billion through a tax-free stock-swap. This acquisition gave a way for America Online to become less dependent on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer was deeply integrated throughout America Online’s ISP portal. In May 2003, Microsoft paid Netscape $750 million to settle a monopoly lawsuit and also gave AOL the rights to distribute Internet Explorer for 7 years royalty-free. About 2 months later, AOL’s parent company, Time Warner disbanded Netscape and laid off most programmers.

Red Hat, the company that produced the Linux operating system bought a large portion of Netscape’s Enterprise Suite in 2004. DevEdge, Netscape’s popular development web site that contained popular articles were republished on Mozilla’s web site. And since 2003, Netscape put together a new programming staff that would keep their open source browser updated and was supported by AOL.

One of Netscape’s latest projects was Propeller. Propeller was a social news website that was similar to Digg in functionality. Jason Calacanis, a Sequoia Capital EIA and founder of Mahalo, attempted to poach top users from Digg, Reddit, Newsvite, and Flickr to speed up the popularity of Propeller. This caused a slight animosity between Jason Calacanis and Kevin Rose (founder of Digg), but they seemed to have resolved their issues on The GigaOm Show (powered by Revision3). Calacanis also co-founded Weblogs Inc., a network of blogs that AOL bought for roughly $25 million.

About a week ago, Tom Drapeau blogged that Netscape would officially halt security updates for Netscape. Further versions of the browser will stop being made because the time-cost tradeoff for AOL to support Mozilla is not feasible. AOL has to compete with some of the search powerhouses including Google, Microsoft,, and Yahoo! Old versions of Netscape will be available in a Netscape Archive link. The actual web site, will be available as a general Internet portal.

It is always sad to see a part of Internet history struggle to compete with today’s hypercompetitive markets. Netscape was the first mainstream Internet browser and it will definetely go into the history books.

[image credit: Wikipedia]