Netscape RIP

The once mighty web browser was down to less than 1% of market share.

AOL on Friday stopped development of the Netscape browser, saying the respected brand that launched the commercial Internet in 1994 had little chance of ever regaining market share against its archrival Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

The Web portal, which took over Netscape Navigator in the $4.2 billion acquisition of Netscape Communications in 1999, said development on the browser had recently devolved into a “handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.” Firefox is the open source browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation.

“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,” Tom Drapeau, director of development, said in a Netscape blog post.

While once commanding 90% of the browser market, Netscape Navigator now accounts for less than 1%, and AOL had no interest in spending what it would take to revive the brand. Instead, the company, which was once a subscriber-supported portal, preferred to spend its resources on its transition into an ad-supported Web business. The change left “little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be,” Drapeau said.

Back in the late 90’s or early 00’s I used to use Netscape quite a bit. There was a online chat room I liked to frequent and it didn’t work properly if you entered through AOL’s web portal or if you used IE.

Gradually I stopped visiting that website, and my use of Netscape Navigator became very rare. When I bought a laptop in 2006, I downloaded Netscape, but never used the browser more than a couple of times. Now I use IE or Firefox.

As James Joyner at OTB notes the once giants of the internet- Prodigy, CompuServe, Mosiac, Delphi and others, are almost all gone. Technology improves, and what was once popular dies a slow or sometimes quick death. Any one play 8-tracks any more? I didn’t think so.

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