CNET’s Stephen Shankland reports on the end of an era, the Netscape browser. I remember downloading the earliest version in 1994, prior to an interview with Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, and laughing at his suggestion I leave Forbes and go to work for an internet company. Stupid me.
Netscape put the fear into Microsoft like no other company because of the immense popularity of the browser, its head start over Internet Explorer, and the simple fact that most early users left the Netscape homepage as their default, making that page the most heavily trafficked piece of virtual property in the world. The question was how would Netscape monetize that traffic. For a great insight into those early browser wars and the first stirring of the Microsoft giant and the big antitrust browser wars of the mid-90s, read Charles Ferguson’s High Stakes, No Prisoners (major congratulations to Charles for winning the New York Film Critic’s award for best documentary for No End In Sight)
NetscapeÂ brought aboard James Barksdale to bring the company to the next level, and eventually was acquired by AOL which was in the middle of its own identity crisis as it moved from essentially a rack of 56K modems to an internet service provider. I never quite figured out the play for AOL, which made some astonishingly stupid acquisitions including the infamous Time-Warner deal. There were noises about making Netscape a content play under Jason Calacanis, but when he left AOL after selling his blog network to them, the patient went onto the do-not-revive list.
Does anyone care about browsers anymore? Firefox has won my heart, now I am more interested in the application on the other side of the glass.
From the Netscape blog:
“AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it’s the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.”