Netscape - From Glory to the Dustbin

Netscape was a popular early web browser. It was based on the Mosaic browser, which had been created at the University of Illinois’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA.)

In 1994, Marc Andreesen and other Mosaic developers formed Mosaic Communications to develop and produce the browser commercially. Soon after its formation, the company was sued by the University of Illinois. As part of the settlement, it was agreed that the name of the company would be changed; they took on the name Netscape and named the browser Netscape Navigator.

At first, Netscape planned to charge a fee for using the browser after users exceeded an initial trial period, but that idea was soon dropped because of competition from Microsoft’s free Internet Explorer browser. Some of Netscape’s early competitors included OmniWeb, Eolas’ WebRouser and Opera

At first, Netscape easily won the majority of the browser market share, and had one of the largest IPOs of the time when it went public on the stock exchange. It contained many features that contributed to its popularity. It could be installed on Unix and Mac operating systems as well as Windows, had the ability to display web pages as they loaded, had easy file sharing, and integrated email and newsgroups with the browser.

By 1997, with the introduction on Internet Explorer 4.0, Microsoft began to emerge as the winner of the browser wars. Microsoft had several advantages over Netscape, including strong financial resources and the majority of the operating system market. Since Internet Explorer was integrated right into the operating system, it was often the default browser for Windows users. Users did not have to download and install software as they did with Netscape and other browsers. Microsoft gained even more share when it made an agreement with Apple to make Internet Explorer for Mac as the default browser on Macintosh computers.

Netscape was sold to America Online in 1998. At the time of the acquisition, Netscape had been working on converting the code for the suite to open source software, which they named Mozilla. The open source software was free for developers to expand upon and use as a base for other applications. The Mozilla Foundation was formed to help support and develop the open source efforts.

Netscape was eventually dropped, with AOL officially ending support in 2008. However, the Mozilla foundation went on to produce and support several applications. Widely used applications include the Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client. Others include:


Firefox, a very popular web browser

SeaMonkey Internet application suite, which includes a browser and mail client;

Camino browser for Mac OS X

Sunbird crossplatform calendar

Lightning calendar which integrates Sunbird with Thunderbird

Bugzilla, a free debugger for software developers

Flock, a browser that integrates with social networking and sharing sites


The Netscape archive and the Living Internet website have detailed information about Netscape’s history and products.

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