December 28, 2007

TechCrunch Reports AOL Completes Netscape's Demise

It's silly how one can get nostalgic over a software application, but Netscape Navigator, in its original incarnation represented to many, including myself, the first days of massive Web adoption. Netscape was the first huge Internet IPO, and the first real solid challenge to Microsoft's monopoly, after Apple had made its share of missteps. Now, as TechCrunch reports, the browser is officially left to die.

While I had used Mosaic prior to Navigator, I dutifully downloaded all the beta versions of Netscape on my Mac my freshman year of college. My roommates didn't understand why I kept Navigator 0.93, 1.1 and 1.12 on my hard drive. Some part of me wanted them for history, I guess. But as we all know, it was Netscape who became history. Internet Explorer dealt them a body blow, and Microsoft squeezed their life from them. Then AOL's acquisition of Netscape made things unbearable.

The browser stagnated, and Apple had grown closer to Microsoft, as Steve Jobs told an annoyed Macworld crowd that Internet Explorer would be the Mac's default browser. Mac IE 5 was actually pretty good too! Meanwhile, Navigator skipped version 5 altogether, and rolled out a clunker, moving from Netscape 4 to Netscape 6, but it was too late. And by then, we'd all moved on - to IE, to FireFox, and eventually, to Safari. Now, Netscape is but a blip in Silicon Valley history, one that helped kick off the first Web bubble, preparing the way for future tech giants like Yahoo! and Google, and reinvigorating the economy.

A quick search of my Mail archives shows the importance of Netscape.

As I wrote in February of 1996 in a letter home, my freshman year, called "Bad tech day":
"About dinnertime, my computer went totally nuts. To make a long story short, my entire sytem folder was thrown away, including all extensions, preferences, and the like.The final result may still not be final, but there are some key things missing. ALL mail from Eudora which I had saved since October is GONE. All mailboxes. All adresses. All nicknames. All Bookmarks for Netscape, which I was proud of. Gone."

Later, from March of 1996 in another letter home, called "Checks and balances":
"Here's something annoying. I have a Macintosh. Non-Power PC, with a 68030 processor... This means I don't have a Java-supporting Netscape browser, to view live sports scores, and I can't download RealAudio 2.0, which I also need. Ahh. The life of the underprivileged."

Later in March, I sent home a "Top Ten Anagrams for Netscape Communications". I have no idea where I first got it, so apologies to whomever I ripped off:
Top Ten Anagrams for "Netscape Communications"

10.Companies can't consume it
9.I cannot compute sans mice
8.Can't access 'net... I'm on opium
7.Um, options scam can entice
6.Net's uncommon capacities
5.Connect communities, ASAP
4.Mosaic IPO, etc., can stun men
3.Optimum 'net access: An icon
2.Connect it up; amass income

And the number one anagram for "Netscape Communications":
1.Mosaic, minus neat concept

Just think, those e-mails home were from 11 years ago, and we're still talking about Netscape today. While AOL and Microsoft can take away the company and its browser, they can't take away its legacy. Long live Netscape.

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