“Have you tried Netscape yet?”
“Go and download it right now!”
It was the fall of 1994, I was in the process of building my first Web site (Asia Inc Online), and a colleague tipped me off to a hot new browser that I just had to see. The next day, I fired up my copy of NCSA Mosaic, went to akebono.stanford.edu, and searched for Netscape. In no time, I was using Netscape 0.94b, and I soon learned that this hot new browser was the new brainchild of Marc Andreesen, the wunderkind behind Mosaic. In fact, this early version bore the logo of the Mosaic Communications Corp., which was soon supplanted by Netscape Communications, once NCSA warned Andreesen and co. that they were infringing on their copyright.
For most of the next decade, I stuck by Netscape, even as the browser’s early market dominance fell to such upstarts as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and even as the company was acquired by AOL, which somehow managed to help Microsoft grow its market share at the same time that it allowed Netscape to languish. Then, almost in spite of itself, AOL did one crucial thing right: It provided early funding to the Mozilla Foundation and allowed it to run free with Netscape’s source code. And the rest, as they say, is history.
When I read yesterday that AOL was officially ending support for the Netscape browser and telling users to switch to Firefox, it hardly came as a surprise. Indeed, I can’t recall the last time I used a Netscape-branded browser. And, in fact, all recent releases of Netscape were really reskinned versions of Firefox, so actual development of a “real” Netscape browser ceased long ago. It will be hard for me to mourn for Netscape, when Firefox has so much of it in its DNA. Still, I can’t help but get a little wistful for those early days, before Internet Explorer, before Netscape’s IPO, before the browser even went 1.0. Netscape was the Internet back then, and those of us who developed sites hung on every update, as Marca and company created new standards on the fly (look, it supports animated GIFs! Now that’s interactivity!). Today, though, we do the same with Firefox (look, it supports Silverlight. That’s interactivity?). And as long as I see that familiar mozilla show up in user agents in my server logs, I’ll know that all is right with the world wide web.
Archive for December, 2007
“Have you tried Netscape yet?”
Hats off to Nick Ciarelli of ThinkSecret for choosing to go out of business, rather than reveal his sources to Apple. While a better outcome clearly would have been for Nick to continue publishing and keep his sources confidential, his settlement with Apple shows that there are at least some citizen journalists out there willing to play with the big boys. Of course, Ciarelli’s willingness to settle and shut down could make other bloggers and gossip sites think twice before taking on big companies like Apple. As Fake Steve comments, in response to a post by Matthew Ingram, “We did not shut down Think Secret. That did not happen. Okay? That’s not reality. Reality is, Think Secret shut down on its own. Which come to think of it might be a good idea for you, Matthew Ingram. Otherwise we may have to come over there and not shut you down, too.” FSJ’s real-life counterpart may not put it so bluntly, but the effect could well be the same.