Netscape

From Academic Kids

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Netscape_classic_logo.png
The logo of Netscape for most of its history

Netscape is a computer term used mainly for the series of web browsers originated from the Netscape Communications Corporation. While the original browser was once the dominant browser in terms of usage share, it now has only a relatively small number of users. Netscape is also used to refer to the former Netscape Communications Corporation, the Netscape internet portal and the Netscape internet service provider, which are all subsidiaries of America Online (AOL).

Contents

Netscape Navigator

Main article: Netscape Navigator

Netscape Navigator is the name of the browser used in version 1 to 4. It is part of the Netscape Communicator internet suite since version 4.5.

The rise

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Netscape Navigator 1.22 under Windows

Netscape was the first commercial Internet browser. It was introduced in 1994. Netscape Navigator was developed by the team who had created the Mosaic web browser at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The company they created was initially named "Mosaic Communications Corporation" and their web browser "Mosaic Netscape", but a legal challenge from NCSA over the rights to the name resulted in the company and the product being renamed. The name "Netscape" was invented by sales representative Greg Sands.

Through the late 1990s, Netscape made sure that Navigator remained the technical leader among web browsers. Important new features included cookies, frames, and JavaScript (in version 2.0). Although those and other innovations eventually became open standards of the W3C and ECMA and were emulated by other browsers, they were often viewed as controversial. Netscape, according to critics, was more interested in bending the web to its own de facto "standards" (bypassing standards committees and thus marginalizing the commercial competition) than it was in fixing bugs in its products. Consumer rights advocates were particularly critical of cookies and of commercial web sites using them to invade individual privacy.

The fall

Netscape Communicator 4 under Windows
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Netscape Communicator 4 under Windows

Microsoft saw Netscape's success as a clear threat to the monopoly status of the Microsoft Windows operating system. It began a wide-reaching campaign to establish control over the browser market. Browser market share, it was reasoned, leads to control over internet standards, and that in turn would provide the opportunity to sell software and services. Microsoft licensed the Mosaic source code from Spyglass, Inc., an offshoot of the University of Illinois, and turned it into Internet Explorer.

The resulting battle between the two companies became known as the browser wars. Versions 1.0 and 2.0 of IE were markedly inferior to the same versions of Netscape Navigator; IE 3.0 (1996) began to catch up to its competition; IE 4.0 (1997) was the first version that looked to have Netscape beaten, and IE 5.0 (1998) with many bug fixes and stability improvements saw Navigator's market share plummet below IE for the first time.

Netscape

Main article: Netscape (web browser)
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Netscape 7.2 under Windows

Netscape is the name of the browser used in version 6 to 7.

The rebirth

In March 1998, realizing that the browser market was lost and hoping that a non-Microsoft web browser might gain some attention in the open source community, Netscape split off most of the Communicator code and put it under an open source license. The project was dubbed Mozilla. It was estimated that turning the gutted source code (all proprietary elements had to be removed) into a new browser release might take a year, and so it was decided that the next release of the corporate Netscape browser, version 5.0, would be based on it. Version 5 was, however, skipped. The Mozilla engineers decided to scrap the Communicator code and start over from scratch. All resources were bound to work on the Mozilla-based Netscape 6.0 release, which some Netscape employees still deem one of the bigger mistakes in the company's history.

The first public builds of Mozilla Suite two years later were rather disappointing, with many mid-level PCs too slow to run the bloated browser. This was mainly due to the fact that the browser was based on the pre-1.0 Mozilla browser.

With much fanfare, Netscape's new owners AOL released version 6 on November 14, 2000, based on pre-release Mozilla code. The product was a colossal disappointment: it was huge, slow, unstable, and (in the eyes of most) visually unappealing. None of this was surprising, as the Mozilla core itself was nowhere near release-ready and itself unstable. Netscape improved the browser based on the critique and 6.1 was significantly faster and more stable product, launched in 2001. Other point releases followed, steadily improving the suite.

In 2002, AOL released version 7.0, with basically no marketing support. It was based on a more stable and notably faster Mozilla 1.0 core and bundled with extras like integrated AOL Instant Messenger, integrated ICQ, and Radio@Netscape. The market responded to what was essentially a repackaged version of Mozilla – swollen with integrated tools to access proprietary services owned by AOL – by seemingly ignoring it. It was downloaded over 20 million times in a matter of months, which possibly stopped Netscape's dwindling market share, but it was too little too late. Competition from mature and competent non-Microsoft alternatives such as the Opera browser and the regular Mozilla distribution was a contributing factor. A point release of version 7.1 (based on Mozilla 1.4) was similarly ignored.

The end of the suite

AOL announced on July 15, 2003 that it was laying off all its remaining development staff working on the Netscape version of Mozilla. Combined with AOL's antitrust case court settlement with Microsoft to use Internet Explorer in future versions of the AOL software, this seemed to mark the effective end of development on Netscape Navigator, the open source projects not withstanding. Many believed that no further versions of the browser would be released and that the Netscape brand name would live on only as the name of AOL's low-cost dialup internet service.

Netscape 7.2 was released on August 17, 2004, though AOL is not re-starting the Netscape browser division. It was very similar to Netscape 7.1 and the only new feature in it was the Netscape Toolbar, which was developed by mozdev.org.

Netscape Browser

Main article: Netscape Browser
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Netscape Browser 8.0 under Windows

Given the success of the Mozilla Foundation's standalone Mozilla Firefox browser, the Netscape suite was finally abandoned in favor of a Netscape-branded version of Firefox named Netscape Browser, with the first stable version released in 2005. Netscape Browser was not developed in-house by AOL, but instead outsourced to a Canadian software firm, Mercurial Communications. The new browser offered emphasis on anti-phishing features, as well as an ability to switch between the two available rendering engines: Trident (used in Internet Explorer) or Gecko (used in Mozilla).

Users have criticized several aspects of the approach taken, from the fact that using Internet Explorer's rendering engine subjects it to all the security problems that plague Internet Explorer, to the quality of the user interface design. Some users are also unhappy at the decision to produce only a browser, rather than a full internet suite like previous versions. It remains to be seen whether the browser's distinctions from Firefox will be sufficient to grant it a significant user base.

References

The development of the Netscape browser and the company was described in the book Netscape Time by Jim Clark and Owen Edwards (Hardcover ISBN 0312199341; Paperback ISBN 0312263619).

See also

External links

es:Netscape fr:Netscape ia:Netscape fi:Netscape ja:ネットスケープ zh:网景

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