RIP: AOL kills Netscape

AOL LLC Friday pulled the plug on Netscape Navigator, the Web browser that once owned the lion’s share of the market and that was the focus of a landmark federal antitrust case against Microsoft Corp.

In an announcement posted to AOL’s blog for the browser, Tom Drapeau, the director of the company’s Netscape brand, said the team is ending development and would cease issuing security updates as of Feb. 1, 2008.

“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 reigns [sic] fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox,” Drapeau said.

He said all support would end in just over a month and urged current Netscape users to migrate to Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox.

Netscape Navigator traces its lineage to 1994, when Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark formed Mosaic Communications Corp. around the Web browser that Andreessen had built. The first version, complete with name change to allay concerns by the University of Illinois over the Mosaic moniker, was released on Dec. 15, 1994.

By mid-1995, Netscape essentially owned the Internet, accounting for more than 80% of all browsers used.

Microsoft Corp., however, launched the initial edition of Internet Explorer (IE) in August 1995 and gradually whittled at Netscape’s lead until IE’s share slipped past the older browser at the end of 1998, according to statistics compiled by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the campus where Andreessen co-authored the first graphical browser, Mosaic.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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