Goodbye Netscape

You might as well tack this sign to New York’s Time Warner building:

Netscape Navigator,
the browser that made the World Wide Web famous,
won’t be brewed here anymore

(A rewrite of the lead from a 1981 Milwaukee Journal story the day The Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company announced that Schlitz, “the beer that made Milwaukee famous,” would no longer be brewed there.)

Friday‘s announcement that America Online, a division of Time Warner, would end development of the Netscape Navigator Web browser on Feb. 1, 2008, comes as a punch in the stomach to those who grew up on it. Yes, most of us, including this writer, abandoned it long ago for Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer, the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox or even Opera Software’s Opera browser.

However it was Netscape’s valiant David-vs.-Goliath court battles with Microsoft that endeared us to the sometimes-troublesome Web browser. Netscape staggered, but didn’t slay the software giant, but the court battles gave us all a lesson in not giving up even when the odds were against us.

I’ve always had a soft spot for also-rans. I was a New York Mets fan when finishing above last place was considered a major achievement. In the end, AOL’s decision was a simple one, made like a baseball team owner gazing at a stadium full of empty seats.

According to the official Netscape blog:

“AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. 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 reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.”

For more information, zip over to the Netscape blog (blog.netscape.com).

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