Netscape Navigator heads to the twilight of oblivion

A poignant story for Internet historians today with news that Netscape Navigator, one of the Web’s first ever browsers, has finally been put out to pasture this month by owners AOL.

While the lion’s share of today’s global browser coverage is assigned to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, the landscape was markedly different in the mid-1990s when the Web was first beginning to gain commercial traction and popularity momentum.

Indeed, back then Netscape Navigator was used by some 90 percent of those who ventured into the new and mysterious online world. However, since that time, the once popular browser has seen its coverage share plummet to a mere 0.6 percent in the face of IE’s dominance and numerous browsing alternatives.

Following the removal of support for Netscape Navigator, owner America Online (AOL) has advised all existing users to change their browser to Mozilla’s Firefox or social Web browser Flock -- both of which have their foundations in the same contributing technology as Netscape Navigator.

“Netscape had a critical role in taking all of these zeros and ones - this very academic and technical environment - and giving it a graphical user interface where an average person could come online and consume information,” commented Marc Andreessen, the original creator of Netscape, in a BBC report.

The end has been nigh for Netscape Navigator for quite some time, not least due to the 80 percent market share enjoyed by Internet Explorer, which comes bundled as standard with all Microsoft Windows operating systems.

“While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer,” warned Tom Drapeau on the Netscape blog in 2007 at the time the browser’s imminent cancellation was initially announced.

Netscape Navigator users upgrading to the open source Mozilla Firefox browser will likely find an Internet experience most closely suited to that which they’ve become accustomed to, in part due to the Mozilla Foundation being the creation of ex-Netscape staff that were made redundant in 2003.

While it still trails Internet Explorer by a substantial margin, Firefox is the world’s second most popular browser and has thus far amassed over 500 million downloads since it first became available.

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