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The Death of Netscape?
May 31, 2003 9:39 AM   Subscribe

AOL and Microsoft settle AOL's Netscape lawsuit. AOL gets $750 million and keeps IE as its default browser for seven years. Is this the death of Netscape?
posted by timeistight (33 comments total)

 
Netscape died a long time ago. Unfortunately, no-one told it's ghost. It only lives on because there are some people who don't want IE but aren't brave enough to trust open source. Maybe someone should tell them... ;)
posted by twine42 at 9:47 AM on May 31, 2003


Yes. Could also be the death of standards compliant browsers.
posted by mathowie at 9:47 AM on May 31, 2003


Whats that in the sky? A pig, and what are those things its flapping?!?! And why is so cold in here?
posted by stew560 at 9:59 AM on May 31, 2003


If Netscape dies will it take Mozilla with it? How much does Mozilla rely on AOL support?
posted by timeistight at 10:14 AM on May 31, 2003


Yes. Could also be the death of standards compliant browsers.

in a matter of semantics yes. but since i.e. is the dominant browser it is the standard. sites that don't comply with i.e.'s quirks are the new non-standard.

aol has let netscape die on vine since it bought it.
posted by birdherder at 10:29 AM on May 31, 2003


This is sad.. Moz is certainly not dead because of this, but one of the great things the Moz people saw was integration with the AOL client, giving a massive addition to the userbase. Moz doesn't require that to succeed, and will be fine without. Has been for a couple years.. it's just sad that it's possible to pay 750 million to essentially BUY market share. The market share Netscape once dominated.

But I guess you can always dangle the carrot of cash in the face of the ailing media conglomerate, and expect a bite.
posted by shadow45 at 10:37 AM on May 31, 2003


How is it dying on a vine? it's in active development by dozens, if not hundreds of software developers around the world.. it's gotten to DOM compliance (*cough*IE sucks*cough*) at the hands of open source.. that's awesome. that's quite the task, and i'm impressed it was handled so well. Some could argue about the bloat of the client, but I really think they made the right decision in shifting the roadmap, and using the Firebird shell for Gecko. Firebird (phoenix!) has really risen this project from the bloaty demise it would have achieved.

Now if someone would just do this with EMACS
posted by shadow45 at 10:42 AM on May 31, 2003


I think Mozilla will still do well. I think they're on the right track with the true separation of the components a la Firebird & Thunderbird.

I mean, I've personally converted about 20 people just by installing Firebird and walking them through it. As long as it works with Hotmail and all their usual sites look right, they'll use it. And there's no logical reason for them not to.
posted by mckayc at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2003


To pull from my contributions to this conversation elsewhere... This could very well be a non-issue. Even if it does mean AOL pulling all funding (in the form of personnel, servers & bandwidth) from the project - which I can't see - I still have a hard time envisioning that being a death blow as opposed to a short term hurdle.

Some facts about the use of and contributions to the mozilla platform today:

AOLTW is currently using the mozilla platform for various applications including:
* The Netscape Browser Suite (including commitments to an update based off of the v1.4 code base)
* AOL for OS X
* Compuserv (on all platforms I believe)
* A Mail Client Project which I don't have all the details on

OEOne's product line currently heavily leverages the platform.

IBM is currently using the mozilla platform for various applications including:
* a Mozilla based browser product for OS/2

RedHat, Debian, Mandrake and potentially other Linux firms (like Lindows) also provide distributions of the browser suite as well as contribute to the development efforts.

ActiveState uses the platform for their Komodo IDE application. Other embeddors/applications leveraging the technology include Konfabulator and the NewsMonster RSS reader.

I'm sure theres others i'm forgetting. Theres also a great many companies currently using the bugzilla bug tracking application and if that's the *only* thing to outlive AOLTW then I still think the project has done good.

Oh, and another thing...

Internet Explorer is already dead.

And I hear Apple is dying too.

[in summary... this is a non-issue that makes for terrific soundbites]
posted by 10sball at 11:13 AM on May 31, 2003


I mean, I've personally converted about 20 people

See that's the thing. I dunno why, but Moz seems to turn people into evangelists. I've converted a number of people at work and at home just because they get sick of me saying, "Know what you could do if you were using Mozilla . . ." every time they have a problem with IE.
posted by yerfatma at 11:53 AM on May 31, 2003


The fact that AOL "make" Netscape, and have never chosen to use it in their software package, indicates just how dead it is.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2003


I think it indicates more about AOL than it does about Netscape / Mozilla.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:35 PM on May 31, 2003


Mozilla's development depends a lot on AOL. Most of the work on it doesn't come from random people on the net, it comes from AOL employees. Take a stroll through Bugzilla (which, along with the rest of Mozilla.org, is hosted by AOL) and you'll see most of the heavy lifting done by AOL/Netscape employees. If AOL pulls the plug, Mozilla certainly won't die but it won't get the cash and labor infusion it enjoys currently.

That said, it's the best browser by far these days. There's no reason to use IE in my book. If it doesn't work in Moz, the site isn't worth visiting.
posted by zsazsa at 12:53 PM on May 31, 2003


Are the members of the Firebird devel group all AOL employees? one is at Apple.. i think he might have left to work on Safari or something.
posted by shadow45 at 1:54 PM on May 31, 2003


in a matter of semantics yes. but since i.e. is the dominant browser it is the standard. sites that don't comply with i.e.'s quirks are the new non-standard.

<rant>
Who is the one playing semantic games? You see, there is a collection of internationally agreed upon standards. Some browsers come pretty close to complying with these standards, IE does not—despite the fact that Microsoft has a prominent seat at this table. Web monkeys who only write for IE, or write to IE's buggy implementation while ignoring standards are lazy, sloppy, and/or dilettantes. They are the ones who provide the inertia that perpetuates the fractured state of this medium and are ultimately responsible for the inefficiencies that result.
</rant>
posted by Fezboy! at 2:02 PM on May 31, 2003


i'm surprised it took this long for someone here to finally post this! (thanks timeistight)

while i am a recent converted mozilla user (at home at least) and am disheartened by the outcome, it's a far leap to suggest this news as 'the death of standards-compliant browsers'.
posted by poopy at 2:50 PM on May 31, 2003


ok, so 'dying at the vine' was a little harsh. but aoltw did not have its heart sizeable resources in the netscape/mozilla project. hence, mozilla will never give i.e. a run for its money.

this settlement proves a few things:
1) aoltw is more interested in keeping the aol icon on the windows desktop than doing anything with netscape/moz
2) microsoft is more concerned in the i.e. platform becoming the defacto standard browser than seriously taking on aol's access business with msn.

the best thing that could happen for mozilla/netscape/etc is for aoltw to cut it free. it will never prosper as part of aoltw's portfolio [despite aol's incredible $$$ it could spend on it].
posted by birdherder at 4:34 PM on May 31, 2003


I'm quite happy for IE to remain the dominant browser. That way, Microsoft have no reason to innovate and bring out a new version. It would be a nightmare if a new version of IE allowed you to block pop-ups and banner ads like I do with Mozilla. Sites would have to find some even more intrusive way of bombarding the user with ads. Browsing the web at the moment with Mozilla is a very pleasant experience.
posted by salmacis at 4:40 PM on May 31, 2003


Of course, considering that IE is a lost cause on the Macintosh platform, AOL will either have to use Netscape or Safari for its AOL on OSX.

MSN for OSX features IE? Really? Wow. And I am sure there are just tons of Mac users wanting an overpriced dial up ISP with proprietary software. Yep.

So it will end up being IE on Windows, and Safari will be the browser on Apple. Hrm, browsers as comodity programs to the operation system? Imagine that.
posted by benjh at 4:56 PM on May 31, 2003


No browser is perfect, and IE isn't all that bad, but without competion, Microsoft seems uninterested in improving it "for legacy operating systems".

Microsoft has said:
"As part of the OS, IE will continue to evolve, but there will be no future standalone installations. IE6 SP1 is the final standalone installation... Legacy OSes have reached their zenith with the addition of IE 6 SP1. Further improvements to IE will require enhancements to the underlying OS."
To me, that means that for the foreseeable future, most people browsing the Web are going to be using IE6 or lower. That means that it hard to justify using the advanced features of PNG graphics, or exploring XHTML 1.1 or 2.0. That might not mean the death of standards, but it sure won't make them healthier.
posted by timeistight at 5:47 PM on May 31, 2003


If it doesn't work in Moz, the site isn't worth visiting.

You might like to tell my bank that. Otherwise I would have completely migrated by now.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 6:35 PM on May 31, 2003


the threat of a monopoly is always a cause for concern. however, even though MS must be cheering, it doesn't mean that IE will control the airwaves and unless they're completely devoid of any common sense, i would think they're well aware of the opinions posted here (and elsewhere).

but the real question is: does the settlement prophesize the impending doom of all other browsers and standards? .... hell no. noone can accuse MS of ignoring standards and if you don't like IE, mozilla and others are still here. if we want them instead of IE, the numbers will show this and MS will either accommodate or die.

aside: we can blame MS all we want but there are some facts that are still blatantly true.

on preview: what inpHilltr8r said. mozilla is great in some respects but when i want to view getty/bank accounts/multi-media, i usually switch to IE... much more stable.
posted by poopy at 6:40 PM on May 31, 2003


Why am I picturing tons of "Best viewed on Mozilla" gifs? Anything to get the word out I guess.

Worse, like someone just posted "IE is the standard." This is scary prospect not just because it puts a chill on competition and contributes to vendor-lock-in, but because it would be trivial for MS to keep extending HTML and developing "easy" to use frontpage/IIS/IE design/developer crap that would be illegal to reverse-engineer into another browser.

Regardless how fast or how well the Mozilla people work, they can't just break patents that could come out of this.

I really don't want to hear "Dude, you're still using HTML instead of MSHTML?!" in a few years. Or worse, "We need to use MSHTML or customers on the web wont trust us when their browser tells them we're not a DRM Trustworthy site!"

Regardless, that 10% of non-IE users aren't going anywhere. Moz users, Mac, linux, embedded devices, etc will probably keep MSHTML from happening but I'm not really sure about stopping DRM at this point. I just hope the two don't merge in a very unuser-friendly way.

>You might like to tell my bank that

You tell your bank that. Have you told them their site doesn't work with your browser? You might even contact the good people at Mozilla tech-evangelism.

Would it be crazy nowadays to switch banks over something as seemingly trivial as a browser? Dunno, I might if my bank didn't. It wouldn't be about Moz at that point as much as about a lack of customer service and being nervous dealing with a company that is so locked into one vendor that it can't even make a webpage that works in Moz. Especially a vendor with a very bad track record regarding security.

If their CIO or whoever makes decisions there says, "Its the Microsoft way or the highway," then take him on his word and hit the highway.
posted by skallas at 7:26 PM on May 31, 2003


the first point sounds slightly -just slightly- paranoid skallas (akin to the the whole bush admin=facism crap). your second point, however, is a little more level-headed in that it exposes the standards-compliant enthusiasts who insist: you're either with us or against us.
posted by poopy at 7:47 PM on May 31, 2003


Hmm, I think advocating changing banks over a browser is an indication that quite frankly someone is off the deep end of the advocacy pool. Let's face it, I'd rather my bank not be greatly concerned about working with mozilla, because it' sinking effort into making something with a fairly insignificant market. (And sorry, but so far, mozilla is still pretty insignificant).

I don't know, I may not be a microsoft fanatic, but I'm pretty content using IE. For me, it's consistantly worked better than mozilla. (Seems like every time I try mozilla I'm immediately running into sites that just don't work well on it). (Verizon wireless was one I had problems with a lot, although it worked in opera and IE).
posted by piper28 at 8:02 PM on May 31, 2003


in that it exposes the standards-compliant enthusiasts who insist: you're either with us or against us.

At the risk of sounding like a card-carrying member of the tinfoil hat crowd . . . painting the issue in this light makes absolutely no sense to me. Somehow insisting that the developers of WWW client software comply with the standards that they themselves have established is viewed as intolerance. It might be a different case if Microsoft had been shut out of the development of mark-up languages, CSS, and the like, or even had simply chosen not to participate in the proceedings and simply developed a competing 'standard'. In this case we, as a market, could evaluate the two standards and then select the one that provides the greatest benefit.

For whatever reason, Microsoft has agreed to develop software in compliance with W3C standards, but fails to deliver. Not only that, but through a mix of partial and alternate implementations has created an environment where coding to standard breaks the most prevalent browser in the arena. Leaving aside the question of which browser is 'best' for the moment, this approach effectively locks out any further innovations in browsing software that does not roll out of Redmond while giving Microsoft the ability to claim (erroneously) compliance with W3C standards.

As my argument continues to slip away from the FPP topic, I'll spare you the rest and continue at my blog. To summarize here: Netscape may die which, while sad for me personally, is acceptable given their FUBAR NS4.7x and 6.x releases. However, there is key distinction between standard and de facto standard—one I'm not willing to let slip.
posted by Fezboy! at 9:36 PM on May 31, 2003


>the first point sounds slightly -just slightly- paranoid skallas

I wouldn't call it paranoia. I'd call it policy, namely embrace, extend, and extinguish.
posted by skallas at 12:41 AM on June 1, 2003


i agree with almost everything you have to say skallas and Fezboy! i just don't see this latest news as indicative of the end of competitive browsers or standards-compliance. now, if i were to wake up tommorrow and discover that i'm locked out of mozilla or opera (oh, i have to add that i've given opera a few chances and i can't stand it) on my PC then yeah, i'd be a little worried.

as far as this settlement is concerned, i'm not surprised. it's good business sense, both parties involved get a piece of the pie. to tell you the truth, i'm a little elated by this news as i see it as possibly opening up the browser market a little more. i know many people who are getting tired of IE (my dad being one of them) and want something different. until now, the majority of regular users only heard two names: MS and NS. maybe now, these other browsers will finally get some recognition in the general public arena.
posted by poopy at 9:03 AM on June 1, 2003


$750m / AOL's 20m subscribers = $37.50 for each AOL user to have IE instead of Mozilla.

Worst. Investment. Ever.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:20 AM on June 1, 2003


Seems like every time I try mozilla I'm immediately running into sites that just don't work well on it

This is the entire point, only you've got it backwards. It's not Mozilla's fault those sites don't work, it's the site's fault*. Somewhere at some point someone said, "Let's develop for IE as it represents x% of all of our users," which allowed the developers to build the site and only test in IE. Which meant they could do all sorts of non-standards compliant things without noticing. Those decisions are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy: all online customers of inpHilltr8r's bank use IE because they have to use IE. This would be bad in any case, but much worse because IE doesn't even do things right. It's a meaningless argument to the end-user, but it's infuriating to developers trying to build standards-compliant sites.

Not to get too far afield, but standards-compliance isn't just a nice idea. Building properly-compliant sites will/ could allow for amazing innovation or at least swifter advances.

* Applies to 99.9% of cases
posted by yerfatma at 1:06 PM on June 1, 2003


This is the entire point, only you've got it backwards. It's not Mozilla's fault those sites don't work, it's the site's fault*.

You're missing the point. If it doesn't work, I don't care why it doesn't work. The simple matter is for me, I almost never run into sites that don't work with ie, and frequently do with other browsers. Hence, that's what I use. And based on web stats for my site, 87% of people visiting are also using ie. Now, should I really waste my time verifying things work for the 3.46% that come through as netscape compatible, the 7.23% as Netscape Navigator, the 7 hits for WebTV, or the 47 hits for Opera? Sorry, not worth the time. Maybe if mozilla represented a serious sizeable alternative, but as it is, that's just wasting time and money.

(And actually, this particular month's of stats I quote above is not particularly representive of what I normally see. I'd say it's normally closer to 93% ie, and I've even seen it as high as 97% at times).
posted by piper28 at 9:34 PM on June 1, 2003


Well, if the latest month isn't indicative of the "norm" does that signify the beginning of a trend that perhaps you should pay attention to, or is it just some strange anomaly? Does the fact that your site doesn't look good in anything but IE keep those numbers down because visitors in those browsers leave sooner or is it simply that those browsers aren't being used by the general public? Do you know that your reporting tool is accurate and that it doesn't misread Opera as IE 1/3 or the time, NN4 1/3 of the time and Opera the rest of the time? How about Proxy servers and robots whose UA strings sort of look like other browsers? How does your content have any bearing on the complexion of your audience?

My point being that its foolish to put much weight into stats (either your own or one of those generic 3rd party collection sites). I don't, although with <50% IE/Windows usage I'd love to.
posted by 10sball at 8:37 AM on June 2, 2003


During the "browser wars," IE went from being a very poor browser to being a very good one, but since Microsoft "won" that war, they seem to have lost interest in further improvements. If over 80% of Web surfers are using IE and IE won't be upgraded outside of Longhorn, that means we're stuck with poor support for PNG and CSS2, broken support for the object tag and no support for serving pages as type application/xhtml+xml. In other words, the state of the art is HTML 4.0, CSS1 (with quirks), GIFs and JPEGs and we reached it about five years ago.

I think this is a pretty sad situation.
posted by timeistight at 9:23 AM on June 2, 2003


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