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AOL Kills Netscape
July 15, 2003 3:58 PM   Subscribe

AOL Kills Netscape AOL "has cut or will cut the remaining team working on Mozilla in a mass firing and are dismantling what was left of Netscape (they’ve even pulled the logos off the buildings)." According to some former Netscape employees, "everybody in CPD is getting laid off." Meanwhile, Mozilla goes on at the new Mozilla Foundation. [via Zeldman]
posted by kirkaracha (58 comments total)

 
The answer to this MeFi topic appears to be a solid "Yes".

Here's hoping the Moz guys push their products more to the front for the average PC user.
posted by Phlops at 4:18 PM on July 15, 2003


Considering that AOL agreed to use IE in its online service for the next 7 years pretty much sealed Netscape's fate.

Perhaps now Mozilla will be able to thrive without having to answer to the AOLTW suits.
posted by birdherder at 4:19 PM on July 15, 2003


I hope birdherder's sunny take on things turns out to be true: Any day now I expect AOLTW stock to fall so precipitously (hard word to type, that) that they stop construction on those (retroactively inappropriate) twin towers on Columbus Circle in NYC.

Let's keep those open source developers fed, now! Pass the hat for pizza?
posted by hairyeyeball at 4:31 PM on July 15, 2003


well AOL gave Moz 2 million and equipment, IP and a host of server resources for the first year. If AOL knows what's good for them then that will continue..

What gets me is mozdev getting attacked. I wish I could find who did that and wring their little hax0r neck.
posted by shadow45 at 4:32 PM on July 15, 2003


I'm assuming that AOL will hang on to the Netscape brand -- as the netscape.com site must still be raking in some decent ad bucks (2.26 billion ad impressions in May, according to yesterday's New York Times). The brand was becoming more and more separable from the browser over time (especially during the dark years between that utter piece of crap Netscape 4 and the Mozilla-based piece of crap Netscape 6).
posted by macrone at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2003


I'd say they didn't so much kill it as take it off life support.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:36 PM on July 15, 2003


Bummer. I was gutted until I read shadow45's comments.
Whew! Tanx for some good news.
posted by kodas at 4:37 PM on July 15, 2003


I'd certainly hope AOL would donate the Netscape name to the Mozilla team, but I can't see it happening. I only mention this because 'Netscape' still has a large reconigition factor, whereas 'Mozilla' does not. Even my mother knows what Netscape is, yet she's never heard of Mozilla.

That said, this isn't that excellent. There have been a lot of great coders working on Mozilla and being subsidised by AOL. While many of their coders will stay on, if they get other jobs then you can wave a lot of development work goodbye. Thank God Mozilla is pretty stable now.

One observation.. one of the entries on the ex-Netscape employees page says:

I worked at Netscape from 11/15/1999 through to 8/31/2003, mostly on the Navigator FE and in later days on a few other projects.

He worked until 8/31/2003? ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 4:39 PM on July 15, 2003


Geeze, I hope the show goes on. Mozilla is my favorite browser. I'd even (gasp) pay money for it. I like it that much better than MSIE and Opera.
posted by moonbiter at 4:42 PM on July 15, 2003


I'm with moonbiter - on the rare occasions when I use IE, I am astounded by the constant pop-ups, pop-unders and general annoyances that I keep forgetting are even there. Even if it was only for the tabbed browsing, I would still be madly, deeply in love with Mozilla.
posted by dg at 4:47 PM on July 15, 2003


I'd say they didn't so much kill it as take it off life support.

Agreed. You can't kill Mozilla-based browsers, you can only abandon them into the river and reeds, like Moses....
posted by weston at 4:53 PM on July 15, 2003


You can't kill Mozilla-based browsers

Really? Let's see:

spiggott:~$ killall mozilla-bin

I'll be damned, you're ri
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:05 PM on July 15, 2003


It's bad news, but there's a silver lining. The open source project will never die, and who knows? Maybe it'll continue growing in user numbers as people get tired of MS' lock-in of the browser and OS (no more standalone browser upgrades).
posted by mathowie at 5:21 PM on July 15, 2003


you can't kill what's already dead.
posted by crunchland at 5:30 PM on July 15, 2003


mathowie: I share your hope, but I don't think there will ever be big numbers there. The majority of people will still take what's given to them, so long as it's no worse than mediocre and keeps working after a fashion, and they absolutely dread the idea of downloading a new browser (if they even know how). I've tried and failed so many times to get people to upgrade from Netscape 4 that I basically don't bother any more.
posted by macrone at 5:42 PM on July 15, 2003


This is a prime opportunity for Firebird to catch up. MS's new policy of 'browser update every two years' is just begging to be brought down. Firebird has had more significant changes in a year than IE has since v5.0.
People aren't going to care about standards compliance. But you can make them care about speed and security. Convince people that IE is a highway for spyware and paranoid users will stampede to FB.
posted by darukaru at 5:50 PM on July 15, 2003


How about this. Everyone who operates a non-critical, non-business website should participate in a day to be called "The Great IE Blackout", when their index page will reject Internet Explorer users, and redirect them to a page that allows them to install one of several alternatives.

At midnight that night, the pages will go back to normal.

If you have CGI capability on your host, you can rewrite the page based on the browser's user-agent string. Otherwise, a little snippet of JavaScript will do the trick. Somebody needs to host an information page prior to the chosen date that contains code samples in JavaScript and various popular server-side languages, so people can prepare.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:54 PM on July 15, 2003


Sounds like a good idea, George_Spiggot. Count me in (although I think that both of the people reading my sites use Mozilla already).
posted by dg at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2003


Some more perspectives over at evolt.org
posted by normy at 6:21 PM on July 15, 2003


George_Spiggot, best of luck. But I've never met anyone who got anywhere telling people their browsers suck. Maybe if a couple dozen sites did so at once the message might be more effective -- given a significant audience overlap.

Remember the days of "This site requires Netscape 3"? Unless your site is so compelling that people are willing to jump through the requisite hoops, the response is more likely to be "Best not viewed at all."
posted by macrone at 6:25 PM on July 15, 2003


Oh my God, you killed Mozilla!

YOU BASTARDS!!!
posted by insomnyuk at 6:38 PM on July 15, 2003


I remember the days of "This site recommends Netscape 1.1". I lived next door to Netscape HQ at the time, and took pleasure in chipping away at the great corporate monstrosity by using Mosaic.

I'll now shed a tear for every navigator object in my JavaScript. Thanks for the ride, guys, even if it really ended four years ago.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:40 PM on July 15, 2003


you can't kill what's already dead.

You may continue to consider Firebird and Thunderbird dead to your own detriment.

This is bad news, and I don't see much redeeming value to this. Firebird and Thunderbird didn't spring out of nowhere, they relied on a framework that took 5 (admittedly inefficiently spent) years to develop and has become the best cross-platform toolkit of its scope in existence. With the layoff, even the best FB/TB developers (who drive most of the improvement, and many of whom no longer relied on Netscape as their main source of income for quite some time now) will have less time to work on the project.
posted by azazello at 6:46 PM on July 15, 2003


Imagine how much farther along, faster, and better Mozilla browser would be if the developers didn't decide to build the Mozilla suite of apps: mail, chat, news reader, etc. A couple kids from Stanford (i think) cut the bloat out and made Firebird. Now firebird will be Mozilla 1.5. Maybe all the AOL money, time, and resources wasn't for the best.

I say open source types are best kept hungry.
posted by skallas at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2003


I am no expert on this topic, but I could not agree with you more skallas. I never really understood why, if they were trying to kill IE, so many resources and so much time were used on the suite of non-browser applications.

The split of Camino, and eventually Firebird from the main Mozilla project should have been a big hint that people cared more about speed than a built in WYSIWYG HTML editor.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 7:31 PM on July 15, 2003


As a former geek (I totally lost my cred years ago), I'm a bit behind the times...I use Mozilla, but WTF are Firebird, Thunderbird, Camino? and what's with the musclecar name-theme? Are Impala, Superbee, and Mustang far behind? ;)
posted by notsnot at 7:47 PM on July 15, 2003


as usual, all runs smoothly in the much-happier Opera world...
posted by lotsofno at 8:02 PM on July 15, 2003


Camino (formerly Chimera) is a Mac OS X browser that uses Gecko and adds all the Mac OS X-y goodness that Mac OS X users expect, without the bloat of the full Mozilla.

Firebird (formerly Phoenix) started out as a Windows version of the same thing, though I think they've taken it to other platforms now.

Thunderbird is a standalone e-mail client derived from Mozilla.
posted by kindall at 8:23 PM on July 15, 2003


If you have CGI capability on your host, you can rewrite the page based on the browser's user-agent string. Otherwise, a little snippet of JavaScript will do the trick. Somebody needs to host an information page prior to the chosen date that contains code samples in JavaScript and various popular server-side languages, so people can prepare.

All the Opera and Omniweb and other users who's browsers send MSIE identity strings would just love this idea I'm sure.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:50 PM on July 15, 2003


On the other hand, I think a lot of website owners would be reluctant to get people to switch to a browser that's capable of blocking popups right out of the box. Just in case, you know.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:52 PM on July 15, 2003


All the Opera and Omniweb and other users who's browsers send MSIE identity strings would just love this idea I'm sure.

You can accommodate that by specifically looking for the string "Opera", which will be there.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:05 PM on July 15, 2003


Firebird (used to be called Phoenix) is essentially a very streamlined browser based off of the Mozilla code. It doesn't have built-in email, irc, nntp, etc. -- it's just a browser. And what a browser it is. There are three main reasons why it is better than IE -

1. It has tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing is great for people who like openning up a dozen browser windows at a time. Instead of having a dozen different browser windows opened, all the separate windows are "tabbed". It's-a-very-nice.

2. It has built-in pop-up blocking. I honestly doubt Microsoft will ever support this simple technology, but it is a godsend.

3. It has specific javascript blocking. Unlike IE, where Javascript is an all-or-nothing option, you can disable certain annoying javascript behaviors common on the 'net.

It's also skinnable -- which doesn't mean jack to me, but maybe you like that kind of thing. And speed-wise, it's about the same speed as IE (still a bit slower, but it's not completed yet). I believe Firebird is currently at version .6 -- expect tons more optimizing before 1.0. I honestly believe by 1.0 it will be faster than Internet Explorer, with more options. And, of course, it's open-source, which is nice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:19 PM on July 15, 2003


How about this. Everyone who operates a non-critical, non-business website should participate in a day to be called "The Great IE Blackout", when their index page will reject Internet Explorer users, and redirect them to a page that allows them to install one of several alternatives.

Ah, yes. This, no doubt, to demonstrate the remarkable level of maturity found in the OSS community.

Why not give users an actual *reason* to go with your browser of choice, rather than simply shunning them?

BTW, some of us use Crazy Browser, which is IE-based but allows tabbed browsing, script blocking, popup blocking, language translation, and a few other nice things.
posted by Ayn Marx at 10:32 PM on July 15, 2003


Why not give users an actual *reason* to go with your browser of choice, rather than simply shunning them?

I agree. What'd be great would be something like a cross between a "blue ribbon" campaign and a classy-as-possible banner add highlighting the virtues of Firebird. Tell people about it, tell people why they'd want to use it, and maybe they will.
posted by weston at 10:43 PM on July 15, 2003


Why not give users an actual *reason* to go with your browser of choice, rather than simply shunning them?

It lacks that belligerent, confrontational quality, for one thing. For another, it sounds a bit too much like work.

Ah, yes. This, no doubt, to demonstrate the remarkable level of maturity found in the OSS community.

No, I don't know where you'd get that idea. Actually it's more immature than otherwise. But that was a good attempt at analysis, do keep on with that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:11 PM on July 15, 2003


remarkable level of maturity
What is this maturity you speak of? I am not familiar with the term. Is that something that I would need to be old to understand?
posted by dg at 11:24 PM on July 15, 2003


I use Firebird mainly, but the sun Java it uses really annoys me on certain sites (bbc news ticker for one)

I've found myself using MyIE2 a hell of a lot more - more features than you can shake a stick at. Sounds a lot like Crazybrowser actually :)
posted by Mossy at 3:35 AM on July 16, 2003


Here's hoping the Moz guys push their products more to the front for the average PC user.

Something as simple as the redesign of mozilla.org is a big improvement in that respect. The old site was aimed largely at developers, and it was hard at first glance to see where to download the latest stable version of the browser. Not any more: those links are the first thing you see, as they should be.
posted by rory at 5:34 AM on July 16, 2003


I think I will keep using Avant Browser myself -- IE based but with an great feature set.
posted by dawiz at 6:16 AM on July 16, 2003


I know this is important to some of you, but I guess I'm just surprised that anyone would be surprised... AOL got what they wanted - bargaining power with Microsoft - and now they're ready to cut those nonproductive costs and move on. Their actions, or lack thereof, subsequent to the acquisition should have left no question in anyone's mind there was no intention of actually using the Netscape-owned technologies. Even their support, such as it is, for the Mozilla organization appears designed to reap good press, not create great product that might actually compete with Microsoft. If you're looking for someone to "blame," reserve your scorn for those at Netscape back in the day who caved to AOL in the first place; AOL's doing the only thing they reasonably can do now...
posted by JollyWanker at 7:49 AM on July 16, 2003


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'd love to use Mozilla, Opera, Firebird, et al, but I can't. Well, I can, but there's not enough time in the day. My clients use IE. I have to develop using IE, and test versus IE. The day that a client says: "The company has standardized on Mozilla 3.0" (obviously in the far-flung future), I'll stand up and cheer.

I'm betting I'll still be developing for IE for 99% of my other clients, however, so it'll be a small cheer. Well, maybe a wry smile and a lift of the soda can.

This used to be the case for Netscape, when 3.0 was the standard, and IE was just a wannabe. Everyone developed and used 3.0. It was pulling teeth to get them to use 4.0.

Thank god those days are over. While I won't claim that IE is bug free, fast, or has all the best features -- it's at least competent and stable.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:52 AM on July 16, 2003


My clients use IE. I have to develop using IE, and test versus IE.

Yikes. I understand what you're saying (the vast majority of our clients and their visitors are using IE), but I think it's terribly short-sighted. Developing for standards doesn't preclude making things work well in IE. Plus you get the added benefit of the site working in the next version of everything, which is good unless you think Microsoft is never going to fix the glaring errors in their rendering. For example, if you're supporting IE's incorrect implementation of the CSS box model, you're going to get burned. IE 6 already supports the correct model in Stadards mode, which suggests future versions will probably render that way out-of-the-box. Just a thought.
posted by yerfatma at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2003


yerfatmama is right. (Heh, heh.) Done properly, standards-based development will support all browsers, including IE. Zeldman's new book is an excellent primer.
posted by timeistight at 9:16 AM on July 16, 2003


Eric Meyer (CSS guru and Netscape Standards Evangelist) said "I feel terrible. Netscape really kicked off the revolution, and with its death coming so soon after the death of IE/Mac and IE/Win, it feels like all the lights are going out. They had really gotten behind the standards message, too, funding an entire team dedicated to standards evangelism. That team is now gone, and I feel like we've really lost something."

disclaimer: self-link to an interview I conducted with Eric for my employer, DMXzone.com
posted by Pericles at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2003


FastCompany's chronicles of the early days of Netscape. It seems so funny to read about things like "Netscape Time" and remember the horrific push to deploy. Deploy, even if it isn't right. Deploy, even if its only crap.

Thankfully, those times are gone and perhaps its fitting that Netscape be put in last on top of the mass grave of the industry it helped create.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2003


What's Netscape Godzilla?
posted by crazy finger at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2003


1. It has tabbed browsing. Tabbed browsing is great for people who like openning up a dozen browser windows at a time. Instead of having a dozen different browser windows opened, all the separate windows are "tabbed". It's-a-very-nice.

I've never figured out the obsession with these personally. Ok, some people I know are obsessively neat, and maybe that makes them feel better, but I know when I'm using web sites, I *like* having them in seperate windows, because it makes it easy to refer to other sites when I'm doing something. Clicking back and forth between tabs is just a pain IMHO. Of course, I tend to be one of those people that has lots of windows open on the desktop, all carefully arranged so I can see everything I need to see at once.
posted by piper28 at 12:21 PM on July 16, 2003


Then, piper28, you want phoenix/firebird, which does both tabbing and new window spawning, at your case-by-case discretion (crazybrowser does ONLY tabbing).
posted by NortonDC at 12:31 PM on July 16, 2003


I dunno what to say. I guess tabbed browsing is pure personal preference (ok, that's obvious, but I can't imagine it). That explains when I showed my dad Mozilla he didn't break down in tears at the pure beauty of it. I can't deal without tabs now. I'll admit to a bit of anal retentiveness, but it just makes me more efficient. Combined with Multizilla, which allows exposes more granular controls for how the tabs work and what opens a new tab and what opens a new window, I'm way faster than I used to be.

90% of what I like about tabs is how much easier it makes development for me, where I can have a page and debugging info in two tabs I can flip between, with a third tab open to a resource site, etc.
posted by yerfatma at 12:48 PM on July 16, 2003


Count me in as another anal retentive who likes things to be all neat and tidy. It used to drive me nuts when I would open a lot of browser windows and they would end up all squashed up on the taskbar so that I could not tell which one was which. When XP came along and started grouping windows from the same program into one taskbar button, that was just the end for me.

Tabbed browsing also works extremely well if you are using a dial-up connection, allowing you to ctrl-click links and let them open up in the background while you continue reading what is on the page you started from without being interrupted, then follow the links as you wish. Horses for courses really, IMHO.

Oh, and the ability to fit a web page to the paper size you are using when you print it is invaluable also, rather than having the right had side of the page being missed. Yes, I know web pages are not supposed to be printed, blah blah blah.
posted by dg at 3:26 PM on July 16, 2003


Not sure if anyone cares at this point in the thread, but dg you might try Multizilla if you have a middle button on your mouse. Moving from CTRL+click to just middle clicking to open links in new tabs (and being able to control whether the tabs open in the background or foreground) helped immensely.
posted by yerfatma at 6:28 PM on July 16, 2003


Not only do I love tabbed browsing, but ever since I switched from regular Mozilla to Mozilla Firebird, I've been using Shimoda Hiroshi's Tabbrowser Extensions and it's revolutionized the things I can do with tabs. You can lock tabs (forcing any links you click in that tab to open in a new tab), change the order of the tabs on your screen (via right-click or drag-and-drop), reload all your tabs at once, set permissions (for things like Javascript, frames, etc.) on a tab-by-tab basis, and, perhaps best of all, you can undo accidentally closed tabs. For any Firebird users, I highly recommend it!

I've been using Mozilla for just over a year now and I only launch IE for testing at work or for the odd site that won't play nice with Mozilla. I'm never going back, NEVER I TELL YOU!
posted by filmgoerjuan at 6:58 PM on July 16, 2003


> to just middle clicking to open links in new tabs

This is the default behavior for Firebird too. I just click on the scroll wheel and the page loads in the background in another tab.

Its like having superpowers.
posted by skallas at 7:02 PM on July 16, 2003


"shift+middle button" opens it in a foregrounded new tab. :-)
posted by NortonDC at 7:29 PM on July 16, 2003


I just click on the scroll wheel and the page loads in the background in another tab. Its like having superpowers.
Hey, cool! that saves me heaps of labour in having to press the ctrl key ;-). Does that mean I have to wear my underwear on the outside now?
posted by dg at 7:49 PM on July 16, 2003


Why, what are you doing with it now?
posted by yerfatma at 4:09 AM on July 17, 2003


Ummm, wearing it on the inside.
posted by dg at 3:37 PM on July 17, 2003


This has left those of us who are editors at the Open Directory Project just a little bit leery.
posted by etoile at 5:59 AM on July 18, 2003


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