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Death of a Browser, End of an Era
December 28, 2007 2:47 PM   Subscribe

RIP Netscape browser, 1994-2007. AOL, who acquired the groundbreaking browser as part of a $4.2 billion deal in 1998, announced the end today. Good-bye or good riddance?
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (99 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by feelinglistless at 2:50 PM on December 28, 2007


Good riddance. It hasn't died as much as donated it's vital organs to some much better pieces of software.
posted by Jimbob at 2:55 PM on December 28, 2007 [8 favorites]


more like Nutscrape amirite?
posted by rxrfrx at 2:56 PM on December 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


There was still a Netscape browser?

Huh.
posted by The Deej at 2:58 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


So much for "Netscarp no soon death."
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:00 PM on December 28, 2007


Wow, I didn't realize it was still around. Sort of like Abe Vigoda.
posted by TedW at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2007


Yeah, I'm with the Deej.

Seriously, I thought Netscape ended when Firefox began.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:01 PM on December 28, 2007


Huh.

Shouldn't that be "Meh."?
posted by TedW at 3:04 PM on December 28, 2007


Yeah, Firefox is built from the core of Netscape. In fact the original name of Firefox was "Phoenix", as in rising from Netscape's outdated ashes. If you're using Firefox now type "about:mozilla" in the location bar and see what happens.
posted by tepidmonkey at 3:07 PM on December 28, 2007 [5 favorites]


GEEK

.

Netscape 2.0 was my first graphical WWW browser... ahhhh the halcyon days of the Trumpet Winsock. = /

I have never used IE as my primary browser, having gone on to Mozilla in the earliest milestone days...

These days I still use Gecko browsers for the most part. Camino on OS X, SeaMonkey on Linux and Windows... with a little Firefox thrown in for good measure. I am also down with the KHTML and Webkit browsers on occasion.

/ENDGEEK
posted by PROD_TPSL at 3:07 PM on December 28, 2007


The last few releases of Netscape were just a re-skinned Firefox browser, so meh.
posted by mrbill at 3:09 PM on December 28, 2007


if (init==true) with (navigator) {if ((appName=="Netscape")&&(parseInt(appVersion)==4)) {
document.MM_pgW=innerWidth; document.MM_pgH=innerHeight; onresize=MM_reloadPage; }}
else if (innerWidth!=document.MM_pgW || innerHeight!=document.MM_pgH) location.reload();


(pauses... wipes brow)

.
posted by hal9k at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Of course, if you long for that retro look, there are options.
posted by Jimbob at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2007


I'm torn, because I too have fond memories of the early days of browsing with Netscape on Solaris, as well as on Windows and doing the Trumpet Winsock dance. But, I also worked on IE, so I'm kinda glad that they've finally stopped trying to pretend it was actually still useful. And I've never liked AOL.

IE5 converted me from Netscape. Never looked back, though I do keep FireFox installed for the occasional romp.
posted by jeffamaphone at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I remember using Netscape on an old Mac running OS8 (maybe 7) because there wasn't a version of Internet Explorer out for Apple computers at that time.

Man did I luck out. It showed me early on what a web browser should be like, long before I ever touched a Windows machine. Years after I went into technical support, I only used Netscape Navigator and Communicator because they were browsers that worked.

I enjoy the internet today, through Firefox, because of the greatness that was Netscape Navigator.

!
posted by quin at 3:17 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Netscape was slowly dying from early on. Even versions 2 and 3 started to show they didn't have the talent to design, code and market something that could stand up to Microsoft pre-installing a half-decent browser.
posted by malevolent at 3:22 PM on December 28, 2007


1.2 was the best version. Glory days.
posted by nowonmai at 3:24 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


On my bookshelf is a disk and manual for Netscape 1.1 (Mac) from '96

I actually ordered and paid for a browser.
posted by hal9k at 3:27 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was a big supporter of Netscape for years, but somewhere along the line I stopped using it. To be honest, I forgot that it ever even existed until I saw this post. It's like finding out that an old friend that you lost touch with died. Except that it's just a browser - and we stopped hanging out becasue I found better friends.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 3:28 PM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


Netscape v2.0a12 had the warmest, fattest HTML rendering of all time.
posted by basicchannel at 3:30 PM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


End of an era? The fact that the Nintendo Wii uses Opera for web browsing goes to show the "era" has more longevity than we like to give it credit.
posted by parmanparman at 3:31 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Netscape 4.7 forever!
posted by furtive at 3:33 PM on December 28, 2007


End of an era? The fact that the Nintendo Wii uses Opera for web browsing goes to show the "era" has more longevity than we like to give it credit.

I think that's the death of the Netscape era, not death of the web era...
posted by misterbrandt at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2007


I still have my netscape coffee mug I got for reporting a bug in the browser back in the mid 90s. Little mozilla dinosaur guy on the side.

Imagine anybody today shipping out a coffee mug to every beta user who finds a bug. Good times.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:36 PM on December 28, 2007


Netscape v2.0a12 had the warmest, fattest HTML rendering of all time.

Well sure, but you had to have been using Pear ethernet cables to really appreciate that.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:37 PM on December 28, 2007 [8 favorites]


Never re-write your code from scratch
posted by bhnyc at 3:37 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


For a few years now "Netscape" was just a skin on top of IE. Essentially, IE with "IE" crossed out and "Netscape" written on in crayon. It stopped mattering a long time ago.
posted by clevershark at 3:41 PM on December 28, 2007


My first experience of the internet was waiting for a gif image of Gillian Anderson in her dressing gown to load in the school library over 14.4k. The year was 1995, the browser was Netscape, the wait was agonising.
posted by fire&wings at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


crap, now I have to go back to Mosaic...

I've still got Netscape 1 installed on a mac plus...and it still works... sort of...
posted by HuronBob at 3:51 PM on December 28, 2007


I never switched to IE and was using netscape until about a year ago. Why would anyone want the security problems of IE and outlook? Here at home I use Firefox/Thunderbird, on my laptop I went with Seamonkey.
posted by 445supermag at 3:57 PM on December 28, 2007


The other week, I was importing about 10 years worth of old email into my Gmail account, and chuckled at an email I found from way back when NS 2.0 came out. In it, I was telling my friend that he should download the new Netscape 2.0, because it supports this supercool thing called "HTML Frames!!!!!!"

Back then, everyone thought that was the second coming of sliced bread.

Even funnier is the other mail I found where I bashed the hell out of this new animation technolgy called "FutureSplash". I said it would go nowhere. Heh.
posted by melorama at 4:00 PM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


I do have a bit of nostalgia for Netscape. My first graphical web browser was NCSA Mosaic on the Mac, but I remember us geeks at the computing center eagerly downloading every new beta on Netscape. I think I started in the 0.8 or 0.9 days. Heady times.

I still recall the agonizing decision to put the first image on the website I took care of. We had a very international audience and I worried about the additional load time of a graphical header image.

If you're feeling nostalgic and want to go back to experience how it was like "back in the day", you can: http://browsers.evolt.org/?navigator/
posted by afflatus at 4:03 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Being in Japan, I got exposed to the www rather late, fall '95 was when we got a proper internet connection into the office.

Netscape's ability to load pages in the background was very very revolutionary, previously, any sort of blocking IO would, as a rule, block the UI too.

.

for the nominal team & product that did in fact change the industry, and the world.
posted by panamax at 4:06 PM on December 28, 2007


Joel is such an ignorant tool.
posted by cytherea at 4:07 PM on December 28, 2007


FF has just as many security issues these days. Go compare for yourself.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2007


Oh man, frames are still like the worst thing ever.
posted by jeffamaphone at 4:09 PM on December 28, 2007


Dude, I remember Netscape! I used it in...um...1995.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:10 PM on December 28, 2007


Cytherea, actually, to this non-programmer, it seemed like a very smart article. Why am I wrong?
posted by mojohand at 4:20 PM on December 28, 2007


Up until about a year-and-a-half ago, I still had users with 4.7 and 7 both installed, to 'test' new pages. Once users hitting those sites finally dropped passed a certain point for an extended period they were able to get rid of it.

Most of my playtime at home is on swiftweasel these days...
posted by pupdog at 4:21 PM on December 28, 2007


Just to be a stickler - shouldn't it really be 1994-2008? It's just mostly dead until February...
posted by pupdog at 4:22 PM on December 28, 2007


I guess I'm a little confused because a while ago while setting up a new PC I got something that was Netscape-branded (or so I thought) but was in fact only an IE skin, like Neoplanet. Maybe that was the AOL browser (?).
posted by clevershark at 4:27 PM on December 28, 2007


I saw my first 'graphical' HTML in a netscape browser. I was a technical writer and, intrigued with how this could help documentation*, I cut some HTML myself in notepad. It just worked!

*And also poetry. I was younger then.
posted by Sparx at 4:28 PM on December 28, 2007


MY sister still uses netscape for some reason. It crashes a lot and doesn't work very well in my experience.
posted by puke & cry at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2007


Netscape was already brain dead -- all AOL did was finally pull the plug on the zombified corpse. Luckily, all the parts that mattered were salvaged long ago. It's time to put it in the ground.

I went from NCSA Mosaic, to Netscape, to IE (things were different back in the 90s! we didn't know what we were messing with!), flirted with Safari, and finally found Firefox.

The problem I had with Netscape that caused me to switch to Mac IE was speed: Netscape got unspeakably bloated and slow to render pages, to the point where even stolidly anti-Microsoft rags like MacAddict had to admit that IE was the clear winner. Since it never supported ActiveX controls anyway, it didn't share many of the security issues that the PC version did.

I was worried that Firefox was heading down the same brain-drain and bloat path, but from what I've heard the next version is going to be a lot lighter...we can hope.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:39 PM on December 28, 2007


Never re-write your code from scratch

Why not? Netscape 4.0 was a mess, and Netscape 5.0, the supposed extension never was. Sometimes code is terrible and needs to be rewritten.
posted by delmoi at 4:39 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm a long disbeliever in mourning the dead. This is a day to celebrate the life that Netscape had, not to mourn its passing. First off if you mourn it today, you're about a decade late. Microsoft killed the Netscape Star. It happened a long time ago. ASOL just carried the bullet for awhile. Put it out of its misery.

Netscape died when Microsoft struck that fatal blow of making the web browser free indefinitely. I don't mean just MSIE. I mean ALL web browsers are essentially free. I mean, did you pay for your web browser? You got rooked, if you did. Most people wouldn't consider it an option now. There's enough things online that they make you pay for. I don't know about you, but I don't have enough money in my life to just throw it at whatever moves.

People can hem and haw at Bill Gates all they want. Making web browsers free indefinitely opened the Web up to creative innovation and common access. It's like taking a mall that had been invitation only and unlocking the doors so even homeless people could wander around. Hell! Homeless people could put up a shingle! The web became the Gold Rush of the 20th century, for better or for worse. That wouldn't have been as effective if everyone woulda been required to pay a cover charge at the door to the party. Heck, we already did that with our ISP - then to be charged again for the browser? You'd still have The Web, but there'd be even less people. Many woulda laughed at that and not participated purely on principle.

Anyone wonder why 3D movies don't ever hit mainstream success? At best it's a novelty that comes and goes like a breeze, cuz they make you pay for the damn glasses as well. If they had stopped doing that in the fifties - or even for Jaws 3D, things might be different today. Shouldacouldawoulda.

Making web browsers free was a shrewd business move - cutting potential competition at the knees before it could get big enough to slit any throats - but making web browsers free also made at least parts of the Information Superhighway less of a toll road for the masses. I hesitate to call it humanitarian or philanthropic. I doubt anyone at Microsoft behind that decision at the time did it solely for altruistic means. It was a survival measure. Some could even argue it was an action born out of fear.

Arguably it backfired; that act led Microsoft into a decade of legal nightmares and financial riverdancing, because everyone from congressional Oversight Committees to Your Mom were questioning every move Microsoft made from then on. It was underhanded corporate bloodletting that led to a lot of vamp hunting. However, I happen to believe that action had repercussions that benefitted modern human society in spades. Despite the a-holes behind it. I mean, the only loser admittedly, was Netscape.

I started with Netscape. Switched to MSIE with Windows 95 just cuz Netscape was crashing back then and took forever to load pages when it did work. MSIE worked back then, whereas Netscape did not. At least for me. A decade later I find the opposite to be true. I'm using Firefox now, predominantly cuz there's scripts and doohickeys and stupid web tricks that MSIE can't do, but I got nothing against MSIE personally. I still use it on occasion, but Firefox has more bells and whistles. So right now Firefox is winning, but it's still a close race, and nowadays what are they racing for? What's waiting for them at the finish line? Fifty virgins? Is there even a finish line? It's fox and the hound. It's tortoise and the hare. and frankly, I can't tell anymore which one I should be rooting for; and I could care even less.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:44 PM on December 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's sad that this is the end of the Netscape software. It truly was groundbreaking back in the old browser war days of yore.

From a designers point of view, IE6 is the next generation Netscape 4.7.
posted by ReiToei at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


from what I've heard the next version is going to be a lot lighter...we can hope.

After getting into a discussion over Firefox memory bloat/leak/whatever, I played with the latest Firefox 3 Beta for a little while... this is purely anecdotal, but the same set of tabs that sent 2.0 over 400K in memory use, topped out 3.0 at 155K. Big improvement? Yep. Enough? I'm not geek enough to know.
posted by wendell at 4:45 PM on December 28, 2007


fire&wings: "My first experience of the internet was waiting for a gif image of Gillian Anderson in her dressing gown to load in the school library over 14.4k. The year was 1995, the browser was Netscape, the wait was agonising."


Something similar for me as well. My first graphical experience of the Internet was using some custom version of Mosaic to download a badly photoshopped pic of Christina Applegate back in 1994. Though I used email and newsgroups as early as '92.

When that badly compressed, horribly disfigured pic finally arrived over my 9600-bps modem I knew what the future of the Internet held: Porn, and lots of it.
posted by aerotive at 4:52 PM on December 28, 2007


There was still a Netscape browser?
Huh.


There was still AOL??

No seriously, what are they doing these days? Are there still like dialup users getting those discs in the mail and shit? I literally haven't heard a thing about them in years.
posted by Naberius at 4:56 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ephemera.
posted by TorontoSandy at 5:02 PM on December 28, 2007


I found this this on Jamie Zaweski's blog.
posted by bukvich at 5:02 PM on December 28, 2007


I think the last Netscape I used was probably 3.x? I don't even remember.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:19 PM on December 28, 2007


I have an shrinkwrapped Netscape browser box on my desk at work that I saved from the trash heap after we deep cleaned some storage closets. I'm not sure what version it is ('cause I'm still on vacation and sure as shit ain't driving in just to look,) but it's optimized for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95.

It was the first browser I remember using back in mid 90's. It was on my university's Macs in the Residence Life office. I used it to look up 49er's stats back when they were good and search for rare Harlan Ellison books on the precursors the Amazon. After I graduated and bought my own computer it was my browser of choice (to the extent that I actually n00bishly uninstalled IE. Which led to me losing the ability to create new folders through Explorer. Which is why I always found MS's insistence that the browser wasn't intergrated into the OS so amusing back in the day.)

Then I think 4.7 came out? Mabye '97-98 or so? Crashy McCrasherson. So I went back to IE and dealt with the bi-annual Windows reinstalls. Then I went to Firefox. And dealt with the memory leaks. Then I went to Opera. And now I'm happy.

I'll always remember Netscape fondly, though.
posted by Cyrano at 5:20 PM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


NCSA Mosaic v2.7b binaries. Bonus: it handles usenet!
posted by phooky at 5:23 PM on December 28, 2007


I think it's fascinating that Firefox is making tens of millions of dollars selling Google ads whereas Netscape is being put to sleep for making AOL nothing.
posted by Nelson at 5:26 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


(pauses... wipes brow)

Yeah, copy and pasting from DreamWeaver's code manglin' machine is hard damn work. :)

(MM_variables are a dead giveaway).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:32 PM on December 28, 2007


Does this mean they are canceling the internet?
posted by byronimation at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I worked on MSN's first non-proprietary property, a web site called "matter," in 1994 or so. At the same time, IE 1.3 came out, which supported tables, which we were able to take advantage of. However, Netscape quickly outshone MS efforts and it was difficult to find anyone in my building who used anything other than Netscape as their browser of choice.

Fast-forward a few years and Netscape 4.x and its mindless adherents really put a big dent in the adoption of CSS standards for the web. Not that IE was a lot better, but better it was. Over the years I've done a lot of design and coding for PBS, who are always well behind the times, technology-wise, and the mandate to support 4.x killed a lot of great design and bloated a lot of code.

As was mentioned up-thread, IE6 now occupies the space 4.x did--the buggy implementation of CSS and the need to support it still creates a lot of headaches and bodges.

I still view CSS as a minor miracle, even if the neck beards who wrote it didn't do much consulting with real-world programmers and designers. The fact that some web programmers still, to this day, use tables for complex layouts where they aren't relaying out tabular data boggles my mind.

Anyway, Netscape had a good run but hung around too long with a buggy product championed by the MS haters of the world. Firefox saved us from that, thankfully.
posted by maxwelton at 5:59 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


And so at last the beast fell and the unbelievers rejoiced.
But all was not lost, for from the ash rose a great bird.
The bird gazed down upon the unbelievers and cast fire
and thunder upon them. For the beast had been
reborn with its strength renewed, and the
followers of Mammon cowered in horror.


from The Book of Mozilla, 7:15
posted by krinklyfig at 6:02 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Netscape 4: Never forgive. never forget.

Kids these days moaning about IE know NOTHING.
posted by Artw at 6:07 PM on December 28, 2007 [3 favorites]


.

Our grandparents had gas lamps to be nostalgic about. We have browsers.
(With apologies to Terry Pratchett)
posted by subbes at 6:12 PM on December 28, 2007


I was dead faithful to Netscape until 4.7. I was a developer at the time, and coding separately for IE and Netscape took up more time than any other part of my job. That was hell, but knowing the differences between browsers and their quirks paid a decent salary back then. I was always biased against IE for its PITA arrogant invention of markup and complete disregard for attempts to standardize the language; their model was based on increasing market share through dominance while forgoing the potential to have all our devices work together. They intentionally fragmented the web for their own sake; certainly not anyone else's, but, hey, billable hours are billable hours. We're still dealing with that crap, btw, although newer browsers are a bit more forgiving and a bit smarter. I hated IE 5 for its unabashed flouting of standards, even after many web developers hounded (and begged) them about it, but at least it wasn't the teetering house of cards that Netscape 4.7 was. What a sad corpse it had already become. Made me long for the "good old days" of Netscape 3, when everything was perfect, and the kids stayed off my damn lawn.

Netscape is dead! Long live Netscape!

AOL is dead! The endless September is ... well, thanks AOL, for leaving us with that one.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:18 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Original Netscape development team member Jeremy Zawodny (better known as "jwz") coined the term "Brand Necrophilia" to refer to AOL's raping of the Netscape corpse. His opinion of AOL's "Netscape-branded Internet Explorer" was widely reported at the time of its announcement. Apropos of this discussion of why Netscape failed: the resignation letter he published upon leaving Netscape/AOL.

(At the time, I thought of him as a sort of developer's developer and a prototype of the uncompromising startup technologist. When he switched to Mac laptops I knew it was time to take a serious look at OS X.)
posted by sdodd at 6:27 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oops! That should read "Jamie Zawinski," of course. Terribly sorry -- that's a glitch somewhere deep within my brain. Zawodny is a developer at Yahoo.
posted by sdodd at 6:32 PM on December 28, 2007


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.

If this is true, I don't understand is AOL's insistence on bundling IE into their software. If they owned Netscape by 1997, it doesn't make sense that they'd support their competition in that way.

Yeah, I used AOL back in '96. Cable wasn't mature, DSL was non-existent and quite frankly, I didn't know enough. But that broken AOL browser was ultimately the dealbreaker.
posted by vhsiv at 6:38 PM on December 28, 2007


krinklyfig - I think you have your browsers mixed up there if you think NN4.0 was some kind of paragon of well observed standards.
posted by Artw at 6:40 PM on December 28, 2007


Just in case anyone wasn't aware, jeffamaphone is an IE developer.

I, too, remember the joy of using Netscape for the first time.

As for Firefox, I'm hoping the more 'Mac-like' version pans out. I'm using Safari right now, but miss some of the handy extensions available.
posted by defenestration at 6:42 PM on December 28, 2007


maxwelton writes "Fast-forward a few years and Netscape 4.x and its mindless adherents really put a big dent in the adoption of CSS standards for the web. Not that IE was a lot better, but better it was. Over the years I've done a lot of design and coding for PBS, who are always well behind the times, technology-wise, and the mandate to support 4.x killed a lot of great design and bloated a lot of code."

A better decision would have been to code to the standard as much as it's supported by both NS and IE, and to not use any proprietary code except where absolutely necessary, like to deal with a quirk. That way, going forward isn't along a vendor's path but rather the most workable compromise, requiring less "fixing" later as standards change and less hassle when migrating. The wrong decision would have been to code to IE specifically, which I also saw done quite a bit. Remember those "best viewed in IE/Netscape" graphics? I still see that around, but it's becoming rare, thank goodness. Now, if we could only get Adobe to open up Flash a bit for the rest of us on *nix systems.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:50 PM on December 28, 2007


Artw writes "krinklyfig - I think you have your browsers mixed up there if you think NN4.0 was some kind of paragon of well observed standards."

When did I say that?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2007


"I was always biased against IE for its PITA arrogant invention of markup and complete disregard for attempts to standardize the language" kind of implied that IE was the worst of the two browsers in that regard at the time, which it absolutely wasn't.
posted by Artw at 6:58 PM on December 28, 2007


defenestration writes "As for Firefox, I'm hoping the more 'Mac-like' version pans out. I'm using Safari right now, but miss some of the handy extensions available."

I like FF better for its extensions, but Safari is much more standards compliant and is less bloated right now. Same with Opera. MS and FF both claim to be releasing browsers that will pass the Acid2 test in the next major release (IE 8 and FF 3). We'll see.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:01 PM on December 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Artw writes "'I was always biased against IE for its PITA arrogant invention of markup and complete disregard for attempts to standardize the language' kind of implied that IE was the worst of the two browsers in that regard at the time, which it absolutely wasn't."

I went on to say, "I hated IE 5 for its unabashed flouting of standards, even after many web developers hounded (and begged) them about it, but at least it wasn't the teetering house of cards that Netscape 4.7 was. What a sad corpse it had already become. Made me long for the "good old days" of Netscape 3, when everything was perfect, and the kids stayed off my damn lawn."

Yeah, IE 5 was bad. NS 4.7 was worse.

I will admit that IE 5 was pretty fast. That was about the only thing I really liked about it. Completely insecure, proprietary, path of least resistance. But I had to give up on NS at 4.7. It was non-compliant, bloated and really unstable.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:06 PM on December 28, 2007


A better decision would have been to code to the standard as much as it's supported by both NS and IE, and to not use any proprietary code except where absolutely necessary, like to deal with a quirk.

The problem with that approach (which is what I try to do when I can) is that it ignores the actual real-world interaction of semi-aware client and designer/developer working for them. You can persuade or try to persuade but at the end of the day, they're paying the bills and they'll get what they want.

Not suggesting you haven't worked in this environment, krinklyfig, I'm sure you probably have. But I see a lot of talk on design boards and blogs about doing stuff which is really only supported in Safari or Firefox with statements like "screw IE." That's fine if you're in college but a completely insane attitude for any business to adopt at the moment.

And on a lot of projects, you don't have the budget to do both what is right and what is realistic. Coding a site in a table-based layout for NS 4 and using a CSS-based layout for IE6 just wasn't possible given the budgets and the amount of time we had available. Alternative "plain text" layouts for outdated browsers are vetoed.

Heck, to this day, I get "professionals" wondering why the content management systems I author strip "font" tags out of text input fields.
posted by maxwelton at 7:24 PM on December 28, 2007


I remember the excitement we had waiting for Navigator 0.98 to download for the Sparcs we used. God it was great. Then years later it was the same waiting for 4.0. God, it was terrible.

And I don't think I've had anything like that since. Every browser on my Mac or PC has one or the other egregious fault. I rather wish there was money to be made from them, because we might well get better ones.
posted by bonaldi at 7:31 PM on December 28, 2007


maxwelton writes "The problem with that approach (which is what I try to do when I can) is that it ignores the actual real-world interaction of semi-aware client and designer/developer working for them. You can persuade or try to persuade but at the end of the day, they're paying the bills and they'll get what they want."

Yeah, I know. One of the companies I worked for had a proprietary, IE/Windows only community-type ActiveX app that the owner bet the whole farm on. The whole company except the owner wanted and constantly and gently tried to suggest something less proprietary, but the owner also bankrolled the company, so ... Well, it's no longer.

"Heck, to this day, I get 'professionals' wondering why the content management systems I author strip 'font' tags out of text input fields."

Wow. Really? That's a bit surprising. I guess browsers will always have to support HTML 3.2, because of that sort of thing. Almost makes me want to get back into it. Almost ...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:37 PM on December 28, 2007


Oh, also, I meant a better approach would have been a decision on PBS' part to comply with well supported, cross platform standards instead of a proprietary path, no matter if the proprietary path is IE, Netscape or something else. The decision would obviously never have been up to the developers themselves.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:45 PM on December 28, 2007


Netscape Navigator 9? Who knew?

I wonder if there were any actual users affected by the end of its life. I mean, is there some dude out there who's all like, "Well... shoot... I really love that browser. What am I gonna do now?"

Who among us has actually downloaded netscape in the last year or two? Anyone have the inside scoop on what download stats were like at the end... or what market share for netscape is at this point?
posted by ph00dz at 7:48 PM on December 28, 2007


Netscape? Ah, who needs such a fancy browser when Lynx will do?

And those of you claiming to feel "sadness" for the death of this software, unless you're some AI bot and it's immediate family, well--I'm calling bullshit...
posted by Schmucko at 7:49 PM on December 28, 2007


I may browse on Opera and sometimes Firefox, but I still check my mail using Netscape 4.x. The updates suck, so I carefully keep my installation exe.

I will stop using Netscape mail when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. Or I lose that damn file.
posted by jb at 8:58 PM on December 28, 2007


As someone who also uses Netscape Mail (via Mozilla at work, and Thunderbird at home), I'm wondering why you're sticking with the 4.0 version precisely. Cos they haven't changed the damn thing in about a hojillion years. Seamonkey is still faithful to Communicator 2.
posted by bonaldi at 9:00 PM on December 28, 2007


Oh yes, Netscape Mail... 4.72 was the pinnacle: Communicator had a great mail and news client, was a decent browser (for the time, at least), and had a no-frills, get-the-job-done HTML editor that actually did WYSIWYG table spans sensibly without adding needless cruft in your HTML.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:30 PM on December 28, 2007


I stick with 4.0 because they have changed the way it's organised. I tried 6.x or something, and couldn't find my way around anywhere.
posted by jb at 9:30 PM on December 28, 2007


Actually, I'm using 4.78. So apparently I'm not using the pinnacle. Maybe I should go back a few versions.
posted by jb at 9:31 PM on December 28, 2007


ph00dz writes "Who among us has actually downloaded netscape in the last year or two? Anyone have the inside scoop on what download stats were like at the end... or what market share for netscape is at this point?"

OK, seriously the last post from me on this, because I've posted way too many times ...

I do tech support for a small ISP, and there are more people on Netscape than you realize, even pre-6 versions. I have seen a few Windows '98 machines, one with Netscape 4.x within the last year. I've seen a few Mac OS 8 and 9 boxes with Netscape 4.7. This is a rural area, however, and there are still a lot of people on dialup, even where broadband is available.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:33 PM on December 28, 2007


If this is true, I don't understand is AOL's insistence on bundling IE into their software. If they owned Netscape by 1997, it doesn't make sense that they'd support their competition in that way.

It's because of what they got in return: a sign-up icon on every Windows desktop.

I don't think AOL had any interest in the browser market. They seemed more interested in the netscape.com portal, which got a lot of eyeballs when NS was the dominant browser (it was the browser's default homepage). Being vendors of funnypapers and records, it must have occurred to them too late that dwindling browser installations would stifle new netscape.com customers.

I talked to my dad on the phone the other day and he told me that he had upgraded to Netscape 9, in spite of them having recently changed his netscape.com email address to aim.com.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 10:05 PM on December 28, 2007


Metafilter: We Have Browsers
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 10:14 PM on December 28, 2007


.

I'm using Netscape 8.0.3.4 right now. It works well, and I like the Passcard feature. Netscape did not work well for a long time, so this surprised me. I'm sad that it's going because it's such a big part of Internet history.
posted by halonine at 12:00 AM on December 29, 2007


Personally, I always thought the name "Netscape" was beautiful. I am sorry to see the brand die, but I saw the death coming when AOL bought it, then distributed IE.
posted by Goofyy at 1:47 AM on December 29, 2007


I used Mosaic Netscape in the early days, I used to work up the street from the Netscape campus, and if I recall correctly, Netscape kicked off the internet boom that gave kids like myself the chance to drop out of school and make computers do things for a living. Yeah, Communicator became a bloated, nasty beast somewhere around version 4, Netsite eventually grew up to become a miserable experience called "iPlanet", and Firefox doesn't understand the concept of memory management, but all the same, it contributed to a major change in people's lives. So thanks, Netscape.
posted by cmonkey at 3:06 AM on December 29, 2007


"...AOL bought it, then distributed IE."

I remember that day. I had a good laugh. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 5:36 AM on December 29, 2007


The first browser I used was Cello because it was the only one that would actually run on the hand-me-down PC I had at the time, a 286 iirc.
Then Mosaic, then Netscape. I think I was running one version or other of Netscape until Firefox appeared. I wasn't sorry to leave Netscape behind. It was great in its day, but that was a decade ago, and a ten internet years is like ten centuries of the other kind.

I've always had Opera on my machine, but run it so seldom that I forget in between times why I don't use it. I just launched it now, and it wanted to upgrade itself. Fine, go ahead... and it proceeded to display the .dmg into the browser window as a document. Oooo-kay.

FF isn't perfect, but its advantages are such that I can tolerate its shortcomings.

I see from my logs that out of the last 100 visitors to my blog, two of them were using Netscape. One each of 5.x and 7.x. Whatever.
posted by pilgrim at 6:02 AM on December 29, 2007


The problem here is that every goddammed government and foundation site (starting with fafsa) require effing Netscape to function. So what happens to them?
posted by nax at 6:42 AM on December 29, 2007


People can hem and haw at Bill Gates all they want. Making web browsers free indefinitely opened the Web up to creative innovation and common access. It's like taking a mall that had been invitation only and unlocking the doors so even homeless people could wander around.

It was almost the exact opposite. IE was never free. The price was bundled into the cost of windows. Everyone buying windows pays for IE whether they want it or not. Since windows was (and still is) a monopoly, it put IE on nearly every desktop. Since people had already paid for a browser, it killed the market for any alternative products - witness opera's failed attempts over the years to compete with a far superior product against the 'free' alternative.

It was only massive marketing and a clearly superior truly Free product that managed to take on the slowly bit-rotting IE. Without firefox, IE6 would no doubt still be microsoft's browser - there had to be an entirely new team put together to write IE7 and now IE8, it had become so abandoned.

Microsoft deliberately killed standards (as did netscape back in the day) to gain personal advantage. Microsoft saw the future, and they saw it was browser based applications that would work on desktops other than windows. They ended up killing off cross-platform services and media for the best part of a decade, to prop up their desktop monopoly.

Yes, we ended up with an ubiquitous web, with all manner of innovation. But that came about despite microsoft, not because of them, as anyone who's coded CSS pages for IE6 can testify. We're still paying for their abuses of their monopolies today. Have you seen the price of vista and office? In a truly open market, do you honestly think they'd be able to get away with that?
posted by ArkhanJG at 7:01 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Netscape was my browser of choice on the Mac. But as much as I wanted to avoid IE, I coudn't resist its beauty on OS X. I mean, you could make the color scheme match the color of your iMac. Come on people! How can you resist that? Plus, it did have some very usable features, such as the left-side tabs for history and search. The page snapshot feature was great, and has not been equalled since.

But then, Safari hit, and I loved the simplicity and, mainly, the speed! Whenever I went back to IE it felt like I was back on dialup. So I did without the features of IE to gain the speed of Safari. The last couple years have been Firefox, but now I am back to Safari again with version 3.
posted by The Deej at 8:20 AM on December 29, 2007


nax writes "The problem here is that every goddammed government and foundation site (starting with fafsa) require effing Netscape to function. So what happens to them?"

Section 508 Accessibility requirements for government sites. Call them up on it.

Or, just use a browser agent spoofing extension on Firefox like everyone else who hits this kind of crap. I've looked at the source code for some of these govt. pages, and found that quite a few used browser detection scripts that hadn't changed since the release of IE5. The scripts aren't smart, so it's easy to bypass them, and once you have done so everything in the site works as expected. Once you tell the site admin that updating the detect script will fix everything, they're usually happy to comply, because it's a simple change to one file rather than the forced update of an entire site that so many people still think is necessary.

Too many government sites assume IE + Windows. Too many persons run OS X / Linux to ignore, though.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:00 AM on December 29, 2007


Oh, and R.I.P. Netscape. Can't say I didn't see this coming when AOL bought the company then promptly refused to use their own product. Frankly I'm surprised that the corpse of my first web browser managed to stay on life support as long as it did before the company finally set a date to pull the plug.

I played with early Gecko releases in 1998-99, and was happy to move to Mozilla Suite when it was finally stable enough to use. I distinctly remember biting the bullet and dropping the Suite in favor of Firefox + Thunderbird. My aging 200mhz machine didn't have the memory to run both mail and browser at the same time, plus changes with the email server I used necessitated trying a Thunderbird beta that had better support for some new security features required to log in. That was also when I finally switched to IMAP. It was in January of 2001, sometime before Jan 4; I know the date because it also coincides with me accidentally losing all mail archived before that date. Oops.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:10 AM on December 29, 2007


Never re-write your code from scratch

I call BS on this. Although I agree with all of Joel's main points, there are definitely times when a full rewrite is needed.

For example, at my work, nearly all of the code for our flagship site is in pukey old ASP/VBScript. There's really no "win" hiding in that codebase. It's layer on top of layer of spaghetti code, written by people who had no formal instruction and little industry experience. Even if I were to try and incrementally refactor the code, the fact is that it's still in ASP/VBScript, which nobody in their right mind wants to use. Years from now, the only people who will answer a job ad for a VBScript position will be old hands who charge a fortune or programmers so inexperienced and desperate that they'll take anything.

The only solution in this case is a nuke-and-pave, ground-up rewrite.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:25 AM on December 29, 2007


I remember when the average Web page I browsed stopped being parsable by Netscape 1.0 (a copy of which I still have kicking around). At the time I was very skeptical - "what, they broke the Web to make me download a new browser?"

I'm still skeptical.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


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