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June 19, 2001
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When last we heard, president of Netscape Jim Bankoff was saying that "six months from now, you won't consider Netscape to be a browser company." Many took that statement, coupled with the lack of acceptance of Netscape 6, to mean that the Netscape browser was dead. But Wired.com is reporting today that rumours of Navigator's death have been exaggerated.
posted by tranquileye (39 comments total)

 
Those reports set off rumors that Netscape was ready to throw in the towel on the browser market.

Um...no, Bankoff pretty much said "Netscape is ready to throw in the towel on the browser market". This is not a case of "rumors". It's more likely a case of a truly fucked up company changing its mind--or at least trying to change its failing image.

"Netscape 6 was absolutely the right product at the right time. It delivered the standards support the market was clamoring for," said Sol Goldfarb, director of browser product marketing for Netscape, an AOL subsidiary.

Sure it's market-speak, and I'm sure that those in charge of Netscape don't actually believe that BS, but it scares me nonetheless. If anyone at that company doesn't agree that Six-oh isn't worth the ether it's written on, they're more f'd up than I thought.

Until 6 months ago, I was a die-hard Netscape supporter. You wouldn't catch me dead using IE. But guess what: my livelihood depends on writing pages that my audience can actually use. If anyone using NN6 came across one of my pages, found that it didn't work, and thought it was my fault, it isn't Jim Bankoff's ass on the line.

(Well, actually, his ass probably is on the line--but that's a different story.)
posted by jpoulos at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2001


I'm pulling for them. All the technical stuff aside, I think a strong competition in the browser field would only be a good thing. I'd be willing to do just about anything to get the hell away from IE. I suppose I could get Opera...
posted by Ezrael at 1:41 PM on June 19, 2001


what's wrong with IE? Seriously.
posted by jeb at 1:48 PM on June 19, 2001


I'm not quite sure about his technical critiques. The Sony site seemed to have code specialized for Netscape 4, and may have been treating NS6 improperly as a result.
posted by mrbula at 1:50 PM on June 19, 2001


jeb, I just don't like it. I know that's not a very constructive answer, but I don't like the way it loads, I don't like how often it crashes my OS (Which is Windows ME, another MS product I dislike), I don't like how often it seems to give up on loading the page halfway through...I just don't like it. Now, I understand this is my own personal view and a lot of people use and like IE. I am not in agreement, but that's going to happen on occassion.
posted by Ezrael at 1:55 PM on June 19, 2001


As long as the big corporations were existing under this delusion that they could give everything to us for free, everything was fine, but when those with money realized they were investing in The Internet, which is essentially a perpetual money pit... well everything's just going to hell. And what's the alternative? Someday soon you may find yourself paying not only for access to the Internet, but every piece of software. Not just the browser, which Bill Gates so kindly made perpetually free up until now (which is what killed Netscape and the browser market), but everything. Every program in perpetual beta testing. Every document you download. Every click. Somebody wants a few pennies each time. A lot of somebodys.

It's like watching greedy little gremlins elbowing each other and jockeying for position for the past several years, and then all the sudden the racetrack just fell out from under them and the past six months have been the big climactic scene of The Titanic. And these greedy little gremlins don't wanna drown. They don't wanna fall into the cold water.

They will take you down with them if they have to.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2001


Netscapes been dead to me for years=)
posted by justgary at 2:13 PM on June 19, 2001


Zachsmind, though I agree with most of your post I do have issue with this:

, which Bill Gates so kindly made perpetually free up until now (which is what killed Netscape and the browser market),

IE did not kill Netscape. Netscape is not dead. Its a crappy has been, founded on a "whine" empire that defies description. If you're going to blame MS for something, please blame them for what they've done or are doing, not what AOL/Time Warner wants you to spout. For the greatest portion of their existance both Netscape and IE were distributed for free. It was the very people you describe in your post (those who enjoyed the most explosive IPO in the history of the market to that date) who continually manipulated public opinion to believe that Bill Gates was a big meany pickin' on poh lil Netscape. 25% market share is hardly dead, and not terribly beat up. Netscape got in a heavy weight fight with IE and lost because they didn't know the market they claimed they were trying to serve. And now, AOL (the penultimate money grubbers of the Internet) are going to try and convince me that IE is bad for my health, and I should join the fight against the evil Redmond empire? I'm not buying it at all.
Let 'em continue to fight, and what you described as everything going to hell will, in fact, remain inexpensive and consumer friendly.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:29 PM on June 19, 2001


So 6.1 is a little less buggy and a little more standards-compliant. Good for them. But does it still try to take over my file extensions, extending it's spasmic, uninvited tendrils into my system, and pack along useless stowaways like the AOL installer, Netscape SmartDownload and other such crapola?
posted by Tubes at 2:36 PM on June 19, 2001


Weren't we just talking about how "PR-speak" and "truth" are pretty much mutually exclusive, with regard to Micro$oft itself? No offense to the fine, fine people in AOL's PR department, but based on the very public death-spiral of Netscape under AOL's corporate banner, I think Bankoff's original comments are closer to "the truth" than what's being spun now.
posted by m.polo at 2:43 PM on June 19, 2001


question: Do most of you Mac people browse with IE? I still use netscape 4.7 and just quit and restart it often.... but it still beats running across some javascript that totally crashes IE. Or am I doing something wrong? Or all you coders out there, what do you do about IE mac and javascript issues?

dP
posted by darkpony at 2:50 PM on June 19, 2001


6.1 is good. I can honestly say that. Is it perfect? No. Does it have a lot of that AOLTW marketing crapola built-in? On my install, yes.

Out of the browsers I use daily, I prefer Opera because it's fast. Fast to load, fast to render. The problem is that Opera's Flash support is very iffy, and its standards support is close-but-not-quite. On the Windows platform, IE is the main browser I use but as Ezrael points out, it is a dog. It is horrendously intertwined with the poorly constructed OS beneath it, which equals a lot of fun.

That said, no matter how good 6.1 will be in final release, Netscape's fate is sealed. It hung on to the garbage that was 4.x for too long, and now it's being politely repositioned by its media conglomerate owner. Netscape as we knew it is dead.

The new Netscape? I'll call it Pathfinder.

ZachsMind: great analogy.
posted by hijinx at 2:55 PM on June 19, 2001


The only I really notice is auto-detection of plugins (I say this as a web dev and a user) but most sites just have something that says "if you know if you have plugin x, just click here" to get around it.

I hardly know any Mac users that use Netscape these days. Sure, they exist, but IE5 really is a great browser on the Mac.

As much as I want to support iCab or Omniweb or SuperBrowserOfTheWeek, build 1.02313beta, it's just too much work. I want plugins, I want correctly displayed fonts/objects, and I guess that means I want IE5/Mac.
posted by jragon at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2001


Just wait until AOL decides to use Mozilla as a base for the next AOL browser.
posted by mrbula at 2:59 PM on June 19, 2001


Could someone link to a specific IE-crashing site?
I don't mean that as a challenge, it's just that I've been using it for about a year, haven't had any trouble, and I'm curious to see what happens.
posted by dong_resin at 3:03 PM on June 19, 2001


darkpony: I surf on MAC and swear by IE. Netscape crashed, and left a 10 GB (!) cookie file that was so large that it left crumbs in all of my files... talk about a nightmare.
posted by silusGROK at 3:08 PM on June 19, 2001


Zach's closer than he realizes. Take a look at the anti-piracy measures in store for IE6.
posted by ed at 3:14 PM on June 19, 2001


Hey dong_resin: try using safeweb for your browsing. I can't claim it's totally at fault, but I've been using IE for many years, it's never crashed. After I started using safeweb (just about a month ago, after all that privacy stuff came through here), I crash about every 15 min or so. I believe this may actually be a SSL/https problem in IE...
posted by daver at 3:16 PM on June 19, 2001


Browsing with Linux is, um, an adventure.

Most of the time, I can get by with Konqueror, Opera, or one of the stripped-down Mozilla children (Galeon, Skipstone). But, say I want to listen to a baseball stream in the small hours? (I dunno: there's something strangely soothing about it.) Well, since the RealPlayer plugin doesn't work on Opera, and the Javascript breaks on NN4.7x, I load up a window in Opera, "view source", and copy'n'paste the RTSP address into the standalone RealPlayer.

But, I'd rather have this ragtagnbobtail situation than One Standard Browser that MS will never release in a Linux version.
posted by holgate at 3:38 PM on June 19, 2001


I went through the (agonizing) installation process on 6.0 for Mac, only to discover there was no "Open link in another window" option, which kills my surfing style. Has 6.1 fixed this? I don't like restarting 4.7 after every Java app.
posted by chino at 3:43 PM on June 19, 2001


hey dong_resin,

I just went for a IE tour to try and find something.... but couldn't really.... The best I can do is point out something I did that screws up IE. It could be me or Adobe or IE. Try any of the svg modules at battlebots.com. Those just hang in IE for mac. I guess this and a few other troublesome projects just made me think javascript with IE was bad. But I might switch over now.

dP
posted by darkpony at 3:56 PM on June 19, 2001


netscape is a pain for anybody who designs for the web. If you nestle 3 tables within eachother (okay, I like my tables), it simply won't work. Things like cells in tables not showing up due to lack of content bugged me for awhile, but are now just a minor irritation.
I don't use netscape because it supports the idea that web pages should be dumbed down for stupid browsers.
posted by starduck at 4:08 PM on June 19, 2001


I don't use netscape because it supports the idea that web pages should be dumbed down for stupid browsers.

Well, that's the previously trumpted basic tenet of good web design: universal compatibility. In fact, I've always resent people who designed sites with all of the latest IE bells and whistles so that they were basically only viewable in IE...

As far as the press, when the last news came out, I read the story and didn't think that Netscape was saying that they were quitting the browser business at all, but I didn't say anything because most of the posters in that thread seemed convinced that that was what was happening. I figured that I missed something and moved on.

Reading back, the quote that made me think so was this: "The browser is a crown jewel. However, six months from now, you won't consider Netscape to be a browser company,'' Netscape President Jim Bankoff told Reuters in an interview, referring to its early role in creating the first popular tool for surfing the Web.

My thought was that he was trying to say that Netscape was branching out and that the public in six months wouldn't think of them as a brwoser company because we'd think of them as more than a browser company. You don't just throw out the crown jewels...

Anyway, I think that the Reuters article mentioned in the last thread was the thing that did the damage. The analysis was faulty, but to me Bankoff's words were clear.
posted by fooljay at 4:32 PM on June 19, 2001


25% market share is hardly dead, and not terribly beat up.

Okay -- does 9% sound closer to dead to you? (That's a current figure based on a random sample from millions of unique visitors.)
posted by webmutant at 4:33 PM on June 19, 2001


The rumors of Navigator's death have not been exaggerated. The new browser is called Netscape, not Navigator. Navigator is dead.
posted by kindall at 4:45 PM on June 19, 2001


The rumors of Navigator's death have not been exaggerated. The new browser is called Netscape, not Navigator. Navigator is dead.

Hairs, meet Kindall. He'll be splitting you today.
posted by ljromanoff at 5:22 PM on June 19, 2001


what's wrong with IE? Seriously.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with IE, it's about ensuring enough competition to keep MS on the standards path.
posted by lagado at 5:37 PM on June 19, 2001


If you nestle 3 tables within eachother (okay, I like my tables), it simply won't work.

Hm? It works fine (modulo all the *other* Netscape problems). I've seen Netscape crash on bad table code, of course, but never on reasonably-sized, well-formed, properly "nestled" tables. Let's see your code. And any reasonably experienced webmonkey knows you put an   (or some other dummy content) in an otherwise empty table cell and you're fine.

This is not to take away from the significant problems with NS 4, but there's no reason to make up new ones.
posted by rodii at 5:45 PM on June 19, 2001


I will never get tired of designers whining about having to support browsers other than IE.

Know why? Because I know I will never want for employment.

Some of us welcome the prospect of creating sites that can be viewed in any old browser.

So designers, stay lazy and whiny! It keeps me employed!

And by the way, the javascript: pseudo-protocol in netscape keeps me hooked on Netscape 4 for development of most javascript. Great debugging feedback.
posted by artlung at 6:12 PM on June 19, 2001


personally, i've found the mozilla nightly builds to be perfectly usable (on linux). every once in a while i've hit some strange behavior, but it has generally been solid in the time i've been using it as my sole browser (the last few months), and it has gotten better every time i've updated.

this is essentially what you're getting with netscape 6.1, minus all the aol crap.
posted by jimw at 6:23 PM on June 19, 2001


Geez, people. Designing for NS6 is nearly identical to designing for IE5/6. You can't lose. That is, unless you're one of those people who don't like to do simple things like close your table tags. You do validate your HTML and CSS, right? Right?

As far as Netscape 4.x goes: I'd love to say forget about it, but it ain't gonna happen. Maybe you can afford to, but there's no way your Big Client is going to write off 9% of his audience just because they use NS4. No. Way.

The best we can do is pray that those who don't cross over to IE will upgrade to NS6, and fast. IMO, developers should stop whining about NS4 and start encouraging users to upgrade sooner than later.

But does it still try to take over my file extensions, extending it's spasmic, uninvited tendrils into my system, and pack along useless stowaways

You mean like nearly all MS products? ;)
posted by scottandrew at 6:53 PM on June 19, 2001


You mean like nearly all MS products? ;)

Yeah, that OS invades everything on my machine, the bastards. (/sarcasm)

Okay -- does 9% sound closer to dead to you? (That's a current figure based on a random sample from millions of unique visitors.)

Not really. Bad product is bad product. Boo Hoo for them. Besides, this doesn't exactly agree with the posted source does it? Finally, doesn't your quote kind of miss the point? Netscape is evolving, not dead due to MS IE. Stacker is dead. There's a difference.

Geez, people. Designing for NS6 is nearly identical to designing for IE5/6. You can't lose.

Wisdom that AOL should listen to
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:32 PM on June 19, 2001


I must be missing something. Netscape has not been a browser company for a long time now. They give the browser away for free. Before that they let people evaluate the browser forever. Obviously they don't make money off their browser. They lost the browser war long ago and though I hate to say it they lost because IE circa NS 4.x was just a better browser. IE came a lot closer to conforming to more standards than netscape ever did. Maybe Mozilla 6.x fixes this but it doesn't matter because that war is over. 9% is not enough of a presence to affect Microsoft's behaviour and that 9% is going to decline over time, not increase.
posted by rdr at 10:12 PM on June 19, 2001


Several posts ago: And by the way, the javascript: pseudo-protocol in netscape keeps me hooked on Netscape 4 for development of most javascript.

artlung, you should try the JavaScript Console that's included in the Mozilla builds. It also provides excellent feedback for debugging. And W3C compliant DOM info, to boot.

You can find it under the Tasks menu, then Tools, then JavaScript Console.
posted by massless at 11:51 PM on June 19, 2001


Thank you, darkpony and daver. I tried your suggestions, but didn't have any trouble, so I poured some orange juice down my cooling vent.
Pretty sparks.
posted by dong_resin at 1:07 AM on June 20, 2001


Hijinx said: "ZachsMind: great analogy." Thanks. =)

Wulfgar said: "IE did not kill Netscape. Netscape is not dead..." Far as I'm concerned, Netscape's browser has been dead for years. Windows killed it on my machine.

"If you're going to blame MS for something, please blame them for what they've done or are doing, not what AOL/Time Warner wants you to spout. For the greatest portion of their existance both Netscape and IE were distributed for free. It was the very people you describe in your post (those who enjoyed the most explosive IPO in the history of the market to that date) who continually manipulated public opinion to believe that Bill Gates was a big meany pickin' on poh lil Netscape."

You're makin' it sound like I was 'conditioned.' To a degree maybe I was, but my opinion regarding the browser wars is based on what I personally observed as it happened. This is the browser war story (YMMV) from my personal point of view. Netscape made their browser free, but were in the process of trying to make a "Gold" version they could sell. MS came along and made a comparable browser (which arguably sucks but not any more or less than Netscape's, just differently), and said it was free indefinitely, effectively killing any possibility of there ever being a browser market. Then MS made a later version of their browser practically the kernel of the OS. It just seemed to stick itself into EXPLORER.EXE like a parasite. Whether this was intended for the good of the consumer or to corner the Internet experience worldwide is not relevant. I ain't saying one's a villian and the other's a hero. They both suck, and MS took advantage of its position, which I feel it had its right to do but it doesn't make them suck any less.

I'm calling it as I personally see it. Your Mileage May Vary of course, and as always you have the right to your opinion but please don't describe me as if I'm Patty Hearst and Microsoft turned me into a terrorist for their cause. Thank you. =)

Although I will admit my frustration in the late 90s with these two companies was not unlike Chinese Water Torture. I was happy with Netscape until somewhere between Win95 and Win98. When MSIE was incorporated into the OS directly. It made using Netscape more and more difficult. I'm sure there's no way to directly prove it, which is why Netscape and MS were in court eh? But MS seemed to make Netscape more and more cumbersome to use. Also, back in the late 90s I wanted to be able to flawlessly jump between browsers, so I could try pages I was writing for my online journal in both of them. Compatibility checks. I personally noticed Netscape loaded pages slower than MS, froze up more often, various error messages kept happening, and when I tried using one browser, the other would pop up to inform me that it wasn't being used by default and don't you wanna use me instead? It was just continuously annoying, and eventually I just went with MSIE since it was already embedded and I couldn't get rid of it without starting from scratch, and removed Netscape.

You can say that's cuz Netscape was just coded more poorly than MSIE, but it could also be becasue MS, either purposefully or without malice, simply made the new Windows less compatible with Netscape's coding than their own. It's their OS. Why should they give a competitor an edge?

There's a bar here in Dallas that doubles as its own brewery, and naturally they put their own beers more prominently on the menu. You have to specifically ask for a beer that they don't make onsite, and even then they hint, "well such and such is just as good as what you're asking for. Sure you don't want to try our product?" And they only stock the most popular brands that their regular clientele insists upon.

Overall, I don't feel like I had a suitable choice between Netscape and MSIE. To me the difference originally wasn't much different than Coca-Cola versus Pepsi. Then as time wore on it was like Pepsi was slowly slipping arsenic into Coca-Cola when no one was looking, resulting in New Coke that made you gag.

I don't like either browser to be honest, and have heard nothing to convince me lesser-known browsers or OS's would be any less buggy. I won't be upgrading to XP any time soon, for reasons Ed sited as well as others I know, and more importantly don't yet know about. But then I held out a couple years before upgrading from 3.11 to 95. I'm sure there'll come a point where again, I won't have a suitable choice.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:14 AM on June 20, 2001


zach, have you ever used netscape on another platform? It's even worse on MAC (never tried linux).
posted by Mick at 5:46 AM on June 20, 2001


Netscape crashed, and left a 10 GB (!) cookie file that was so large that it left crumbs in all of my files...

Is that true? I'd file a lawsuit! (I'm only half-kidding.)

Also, if you're having trouble with IE crashing on a Windows, don't discount the role of the OS. Windows ME (and 98, if you ask me) is total shite, and both Netscape 6 and IE 5.5 used to crash for me constantly. After I switched to Windows 2000, it's as solid as a rock.
posted by jpoulos at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2001


Goldfarb said Netscape is "absolutely committed to continuing development of the browser on an ongoing basis, both as a stand-alone browser and as an embeddable solution."

I just want to say I find the phrase "embeddable solution" humorous for some reason. It just screams "I do not speak English! I speak Marketing!"

I'm trying to convince everyone I know to get Opera. It is cool. And most of them are quite attached to Netscape 4.x...
posted by dagnyscott at 7:49 AM on June 21, 2001


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