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Netscape

Netscape Communications (formerly known as Netscape Communications Corporation and commonly known as Netscape) is an American computer services company, best known for its web browser. The browser was once dominant in terms of usage share, but lost most of that share to Internet Explorer during the first browser war. By the end of 2006, the usage share of Netscape browsers had fallen, from over 90% in the mid 1990s, to less than 1%. Netscape developed the Secure Sockets Layer Protocol (SSL) used for securing online communication, which is still widely used.

Netscape stock traded between 1995 and 2003, subsequently as a subsidiary of AOL LLC. However, it became a holding company following Netscape's purchase by AOL in 1998. The Netscape brand is still extensively used by AOL. And some services currently offered under the Netscape brand, other than the web browser, include a discount Internet service provider and a popular social news website. As of December 2007, AOL announced it would no longer be updating the Netscape browser. Tom Drapeau, director of AOL's Netscape Brand, announced that the company would stop supporting Netscape software products as of March 1, 2008. The decision met mixed reactions from communities, with many arguing that the termination of product support is significantly belated. Internet security site Security Watch stated that a trend of infrequent security updates for AOL's Netscape cause the browser to become a "security liability", specifically the 2005-2007 versions, Netscape Browser 8. Asa Dotzler, one of Firefox's original programmers, greeted the news with "good riddance" in his blog post, but praised the various members of the Netscape team over the years for enabling the creation of Mozilla in 1998. Others protested and petitioned AOL, including online petitions and propaganda, to continue providing vital security fixes to unknowing or loyal users of its software, as well as protection of a well-known brand.

Netscape Internet Service

Netscape ISP is a "high speed" 56 kbit/s dial-up service offered at $9.95 per month ($6.95 with 12-month commitment). The company serves webpages in a compressed format to increase effective speeds up to 1300 kbit/s (average 500 kbit/s). The Internet service provider is run by AOL under the Netscape brand. The low-cost ISP was officially launched on January 8, 2004.. Its main competitor is NetZero. Netscape ISP's advertising is generally aimed at a younger demographic, e.g., college students, and people just out of school, as an affordable way to gain access to the Internet. Additional features can be added to the service at extra cost such as:

  • PC Anti-virus Protection
  • Advanced Spam Blocker
  • E-mail VirusScan
  • Extra E-mail Storage
  • Extra E-mail Addresses

Web Accelerator

The Web Accelerator is the main feature that sets Netscape's service apart from others. The accelerator precompresses text at the Server side to approximately 4% its original size, increasing effective throughput to 1300 kbit/s. The accelerator also precompresses Flash executables and images to approximately 30% and 12%, respectively. Netscape advertises this as "DSL speeds over regular phone lines", although such speeds are limited to only web browsing, not downloads of files.

History

Early years

Netscape was the first company to attempt to capitalize on the (then) nascent World Wide Web. It was originally founded under the name, Mosaic Communications Corporation, on April 4, 1994, the brainchild of Jim Clark who had recruited Marc Andreessen as co-founder and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as investors. Clark recruited other early Netscape team members from SGI and NCSA Mosaic. The company's first product was the web browser, called Mosaic Netscape 0.9, released on October 13, 1994. This browser was subsequently renamed Netscape Navigator, and the company took the 'Netscape' name on November 14, 1994 to avoid trademark ownership problems with NCSA, where the initial Netscape employees had previously created the NCSA Mosaic web browser. The Mosaic Netscape web browser utilized some NCSA Mosaic code with NCSA's permission, as noted in the application's "About" dialog box. Netscape made a very successful IPO on August 9, 1995. The stock was set to be offered at $14 per share. But, a last-minute decision doubled the initial offering to $28 per share. The stock's value soared to $75 on the first day of trading, nearly a record for first-day gain. The company's revenues doubled every quarter in 1995.

One of Netscape's stated goals was to "level the playing field" among operating systems by providing a consistent web browsing experience across them. The Netscape web browser interface was identical on any computer. Netscape later experimented with prototypes of a web-based system which would enable users to access and edit their files anywhere across a network, no matter what computer or operating system they happened to be using. This did not escape the attention of Microsoft, which viewed the commoditization of operating systems as a direct threat to its bottom line. It is alleged that several Microsoft executives visited the Netscape campus in June 1995 to propose dividing the market (although Microsoft denies this as it would have breached anti-trust laws), which would have allowed Microsoft to produce web browser software for Windows while leaving all other operating systems to Netscape. Netscape refused the proposition.

Microsoft released version 1.0 of Internet Explorer as a part of the Windows 95 Plus Pack add-on. According to former Spyglass developer Eric Sink, Internet Explorer was based not on NCSA Mosaic as commonly believed, but on a version of Mosaic developed at Spyglass (which itself was based upon NCSA Mosaic). Microsoft quickly released several successive versions of Internet Explorer, bundling them with Windows, never charging for them, financing their development and marketing with revenues from other areas of the company. This period of time became known as the browser wars, in which Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer added many new features (not always working correctly) and went through many version numbers (not always in a logical fashion) in attempts to outdo each other. But Internet Explorer had the upper hand, as the amount of manpower and capital dedicated to it eventually surpassed the resources available in Netscape's entire business. By version 3.0, IE was roughly a feature-for-feature equivalent of Netscape Communicator, and by version 4.0, it was generally considered to be more stable on Windows, but not the Mac platform. Microsoft also targeted other Netscape products with free workalikes, such as the Internet Information Server (IIS), a web server which was bundled with Windows NT.

Netscape could not compete with this strategy. In fact, it didn't attempt to. Netscape Navigator was not free to the general public until January 1998, while Internet Explorer and IIS have always been free or came bundled with an operating system and/or other applications. Meanwhile, Netscape faced increasing criticism for the bugs in its products; critics claimed that the company suffered from 'featuritis' – putting a higher priority on adding new features than on making them work properly. This was particularly true with Netscape Navigator 2, which was only on the market for 5 months in early 1996 before being replaced by Netscape Navigator 3. The tide of public opinion, having once lauded Netscape as the David to Microsoft's Goliath, steadily turned negative, especially when Netscape experienced its first bad quarter at the end of 1997 and underwent a large round of layoffs in January 1998. (There were, however, always users who appreciated Netscape's functionality with frames and image-saving, and who liked using a non-Microsoft product.)

Open sourcing

January 1998 was also the month that Netscape started the open source Mozilla project. Netscape publicly released the source code of Netscape Communicator 4.0 in the hopes that it would become a popular open source project. It placed this code under the Netscape Public License, which was similar to the GNU General Public License but allowed Netscape to continue to publish proprietary work containing the publicly released code. However, after having released the Communicator 4.0 code this way, Netscape proceeded to work on Communicator 4.5 which was focused on improving email and enterprise functionality. It eventually became clear that the Communicator 4.0 browser was too difficult to develop, and open source development was halted on this codebase. Instead, the open source development shifted to a next generation browser built from scratch. Utilizing the newly built Gecko layout engine, this browser had a much more modular architecture than Communicator 4.0 and was therefore easier to develop with a large number of programmers. It also included an XML user interface language named XUL that allowed single development of a user interface that ran on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

The United States Department of Justice filed an antitrust case against Microsoft in May 1998. Netscape was not a plaintiff in the case, though its executives were subpoenaed and it contributed much material to the case, including the entire contents of the 'Bad Attitude' internal discussion forum. In October 1998, Netscape acquired web directory site NewHoo for the sum of $1 million, renamed it the Open Directory Project, and released its database under an open content license.

Acquisition by America Online

America Online (AOL) on November 24, 1998 announced it would acquire Netscape Communications in a tax-free stock-swap valued at US$4.2 billion at the time of the announcement. This merger was ridiculed by many who believed that the two corporate cultures could not possibly mesh; one of its most prominent critics was longtime Netscape developer Jamie Zawinski.[15][16] The acquisition was seen as a way for AOL to gain a bargaining chip against Microsoft, to let it become less dependent on the Internet Explorer web browser. Others believed that AOL was interested in Netcenter, or Netscape's web properties, which drew some of the highest traffic worldwide. Eventually, Netscape's server products and its Professional Services group became part of iPlanet, a joint marketing and development alliance between AOL and Sun Microsystems. On November 14, 2000, AOL released Netscape 6, based on the Mozilla 0.6 source code. (Version 5 was skipped.) Unfortunately, Mozilla 0.6 was far from being stable yet, and so the effect of Netscape 6 was to further drive people away from the Netscape brand. It was not until August 2001 that Netscape 6.1 appeared, based on Mozilla 0.9.2 which was significantly more robust. A year later came Netscape 7.0, based on the Mozilla 1.0 core.

Disbanding of Netscape

After the Microsoft antitrust case found that Microsoft held and had abused monopoly power, AOL filed suit against it for damages. This suit was settled in May 2003 when Microsoft paid US $750 million to AOL and agreed to share some technologies, including granting AOL a license to use and distribute Internet Explorer royalty-free for seven years. This was considered to be the death knell for Netscape.

On July 15, 2003, Time Warner (formerly AOL Time Warner) disbanded Netscape. Most of the programmers were laid-off, and the Netscape logo was removed from the building. However, the Netscape 7.2 web browser (developed in-house rather than with Netscape staff) was released by AOL on August 18, 2004. Red Hat announced on September 30, 2004 that it had acquired large portions of the Netscape Enterprise Suite and was planning to convert them into an open source product to be bundled with Red Hat Enterprise Linux. On June 1, 2005, Red Hat released Fedora Directory Server.

On October 12, 2004, the popular developer website Netscape DevEdge was shut down by AOL. DevEdge was an important resource for Internet-related technologies, maintaining definitive documentation on the Netscape browser, documentation on associated technologies like HTML and JavaScript, and popular articles written by industry and technology leaders such as Danny Goodman. Some content from DevEdge has been republished at the Mozilla website.

The Last Release

The Netscape brand name continued to be used extensively. The company once again had its own programming staff devoted to the development and support for the series of web browsers. Additionally, Netscape also maintained the Propeller web portal, which was a popular social-news site, similar to Digg, which was given a new look in June 2006. AOL marketed a discount ISP service under the Netscape brand name.

A new version of the Netscape browser, Netscape Navigator 9, based on Firefox 2, was released in October 2007. It featured a sleek green and grey interface. As of July 2008, IE accounted for 73.01% of the browser market, Firefox 19.03% and Netscape 0.67%, according to Internet metrics firm NetApplications. On December 28, 2007, AOL announced that on February 1, 2008 it would drop support for the Netscape web browser and would no longer develop new releases. The date was later extended to March 1 to allow a major security update and to add a tool to assist users in migrating to other browsers. These additional features were included in the final version of Netscape Navigator 9 (version 9.0.0.6), released on February 20, 2008.

Software

Netscape Classic releases

Netscape Navigator (version 0.9)

Netscape Navigator (versions 1.0–4.08)

Netscape Navigator was the name of Netscape's web browser from versions 1.0–4.8. The first beta release versions of the browser were released in 1994 and known as Mosaic and then Mosaic Netscape until a legal challenge from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (makers of NCSA Mosaic), which many of Netscape's founders used to develop, led to the name Netscape Navigator. The company's name also changed from Mosaic Communications Corporation to Netscape Communications Corporation.

The browser was easily the most advanced available and was therefore an instant success, becoming market leader while still in beta. Netscape's feature-count and market share continued to grow rapidly after version 1.0 was released. Version 2.0 added a full mail reader called Netscape Mail, thus transforming Netscape from a mere web browser to an Internet suite. During this period, the suite was called Netscape Navigator.

Version 3.0 of Netscape (the first beta was codenamed "Atlas") was the first to face any serious competition in the form of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0. Netscape, however, easily held off Microsoft's challenge and remained the number one browser for the time being.

Netscape also released a Gold version. This version incorporated JavaScript, RSA security and an Apple Inc. QuickTime decoder. It also had its own email client named Netscape Email. The main distinguishing feature of the email client was its capability of displaying HTML.

Netscape Communicator (versions 4.0–4.8)

Netscape 4 addressed the problem of Netscape Navigator being used as both the name of the suite and the browser contained within it by renaming the suite to Netscape Communicator. After releasing five preview releases from 1996–1997, Netscape released the final version of Netscape Communicator in June 1997. This new version, more or less based on Netscape Navigator 3 Code, updated and added new features. The new suite was successful, despite increasing competition from Internet Explorer 4.0 (which had a more advanced HTML engine) and problems with the outdated browser core. Internet Explorer was sluggish and unstable on the Mac platform, however, until version 4.5. The Communicator suite was made up of Netscape Navigator, Netscape Mail & Newsgroups, Netscape Address Book and Netscape Composer (an HTML editor). In January 1998 Netscape Communications Corporation announced that all future versions of their software would be free of charge and developed by an Open Source Community (Mozilla). Netscape Communicator 5.0 was announced (codenamed "Grommit"). However, there were significant delays to the release of Netscape's next major version and Communicator therefore aged badly over the many years it was still used. As a result of this, and a more advanced support of HTML 4, CSS, DOM, and ECMAScript by Internet Explorer starting with version 4, the more up-to-date Internet Explorer 5.0 became the market leader.

In October 1998 version 4.5 of Netscape Communicator was released. This new version featured various functionality improvements, especially in the Mail and Newsgroups component, but did not update the browser core (which, in its functionality, was basically identical with version 4.08). Only one month later, Netscape Communications Corporation was purchased by AOL. In November 1998 work on Netscape 5.0 was canceled in favor of developing a completely new program from scratch.

Mozilla-based releases

Netscape 6 (versions 6.0–6.2.3)

In 1998, an informal group called the Mozilla Organization was formed and largely funded by Netscape (the vast majority of programmers working on the code were paid by Netscape) to co-ordinate the development of Netscape 5 (codenamed "Gromit"), which would be based on the Communicator source code. However, the aging Communicator code proved difficult to work with and the decision was taken to scrap Netscape 5 and re-write the source code. The re-written source code was in the form of the Mozilla web browser, which, with a few additions, Netscape 6 was based on.

This decision meant that Netscape's next major version was severely delayed. In the meantime, Netscape was taken over by AOL who, acting under pressure from the Web Standards Project, forced its new division to release Netscape 6.0 in 2000. The suite again consisted of Netscape Navigator and the other Communicator components, with the addition of a built-in AOL Instant Messenger client, Netscape Instant Messenger. However, it was clear that Netscape 6 was not yet ready for release and it flopped badly. It was based on Mozilla 0.6, which was not ready to be used by the general public yet due to many serious bugs that would cause it to crash often or render web pages slowly. Later versions of Netscape 6 were much improved (especially 6.2.x was regarded as a good release), but the browser still struggled to make an impact on a disappointed community.

Netscape 7 (versions 7.0–7.2)

Netscape 7.0 (based on Mozilla 1.0.1) was released in August 2002 was a direct continuation of Netscape 6 with very similar components. It picked up a few users, but was still very much a minority browser. It did, however, come with the popular Radio@Netscape Internet radio client. AOL had decided to deactivate Mozilla's popup-blocker functionality in Netscape 7.0, which created an outrage in the community. AOL learned the lesson for Netscape 7.01 and allowed Netscape to reinstate the popup-blocker. Netscape also introduced a new AOL-free-version (without the usual AOL addons) of the browser suite. Netscape 7.1 (codenamed "Buffy" and based on Mozilla 1.4) was released in June 2003.

In 2003, AOL closed down its Netscape division and laid-off or re-assigned all of Netscape's employees. Mozilla.org continued, however, as the independent Mozilla Foundation, taking on many of Netscape's ex-employees. AOL continued to develop Netscape in-house, but, due to there being no staff committed to it, improvements were minimal. One year later, in August 2004, the last version based on Mozilla was released: Netscape 7.2, based on Mozilla 1.7.2.

After an official poll posted on Netscape's community support board in late 2006, speculation has arisen of the Netscape 7 series of suites being fully supported and updated by Netscape's in-house development team once more, including major bug fixes and security issues. .

Mozilla Firefox-based releases

Netscape Browser (version 8.0-8.1.3)

Between 2005 and 2007, Netscape's releases became known as Netscape Browser. AOL chose to base Netscape Browser on the relatively successful Mozilla Firefox, a re-written version of Mozilla produced by the Mozilla Foundation. This release is not a full Internet suite as before, but is solely a web browser. Other controversial decisions include the browser's being made only for Microsoft Windows and its featuring both the Gecko rendering engine of previous releases and the Trident engine used in Internet Explorer. AOL's acquisition of Netscape years ago made it less of a surprise when the company laid off the Netscape team and outsourced development to Mercurial Communications. Netscape Browser 8.1.3 was released on April 2, 2007, and included general bug fixes identified in versions 8.0-8.1.2

Netscape Navigator (version 9.0)

Netscape confirmed on 23 January 2007 that Netscape Browser versions 8.0-8.1.2 was to be succeeded by a new stand-alone browser release, Netscape Navigator 9. Its features were said to include newsfeed support and become more integrated with the Propeller Internet portal , alongside more enhanced methods of discussion, submission and voting on web pages . It also sees the browser return to multi-platform support across Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Like Netscape version 8.x, the new release was be based upon the popular Mozilla Firefox (version 2.0), and supposedly have full support of all Firefox add-ons and plugins, some of which Netscape is already providing.. Also for the first time since 2004, the browser was produced in-house with its own programming staff. A beta of the program was first released on 5 June 2007. The final version was released on October 15, 2007.

End of development and support

AOL officially announced that it is no longer supporting Netscape Navigator as of 1 March, 2008, and recommended that its users download either the Flock or Firefox browsers, both of which were based on the same technology.

Mozilla Thunderbird-based releases

Netscape Messenger 9

On 11 June 2007, Netscape announced Netscape Mercury, a stand-alone Email / News Client that was to accompany Navigator 9. Mercury was based on Mozilla Thunderbird . The product was later renamed Netscape Messenger 9, and an alpha version was released. In December 2007, AOL announced it was canceling Netscape's development of Messenger 9 as well as Navigator 9.

Product list

Netscape's initial product line consisted of:

  • Netscape Navigator web browser for Windows, Macintosh, OS/2, Unix, and Linux
  • Netsite Communications web server, with a web-based configuration interface
  • Netsite Commerce web server, simply the Communications server with SSL (https) added
  • Netscape Proxy Server

Later Netscape products included:

  • Netscape Personal Edition (the browser along with PPP software and an account creation wizard to sign up with an ISP)
  • Netscape Communicator (a suite which included Navigator along with tools for mail, news, calendar, VoIP, and composing web pages, and was bundled with AOL Instant Messenger and RealAudio)
  • Netscape FastTrack and Enterprise web servers
  • Netscape Collabra Server, a NNTP news server acquired in a purchase of Collabra Software, Inc.
  • Netscape Directory Server, an LDAP server
  • Netscape Messaging Server, an IMAP and POP mail server
  • Netscape Certificate Server, for issuing SSL certificates
  • Netscape Calendar Server, for group scheduling
  • Netscape Compass Server, a search engine and spider
  • Netscape Application Server, for designing web applications
  • Netscape Publishing System, for running a commercial site with news articles and charging users per access
  • Netscape Xpert Servers
    • ECxpert - a server for EDI message exchange
    • SellerXpert - B to B Commerce Engine
    • BuyerXpert - eProcurement Engine
    • BillerXpert - Online Bill Paying Engine
    • TradingXpert - HTML EDI transaction frontend
    • CommerceXpert - Online Retail Store engine
  • Radio@Netscape and Radio@Netscape Plus

Netscape created the JavaScript web page scripting language. It also pioneered the development of "push technology," which effectively allowed web sites to send regular updates of information (weather, stock updates, package tracking, etc.) directly to a user's desktop (aka "webtop"); Netscape's implementation of this was named Netcaster. Unfortunately, businesses quickly recognized the use of push technology to deliver ads to users, and annoyed users turned off the feature, so Netcaster was short-lived.

Netscape was notable for its cross-platform efforts. Its client software continued to be made available for Windows (3.1, 95, 98, NT), Macintosh, Linux, OS/2, BeOS, and many versions of Unix including DEC, Sun Solaris, BSDI, IRIX, IBM AIX, and HP-UX. Its server software generally was only available for Unix and Windows NT, though some of its servers were made available on Linux, and a version of Netscape FastTrack Server was made available for Windows 95/98. Today, most of Netscape's server offerings live on as the Sun Java System, formerly under the Sun ONE branding. Although Netscape Browser 8 was Windows only, multi-platform support exists in the Netscape Navigator 9 series of browsers.

Internet portals and services

Netscape.com

Netscape.com is currently an AOL Netscape-branded mirror duplicate of the AOL.com portal, replacing the former Social News website in September 2007. It features facilities such as news, sports, horoscopes, dating, movies, music and more.

The change has come to much criticism amongst many site users, effectively the site becoming an AOL clone and simply re-directing to regional AOL portals in some areas across the globe. Netscape's exclusive features, such as the Netscape Blog, Netscape NewsQuake, Netscape Navigator, My Netscape and Netscape Community pages, are less accessible from the AOL Netscape designed portal and in some countries not accessible at all without providing a full URL or completing an Internet search.

The new AOL Netscape site was originally previewed in August 2007 before moving the existing site in September 2007 . CompuServe's website, compuserve.com, is similar to the original generic Netscape portal used prior to June 2006.

Propeller

Netscape also operates the site Propeller, which is a social news aggregator, similar to Digg, and formally known as Netscape.com between June 2006 and September 2007.

Revised in late 2007, propeller.com has been re-released and the use of the new social structure has spawned over 1,000,000 pages within a 2.5 month period.

Open Directory Project

The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as dmoz (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is a multilingual open content directory of World Wide Web links owned by Netscape that is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors.

Netscape Search

Netscape operates a search engine, Netscape Search, powered by AOL Search. Another version of Netscape Search can be found at netscape.com/search, which has since been incorporated into Propeller.

Netscape Forum Center

Netscape also has a wide variety of community-based forums within Netscape Forum Center, including its browser's community support board. To post on the forums, users must possess an AOL Screenname account in which to sign in, referred to within the site as the Netscape Network. The same service is also available through Compuserve Forum Center

Other sites

Netscape also operates a number of country-specific portals, including Netscape Canada, the Netscape UK, Netscape Germany among others.

The Netscape Blog is written by Netscape employees discussing the latest on Netscape products and services.

Netscape NewsQuake (formally Netscape Reports) is Netscape's news and opinion blog, including video clips and discussions.

See also

References

External links

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