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AOL to Shut Down Netscape Support/Development 247

Kelson writes "After years of trying to figure out what to do with it, AOL is officially discontinuing the Netscape browser. In the four and a half years after they dismantled the development team and spun off the Mozilla Foundation as a lost cause, only to see Firefox take off, AOL has tried twice to reinvent Netscape. There was the chimera-like Netscape 8, which used both Mozilla's and IE's rendering engines, and just months ago they released Netscape 9, trying to ride the social networking wave. AOL will release security fixes through February 1, 2008, after which the browser will officially be dead. For the "nostalgic," they suggest using Firefox and installing a Netscape theme."
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AOL to Shut Down Netscape Support/Development

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  • From time to time I drag out NS version 4 for lowest-common-denominator quick-and-dirty compatibility testing or to use websites whose active content mucks up modern web browsers.

    Active-content blockers like NoScript have reduced the need for this but I still keep it around.

    Disclaimer: For "real" standards-compliance testing you should be testing against standards not a particular implementation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eln ( 21727 )
      Netscape 3.0 was the pinnacle of the Netscape browser. The standard edition (not necessarily the Gold edition) was light weight, fast, and standards compliant. Of course, it also marked the point at which IE really started to catch up with Netscape in terms of stability and performance. Netscape 4 was big, bloated, and marked the peak of Netscape's attempts to "embrace and extend" the standards. It also helped accelerate Netscape's decline.

      Of course, I still think the best browser "busy" logo was the mu
    • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 28, 2007 @08:11PM (#21844508) Journal
      You aren't the only one that keeps an old browser for that trick, although I've since moved to Offbyone []. It is great for those sites that even noscript throws its hands up over, without just letting who knows what run on the site. The best part is it is available without an installer, just a simple 839Kb zip file which means you can just carry it on a flash or even a cd, and if I want to clear out the history I simply toss the old one and unzip a fresh browser. And if someone needs a sweet rendering engine there are links on the site to speak to the developer directly. I bet this would make a great engine for other apps, as it is VERY fast and has support for OpenSSL.

      And on the topic of Netscape, IMHO they were dead when they released that horrible version that was so buggy and slow( I believe it was NS4). And let us not forget that Netscape was as bad as IE for using their own proprietary hooks which made it hard to render in other browsers. I am so glad that now we have so many choices like Firefox, Seamonkey, Safari, Opera, Kmeleon, etc. Instead of the "Coke VS Pepsi" that was NS VS IE.

      And for those that want a "Netscape like" browser, there is always Seamonkey [], which is much better and supports most Firefox extensions, including the important ones like noscript. It also makes a great browser for those older folks that are still stuck on older versions of IE and Outlook. I can't count the number of folks I've switched with Seamonkey due to the convenience of being able to check their mail just by clicking on a tab.

      It is sad to see a once great come to the end, but IMHO it died a long time ago, and now they are simply pulling the life support. It does make me look back on the good old days, When Peter Norton made great tools and everyone had their own favorite DOS hacks. Now Get Off My Lawn!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tepples ( 727027 )

      Disclaimer: For "real" standards-compliance testing you should be testing against standards not a particular implementation.
      How can testing be done apart from any implementation? The only way I can think of to "test against standards" is to test against some peer-reviewed reference implementation of the standards.
    • And it's still being used. It's the default browser on many older Solaris boxen.
  • I set my dad up with the browser when it came out until he finally replaced his PC with a Mac. It served him a couple years and he was able to surf most pages okay and then use the IE engine on webpages that required it.

    I'm not sure what AOL as company is really going to do. Most people have figured out that they don't need AOL to get on the internet and have moved on to broadband solutions. My father used Netscape dial up until he got his Mac and switched to a Phone/DSL/Sat. TV bundle last year.

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *
      My first browsers were Cello and Netscape 1. Before MS came along and killed it, Netscape was the king of the internet. I'll never forget how sad it was having to abandon it, as fewer and fewer websites worked properly with it.
      • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *
        My first browsers were Mosaic in the college computer labs, and Lynx on my dial-up shell connection. Then Netscape 1 once I got PPP access (or was it SLIP? I forget).

        I remember reading about Cello and trying to track down a copy, but I don't think I ever got it to run.
      • I'm not sure that I'd fully blame Microsoft for Netscape's demise. The fact is that Netscape made some very serious mistakes that caused major problems. If their version 5 had been released and been good, I'm fairly certain people would have still paid for it in deference to MSIE being on their machines. After all, look at Firefox today. Every computer comes with a web browser on it, but with very few exceptions, that browser isn't Firefox (or even closely related to Firefox), yet the project is still s
    • Yeah... Using Netscape 8 would pretty much make anyone switch from PC to Mac.
    • Re:I remember NS8 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:15PM (#21843574)
      AOL isn't selling access anymore, so the point is moot. They're doing content work and online advertising. The access business will probably still exist for a few more years before the lights are out, but they already fired all the marketing people, most of the customer service people, and many of the access tech people too.

      AOL can easily fail, but they already canned the dial up model a few years ago, so the client and all the old AOL stuff isn't the problem any more. Too late? Maybe, maybe not.

      That said, they really didn't have much they could do in terms of broadband. By the time broadband was big, the people who actually owned the lines for cable and fiber realized they'd make more money if they kept it to themselves and made sure that you would have to pay very well indeed to run a billion dollar business on their lines. Today, with their calls for tiered access, they are continuing that trend. Google is basically the AOL of this decade, a company whose value is based on their ability to deliver fast search results over someone else's physical connections. Should tiering become commonplace, Google and other content providers could be in a very different world.
      • Re:I remember NS8 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by RobertM1968 ( 951074 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @08:32PM (#21844694) Homepage Journal
        I'm not sure how many of those people actually worked (or work) for AOL. The DialUp team did NOT. We worked for UUNet, then MCI/Worldcom. Who AOL used after that I dont know... but I doubt they installed the tons of access numbers needed when MCI/WC went under. AlterDial (and UUDial) was owned and operated by UUNet, and used mostly for AOL and MSN. Authentication and such were done by us too. Support was handled by a different group.
      • Whatever happened to competition? I thought that telcos were required to provide at cost access to their networks for third party telephone companies so people could have a choice of telephone companies. Maybe this should apply to access to the network for ISPs as well, perhaps ISPs should be able to offer DSL even when the phone line is provided by another comopany. We also have FIOS and there really ought to be a provision where other companies can offer service over FIOS lines. Either this, or telephone
  • by microbee ( 682094 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:49PM (#21843344)
    AOL was shutting down!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      AOL was shutting down!

      ... shutting down, shutting down
      AOL was shutting down
      my fair lady...

    • by Kelson ( 129150 ) *
      Sorry to get your hopes up!
  • Already Dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:49PM (#21843356)
    Netscape died years ago.

    Netscape 4.7x was the last decent version. Netscape 6 was a horrendous piece of crap and every version since then has just been a crappified version of the Mozilla Suite.

    • Re:Already Dead (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:05PM (#21843518) Homepage Journal
      You're kidding, right? Did you *use* 3.0 and 4.x? 4.x was bloated, unstable dreck that was pushed out the door before it was ready--it was one reason, IMO, why Netscape failed (in addition to MS's malfeasance). 3.x was the last "real" version of Netscape, although 7.2 wasn't that bad (IIRC it was based on Mozilla 1.7), just filled with AOL bloatware.
      • Re:Already Dead (Score:4, Interesting)

        by BlueStraggler ( 765543 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @07:25PM (#21844144)

        Netscape 4.x was the last version that was widely released for the Unix crowd. I think it was more "native" on Unix workstations (coming from the NCSA after all) and I never had any problems with stability - despite being forced to use it up to v4.8 because there was no alternative until Mozilla started to become available. Considering the number of platforms they were supporting, I'm not surprised that some were not particularly stable, but fortunately for me, SGI was not one of them, and it's was pretty easy to dismiss Windows 95 and Mac OS users complaints about stability as clearly being related to their choice of OS.

        I perused the Xdefaults file for Netscape 4 one day, and it was full of fascinating comments from the developers. A lot of them were expressing bitterness about arbitrary, non-standard, and downright buggy differences between various platforms that they were supporting, which evidently led to a lot of pain and suffering. No surprise that after Netscape 4, the Unix crowd was left in the dustbin - it was the easiest way to cut the number of supported platforms by 80% and focus their development on the PC market.

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )
        Yeah, I used it. It beat Internet Explorer 5 and early 6 back then (and still does) in stability, security and compliance with W3 standards and back then Opera was still charging you for their browser (or you had to put up with a screenwide banner taking up 1/8 of your screen).

        Although Mozilla and other players came up a few moments after 4.x, they were still in it's infancy (or alpha/beta).
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )
      Perhaps 4.x was decent at some point, but it certainly far overstayed its welcome. My final memories of it was a ugly, buggy POS which I hoped would die in favor of MSIE (this was before Opera and Mozilla really got anywhere). Since then I've stayed with Opera, flirting a bit with Firefox in the days when it got a new name for every release, but as its marketshare grew and sites became more compliant I found the Opera experience to improve just as fast. Netscape past 4.x always felt very strange to me. They
  • Nostalgia (Score:5, Interesting)

    by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:50PM (#21843358) Homepage Journal
    For my nostalgia we have the old Netscape icon as a slashdot category image. That's more than enough for me.
    • Hey, it's a whole category, maybe that should be shut down after this news. Indeed, the last three stories make interesting reading - Feb 2007 "Will NS9 undo mistakes of NS8?" - Jun 2007 "First peek at NS9" - Dec 2007 "AOL kills NS". Time sure moves fast in Internet-land.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SeaFox ( 739806 )

      For my nostalgia we have the old Netscape icon as a slashdot category image. That's more than enough for me.

      In a few years, we can get that same warm feeling when we look at the the AOL icon.
  • by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:50PM (#21843362)
    I'd have to say no, and in fact, their attack on Netscape
    probably woke up a lot of people, and Microsoft may regret it.
  • Days gone by (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:50PM (#21843364) Homepage
    I will always remember sneaking into the "study" super-late at night, dialing up, and going into chat rooms with Netscape Navigator. I will never forget viewing my first porn website (don't know if it's still around, Babylon-X) using Netscape Navigator. I remember receiving my first email using Angelfire and Netscape Navigator. I even remember the very first file I ever downloaded (a printer driver for an old HP) using Netscape Navigator.

    Yup, many of my firsts on the internet involved Netscape Navigator...I haven't used it in years, but I am still a little bit sad to see it go. Goodbye, were the gateway to a hell of a lot in my youth.
    • Re:Days gone by (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:37PM (#21843748) Homepage
      It's not necessarily gone.

      Someone could buy the Netscape brand name and donate it to the Mozilla foundation.

      We'll all get a kick out of Netscape (previously known as firefox) kicking the ass of IE.

      Heck if someone setup an organization to buy that brand name to give it to firefox, I'm paying big $$$
      • Someone could buy the Netscape brand name and donate it to the Mozilla foundation.

        Does it really matter any more? In many ways Firefox is the phoenix of the ashes of Netscape. They took something that lost direction, was bloated in the wrongs ways and made it what it should have been. The other problem was that AOL just didn't seem to understand what to do with the Netscape brand and didn't seem like they wanted to care. If they were smart they would have taken the all important core and made it the base of
        • by rhizome ( 115711 )
          > Someone could buy the Netscape brand name and donate it to the Mozilla foundation.

          Does it really matter any more?

          No, not really, but it would still be kind of cool.
      • Actually, with AOL discontinuing it and recommending Firefox just with a Netscape skin to keep the browser in memory, I think AOL could just as well just donate the brand to Mozilla? Or are they keeping it just in case...?
      • We'll all get a kick out of Netscape (previously known as firefox) kicking the ass of IE.

        Yeah, especially the "spread firefox" guys.

        "Great work folks! Now, could you do it again for our new name?"

    • I still remember finding my first html code snippet that crash the Netscape browser. (I found many of them, both netscape and IE of course.) Old days, some of them never got fixed, dark old days.
  • if AOL had not been pushing MSIE at the same, they might have been able to take it someplace. As it is, they could have expanded into cable or sats when they have money, but are slowly watching themselves die.
  • Long live.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by loconet ( 415875 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:52PM (#21843376) Homepage
    Long live Mosaic and the N. That 8bit pron you delivered on my desktop during the mid 90s opened the door for many good times. You shall be missed old friend.
    • That 8bit pron you delivered on my desktop during the mid 90s opened the door for many good times.

      Goatse guy? Is that you?

  • A bad way to die (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2007 @05:56PM (#21843442) Homepage Journal

    I haven't used Netscape in quite a few years, but I hate seeing it die like that. It used to be a proud trademark - it stood for something - and ended up as yet another AOL castoff. I wish they'd transfer the name to the Mozilla Foundation. While I'm sure they wouldn't use it, at least it would be next to its child where it belongs.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      It used to be a proud trademark - it stood for something

      It stood for a slow, buggy, crash-prone browser that (at version 4) was on a par with IE 3 then had its butt handed to it by IE 4. Don't get me wrong, I used it as my main browser until around M13 or so of Mozilla, but it was dire. Resizing the browser window forced a page reload ffs!

      I do like the idea of giving the name to the Mozilla Foundation though; it does seem kind of fitting. Just please, for the love of all that is holy and good, let the nam

  • That's awfully nice of them. Now if they'll just do the same to their other offerings, the world would be a better place.

    Ah well, one thing at a time.
  • Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:07PM (#21843534)

    AOL bought Netscape as bargaining power against MS, but then never actually used it that way. Instead, they mistreated what is arguably the most well known brand from the early days of the net in ways that only AOL could. Any other company would have built up Netscape. AOL lets it rot, then bastardizes it with every hare-brained scheme they can think of (dialup ISP, frankenbrowser, lame Digg knockoff), each further damaging the brand. The only smart thing AOL did that had anything to do with Netscape was to create the Mozilla foundation.

    Now AOL is just as weak, having abandoned their walled garden, missed broadband altogether, and their only relevant public service is AIM, which has taken off to such a point that they simply aren't capable of killing it, no matter how incompetent they are.

    Rest in peace, Netscape. Your long suffering at the hands of your caregiver is at an end.

    (Why do I suspect zombie Netscape will rise from the grave in a year or so, when some new executive needs a name for a new pet project? BRAAAAIINNSSS 11.0, now with 250 gazillion free hours of shambling!)

    • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

      by asa ( 33102 ) <> on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:23PM (#21843620) Homepage
      > The only smart thing AOL did that had anything
      > to do with Netscape was to create the Mozilla
      > foundation.

      Actually, AOL didn't create the Mozilla Foundation. Mitchell Baker created the Mozilla Foundation and as part of that endeavor she solicited donations from AOL and several other large companies. AOL was convinced to donate $2M over 2 years, a couple of trademarks, and some hardware. Other organizations also donated cash, equipment, bandwidth, and full-time staff to the early Mozilla Foundation. There's no doubt that AOL's donation was significant, but it can hardly be said that they created anything.

      - A
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      AOL bought Netscape because they wanted access to the economic value Netscape's alleged victim-hood at the hands of MS would bring. That was the only value the company had. After MS lost the government anti-trust case, AOL got their payday. Their only mistake was that they paid way too much for Netscape, so they lost money overall.
  • Netcraft confirms it & everything.

    But seriously, does AOL have any market relevance left? Besides, who uses Netscape anymore besides nostalgiaphiles and AOLers?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonbryce ( 703250 )
      AOLers don't use Netscape, they use AOL browser, which is a re-skinned IE with extra bloat.
  • by tieTYT ( 989034 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:14PM (#21843570)
    I once read this interesting Daily WTF/Worse Than Failure article about Netscape and how AOL's marketing team was screwing with it. For the life of me, I can't find the article. But one of the things they did was realize that pop-up blocking was one of the new cool things for browsers to have. But the marketing team stepped in and said, "Hold on just a second. We can't have the browser blocking OUR pop-ups." So they added rule to block all pop-ups except those that came from the netscape web page.

    The netscape homepage happened to have a pop-up on it and of course, this is the default home page of the browser. When you initially ran netscape, first thing you saw was a pop-up and the page behind it claiming, "New Feature: pop-up blocker".

  • blink (Score:5, Funny)

    by dgun ( 1056422 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:29PM (#21843662) Homepage
  • Netscape is not dead (Score:3, Informative)

    by BenoitRen ( 998927 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:53PM (#21843880)
    It lives on in SeaMonkey. Not only in the concept, but also the default theme, which looks just like Netscape 4.
  • by jbrower ( 775624 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @06:53PM (#21843882)
    I distinctly remember buying Netscape Navigator (or was it Communicator) from a local "Stop 'n Save Software" store which later turned into an EB Games. I suppose it was back in 1996 and the price was something like $40-$60. I still have the 5 diskettes it came on stuck in a drawer somewhere. Prior to that I used Mosaic.
  • AOL blew it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When they first acquired Netscape, I thought for sure they were going to release AOL branded PCs running Linux with a Netscape browser. Imagine if they could ssh into your box and fix problems for you (perhaps after you boot off a recovery cd if things were really borked); basically they could have marketed it as a "zero maintenance" pc. They could have bundled the cost of the machine and internet at a reasonable monthly cost (PCs were running about $1000 at the time). It would have been interesting indeed
  • netscape's death will soon be followed by the death of another relic of the early internet

    namely, AOL
  • by Jekler ( 626699 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @07:31PM (#21844194)
    The one time they let one of their projects breathe, it turned into Mozilla. Once they realized it wasn't their property that was inherently faulty, they tightened that grip right back up figuring if they just squeezed hard enough maybe they could make another diamond. They're so desperate to turn everything they own into a revenue generator, they'll do it at the expense of the product itself. Yes, every company needs its projects to make money for them, but you can't sacrifice your racing horse for good luck in the race.

    They only think of their products in terms of themselves, they don't look at them from a customer viewpoint. I don't think the people in charge at AOL ever stopped to ask "Why would someone want Netscape?" they ask "How can we make Netscape represent us?"

    It's like they think of their products as sales reps. Forget that big deal you landed 5 years ago, how are your numbers this week? They want it to make another big score, but without any resources. Coffee is for closers.

    Netscape had numerous chances to work its way into people's hearts and minds but they never added a single feature people would actually want. Every feature they added was self serving. The company is just all backwards; they don't want to make great products, they want their products to make them great.
  • Netscrape started the whole free browser thing with free betas and previous versions, the current version was the only one technically that cost money. Then they threw fits when MS released IE for free. Then they got bloated and other free competition outpaced them. So they got trampled by the market they created.
  • And so the Creator looked upon the beast and buried it deep within the earth. Its mourners looked up into the sky and joined their kin under the wings of the great bird, and the people rejoiced.
  • Can't they just pass the NS brand to the Mozilla Foundation? Let them think of a nice use for it. Maybe rename themselves to Netscape Foundation? It would be fitting.

    My 2 cents.
  • I retrofitted Seamonkey onto all my users who absolutely would not move from 'Netscape' after NS8 dropped an integrated mail client. I looked with interest in returning to NS9 but still no mail client and there were some notes on Netscape's web page that there was a mail client in beta. But I guess that's dead. In either case, for NS groupies and the untrainable who absolutely CANNOT learn anything new Seamonkey is a good option. It handles multiuser profiles better than FF/T-Bird and it incorporates most o
  • I bought Netscape 1 for Windows 3.1 at Comp USA for 35 bucks many years ago. It came on one floppy disk. BOY was it better then Mozilla! Then version 2 came, which they charged you to download (I think it was ten bucks if you were upgrading). Then from Netscape 3 on, it became free. I used Netscape 3 for quite a long time. It was far better then Internet Explorer-until IE 4.something came out that blew it way. I still have that original floppy about somewhere.
  • by theurge14 ( 820596 ) on Friday December 28, 2007 @11:41PM (#21845744)
    Q: When you're the largest ISP in the nation and you acquire both Netcsape and Winamp and all the developers from Mozilla and Nullsoft, how is it that you manage to monumentally fuck it all up?

    A: ?

Federal grants are offered for... research into the recreation potential of interplanetary space travel for the culturally disadvantaged.