Netscape Navigator

From ArticleWorld

Netscape Navigator was a popular proprietary web browser and notable loser of the browser war. Once a popular web browser, flagship of the Netscape Communications Corporation, its popularity decreased significantly in the late 1990s, arguably initially due to the inclusion of Microsoft's Internet Explorer with their popular Windows operating system. At the moment, Netscape Navigator is superseded by the Netscape Communicator suite. Its greatest significance is that it made the base for Mozilla and, later, Mozilla Firefox.


Netscape's development team was the team responsible for the Mosaic web browser at NCSA. They initially went to form Mosaic Communications Corporation, but due to various legal complications with the name, they ended up simply as Netscape.

Initially, beta releases were available for free download, and later, users were allowed to download evaluation versions as well as purchase commercial versions. The evaluation versions were similar to commercial ones, which were distributed in a boxed set, on floppies or CDs. During development, the source code was known as Mozilla, giving the Godzilla-like mascot.

As the Internet became more and more popular among home users, the popularity of the Netscape browser increased significantly. Netscape was the de-facto standard, especially on Windows machines. An important role here was played by the ability to render pages on-the-fly, as they were downloaded, instead of rendering a page only after it was downloaded completely, a significant improvement for dial-up users who would otherwise often stare at blank pages for minutes. Several other important features like cookies, frames and JavaScript were also introduced, some of which became actual W3C standards. This was often subject to criticism, due to the inclusion of many non-standard features that bent everything towards Netscape's browser. Netscape reached 90% market share, but this was to change.

Microsoft purchased the Mosaic source code from Spyglass. The first two versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer looked like a bad joke to many users, but version 3.0 was a significant challenge for Netscape. Netscape failed to improve their browser significantly, and when Microsoft released Internet Explorer 5.0 in 1998, Netscape was technologically way behind. The dated 4.x code was no longer able to cope with the new technologies, and, as Microsoft managed to get their browser on the Macintosh platform and on the CDs of most ISPs, Netscape was doomed.

Mozilla and Firefox

In 1998, Netscape released their source code under an open-source license. Netscape 5 never appeared, but, after almost four years of development, Mozilla 1.0, featuring fully-rewritten code, appeared. This was also the base for Firefox, which is now the most significant competitor for Internet Explorer.