Sources, Dec 31: The early history of the Internet boom is inextricably entwined with the rise and fall of the world"s first popular browser.An early part of the Internet dream will soon fade into history. AOL has said that it will no longer support the Netscape Navigator, which it had bought with the eponymous company, for nearly $10 billion in 1999.
AOL has a long history on the internet, being one of the first companies to really get people online. Throughout its lifetime, it has been involved with a number of high profile acquisitions, perhaps the largest of which was the 1999 acquisition of the Netscape Communications Corporation. Netscape was known to many as the thought leader in web browsing, and had developed a number of complementary pieces of software that allowed for a rich suite of internet tools.
At the time of the acquisition, the Netscape team had begun working on converting their flagship product - the Netscape Communicator web suite - into open source software, under a new name: Mozilla. AOL played a significant role in the launch of the Netscape 6 browser, the first Mozilla-based, Netscape-branded browser that was released in 2000 and continued to solely fund the development and marketing efforts of Netscape-branded browsers. In 2003, an independent foundation was created to support the continued development of the open source web suite. AOL was a major source of support for the Mozilla Foundation and the company continued to develop versions of the Netscape browser based on the work of the foundation.
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. Recently, support for the Netscape browser has been limited to a handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.
The browser was given away free—a radical business model at the time. Later, the protracted legal battle with Microsoft led to deep divisions between supporters of innovation and corporate might. Subsequent challengers such as Google have learned several lessons from Netscape"s defeat in that battle. The Internet revolution would not have taken off when it did without the browser that Marc Andreessen gave us.