Sunday, January 06, 2008

R.I.P. Netscape

It is like the end of an era. Bill Gates bows out this year to pay attention to the charities he and his wife have built up. In The Netherlands, the telecom incumbent KPN has dismissed the editorial staff of its Planet Internet after 12,5 years of service. And now the message reaches that AOL stops servicing Netscape, a browser since October 1994. Unbelievable, as there is a coincidence between Netscape and Planet Internet dating back to 1995.

AOL definitely pulls the plug on Netscape on February 1, 2008. After almost 15 years a pioneer bows and takes leave. It started all out with a group of students at the University of Illinois in 1993, who wanted to develop a web browser, named Mosaic; the web browser was supposed to play music and images. Up to that time Internet was no more than a remote text reproducing machine. One of these students, Marc Andreessen, left his study and started with financial strong man Jim Clark the company Netscape in 1994; this company changed internet as Netscape could show pictures, videos and play sound and it was easy to show. From October 1994 Netscpae offered Netscape 0.9 as a commercial version and it was an instant success. The company was listed at the stock exchange and grew into a billion dollar company, much to the chagrin of Microsoft (which had been sleeping with regard to the internet development). So by 1996 Netscape got competition from Microsoft, which coupled Internet Explorer to its operating system. And soon the Netscape lost market share in the browser market. It complained in court and in 1999 Microsoft had to pay 500 million dollar to Netscape, but by that time it was too late for Netscape to make up and eventually had to be sold to AOL. Despite efforts of AOL to convert Netscape into the open source browser Firefox of Mozilla, Microsoft gained a market share of 90 percent.

Netscape caused in 1995 a row in The Netherlands. The ISP Planet Internet, a site run by the telecom incumbent KPN, had started in June. The management was well aware of the fact that Netscape was an attraction in the market as for example competitor Euronet*Internet offered its users a disc for access, which was rather technical, talking about Windows sockets, for example. Planet Internet wanted an easier to install program with more possibilities. But trailing the success of Planet Internet was the ISP World Online, run by Nina Brink. She wanted to have Netscape exclusively for her subscribers and talked with Jim Clark. In late 1995 she in fact invited Jim Clark (who was in the Netherlands to inspect his million dollar yacht) to address a high performance meeting with the minister of Traffic and Waterworks, Ms Jorritsma. In the end Planet Internet won the battle, got the exclusive rights to the Dutch language version of Netscape and put it in their introduction package (see photograph).

Netscape is the end of the Internet pioneers era. Now Microsoft has 90 percent markets hare with Internet Explorer, while Firefox had 10 percent. But, projecting into the future and seeing that open source will get stronger, the market share of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer should diminish.

Blog Posting Number: 970

Tags: ,

No comments: