While security patches will continue to be released until February, there will be no further support for the product, which helped popularize the web surfing experience but was eventually defeated in “the browser wars” against Microsoft’s industry-leading Internet Explorer software.
AOL acquired Netscape Communications Corp. in 1999 and continued to develop the product, which Netscape programmers were already in the process of converting into an OpenSource offering known as Mozilla, upon which today’s Firefox browser is based.
“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,” Tom Drapeau wrote on The Netscape Blog. “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.”
AOL is transitioning its business model to become more advertiser-supported and has revamped the Netscape website into a more feature-rich web portal; while moving the previous Netscape social news site to a new domain, www.propeller.com.
“Given AOL's current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it's the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox,” Drapeau said.
While previous versions of Netscape Navigator will still be available for download from the Netscape Archive, they will not be supported.
“Our recommendation for the nostalgic out there is to download Mozilla Firefox, and add on the Netscape theme and Netscape extensions which are available,” Drapeau said. “This way you'll have a current web browser that is very secure, and has the look and feel you have grown accustomed to with Netscape.”
While the death of another browser should make code compatibility testing chores easier for web developers, it’s uncertain how long it will be before Navigator referrer codes will completely disappear from website server logs.