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AOL will pull the plug on Netscape's tech support

The early Web browser will continue to work for die-hard users.

December 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — Netscape Navigator, the world's first commercial Web browser and the launchpad of the Internet boom, will be pulled off life support Feb. 1 after a 13-year run.

Its current caretakers, Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, decided to kill further development and technical support to focus on growing the company as an advertising business.

Netscape's usage dwindled with Microsoft Corp.'s entry into the browser business, and Netscape all but faded away after the birth of its open-source cousin, Firefox.

"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," Netscape Director Tom Drapeau wrote Friday in a blog.

In recent years Netscape has been little more than a repackaged version of Firefox, which commands about 10% of the Web browser market, with most of the rest going to Internet Explorer.

People will be able to download and use the Netscape browser indefinitely, but AOL will stop releasing security and other updates Feb. 1. Drapeau suggested that Netscape users download Firefox instead.

A separate Netscape Web portal, which has had several incarnations in recent years, will continue to operate.

The World Wide Web was just a few years old when in April 1993 a team at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications released Mosaic, the first Web browser to integrate images and sound with words. Soon Marc Andreessen and many of his university colleagues left to form a company to commercialize the browser. The first version of Netscape came out in late 1994.

Netscape fed a gold-rush atmosphere with a key initial public offering in August 1995. Netscape's stock carried a then-steep IPO price of $28 a share -- a price that doubled on opening day to give the start-up a $2-billion market value even though it had only $20 million in sales.

But Netscape's success drew the attention of Microsoft, which quickly won market share by giving away its Internet Explorer browser with its flagship Windows operating system.

Netscape eventually dropped fees for the software, but it was too late. Netscape sold itself to AOL in a $10-billion deal completed in early 1999.

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