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Netscape (web browser)

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Netscape Navigator
Developer(s)Netscape Communications
Initial releaseOctober 13, 1994; 29 years ago (1994-10-13)
Final release9.0.0.6 (February 20, 2008; 16 years ago (2008-02-20)) [±]
TypeWeb browser
LicenseProprietary software
WebsiteNo current website, formerly: https://www.browser.netscape.com/, (archived here)
A/UX running Netscape.

The Netscape web browser is the general name for a series of web browsers formerly produced by Netscape Communications Corporation, which eventually became a subsidiary of AOL. The original browser was once the dominant browser in terms of usage share, but as a result of the first browser war, it lost virtually all of its share to Internet Explorer due to Microsoft's anti-competitive bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.[1]

Netscape was discontinued and support for all Netscape browsers and client products was terminated on March 1, 2008.[2]

Timeline and history[edit]

Netscape-based (versions 1.0–4.8) releases[edit]

Netscape Navigator (versions 1.0–4.08)[edit]

A screenshot of Netscape 1.2 on Windows 3.1

Netscape Navigator was the name of Netscape's web browser from versions 1.0 through 4.8. The first version of the browser was released in 1994, known as Mosaic and then Mosaic Netscape until a legal challenge from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (makers of NCSA Mosaic, which many of Netscape's founders had spent time developing) which led to the name change to Netscape Navigator.[3] The company's name also changed from Mosaic Communications Corporation to Netscape Communications Corporation.

The browser was the most advanced available and was an instant success, becoming market leader while still in beta. Netscape's feature-count and market share continued to grow rapidly after version 1.0 was released. Version 2.0 added a full mail reader called Netscape Mail, thus transforming Netscape from a mere web browser to an Internet suite. During this period, both the browser and the suite were known as Netscape Navigator. Around the same time, AOL started bundling their software with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Version 3.0 of Netscape was the first to face any serious competition in the form of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0, but Netscape held off Microsoft's challenge and remained the number one browser for the time. Version 3.0 was also available in a "Gold" version which featured a WYSIWYG HTML editor (later added to Netscape Communicator as a standard feature), and was sold as retail software for profit. Netscape 3.0 introduced many new features such as new plug-ins, background colors for tables, the archive attribute, and the applet element. Netscape Navigator 3 was the undisputed web browser giant in its time with over 90% share, but it was later eroded by the free Internet Explorer included with Windows 95.

Netscape Communicator (versions 4.5–4.8)[edit]

Netscape 4 addressed the problem of Netscape Navigator being used as both the name of the suite and the browser contained within it by renaming the suite to Netscape Communicator.[4] After releasing five preview releases from 1996 to 1997, Netscape Corp. released the final version of Netscape Communicator in June 1997. This new version, more or less based on Netscape Navigator 3 Code, updated and added new features (such as support of certain CSS1 elements, minimal dynamic font support and the proprietary object element). The new suite was successful, despite increasing competition from Internet Explorer 4.0 and problems with the outdated browser core. The Communicator suite was made up of Netscape Navigator, Netscape Mail and Newsgroups, Netscape Address Book and Netscape Composer (an HTML editor, which later became Mozilla Composer and eventually was split off into a completely separate product, Nvu). In October 1998 version 4.5 of Netscape Communicator was released. This new version featured various functionality improvements, especially in the Mail/News component, but did not update the browser core (which, in its functionality, was basically identical with version 4.08). Only one month later, Netscape Communications Corporation was bought by AOL. A standalone version of Netscape Navigator was still available, but this was discontinued after version 4.08 for Windows. Standalone versions for other operating systems such as Unix/Linux were maintained up to version 4.8.

On January 22, 1998, Netscape Communications Corporation announced that all future versions of their software would be free of charge and developed by an Open Source Community (Mozilla).[5] Netscape Communicator 5.0 was announced (codenamed "Gromit"). But there were significant delays to the release of Netscape's next major version and Communicator therefore aged badly over the many years it was still used. As a result of this, and a more advanced support of HTML 4, CSS, DOM, and ECMAScript by Internet Explorer starting with version 4, the more up-to-date Internet Explorer 5.0 became the market leader. In November 1998 work on Netscape 5.0 was canceled in favor of developing a completely new program from scratch.

Netscape Communicator 5.0 (canceled)[edit]

Netscape 5.0 (codenamed "Gromit"[6]) was a continuation of the 4.x code, but only two pre-alpha versions were written, one based on original Communicator code (with layout engine stability and performance enhancements to the 4.0 codebase, codenamed Mariner) and another using the Gecko layout engine.[7]

Though Netscape had originally intended to deploy Mariner and later replace it with Gecko (which had been developed from scratch),[8] Netscape 5 and Mariner were scrapped completely. However, the versions continued to be numbered as if it had been released.[9]

Netscape formed the Mozilla Foundation and developed the Mozilla Application Suite using Gecko. The open-source Mozilla browser was in turn used as the basis for Netscape 6.[10]

Mozilla Application Suite-based releases[edit]

Netscape 6 (versions 6.0–6.2.3)[edit]

Netscape Navigator 6.1

In 1998, an informal group called the Mozilla Organization was formed and largely funded by Netscape (the vast majority of programmers working on the code were paid by Netscape) to coordinate the development of Netscape 5 (codenamed "Gromit"), which would be based on the Communicator source code. The aging Communicator code proved difficult to work with and the decision was made in late October to drop the code branch of the Communicator 4.5 core rendering engine and start from scratch using the standards-compliant Gecko rendering engine.[11][12] Gecko featured in the Mozilla web browser, which, with a few additions, Netscape 6 was based on.

This decision meant that Netscape's next major version was severely delayed. In the meantime, Netscape was taken over by AOL who, acting under pressure from the Web Standards Project, forced its new division to release Netscape 6.0 in 2000. With public beta versions released in April,[13] August,[14] and October,[15] Netscape 6.0 was released in November 2000.[16]

The suite again consisted of Netscape Navigator and the other Communicator components, with the addition of a built-in AOL Instant Messenger client, branded as Netscape Instant Messenger. However, it was clear that Netscape 6 was not yet ready for release and it flopped badly. It was based on Mozilla 0.6, which was not ready to be used by the general public yet due to many serious bugs that would cause it to crash often or render web pages slowly.

Later versions of Netscape 6 were much improved (6.2.x was regarded as an especially good release), but the browser still struggled to make an impact on a disappointed community.

Netscape (versions 7.0–7.2)[edit]

Netscape 7.0 (codenamed "Mach Five" and based on Mozilla 1.0.1) was released in August 2002 was a direct continuation of Netscape 6 with very similar components. It picked up a few users, but was still very much a minority browser, one of the problems being that Mozilla itself was a worthy adversary. In addition, AOL had decided to deactivate Mozilla's popup-blocker functionality in Netscape 7.0, which created an outrage in the community. In response to the complaints, AOL integrated the pop-up blocker into Netscape 7.01. In addition, Netscape introduced a new AOL-free-version (without the usual AOL addons) of the browser suite. Netscape 7.1 (codenamed "Buffy" and based on Mozilla 1.4) was released in June 2003.

In 2003, AOL closed down its Netscape division and laid-off or reassigned all of Netscape's employees. Mozilla.org continued as the independent Mozilla Foundation, taking on many of Netscape's ex-employees. AOL continued to develop Netscape in-house, but, due to there being no staff committed to it, improvements were minimal.

One year later, in August 2004, the last version based on Mozilla was released: Netscape 7.2, based on Mozilla 1.7.2.

Mozilla Firefox-based releases[edit]

Netscape Browser (version 8.0–8.1.3)[edit]

Netscape Browser 8.1.3

Between 2005 and 2007, Netscape's releases became known as Netscape Browser. AOL chose to base Netscape Browser on the relatively successful Mozilla Firefox, a re-written version of Mozilla produced by the Mozilla Foundation. This release is not a full Internet suite as before, but is solely a web browser. Other controversial decisions include these versions being made only for Microsoft Windows and featuring both the Gecko rendering engine of previous releases and the Trident engine used in Internet Explorer.

AOL's acquisition of Netscape years earlier made it less of a surprise when the company laid off the Netscape team and outsourced development to Mercurial Communications.

Netscape Browser 8.1.3 was released on April 2, 2007, and included general bug fixes identified in versions 8.0–8.1.2[17][18]

Netscape Navigator (version 9.0)[edit]

Netscape confirmed on 23 January 2007 that Netscape Browser versions 8.0–8.1.2 was to be succeeded by a new stand-alone browser release, Netscape Navigator 9. Its features were said to include newsfeed support and become more integrated with the Propeller Internet portal,[19] alongside more enhanced methods of discussion, submission and voting on web pages.[20] It also sees the browser return to multi-platform support across Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.[21] Like Netscape version 8.x, the new release was based upon the popular Mozilla Firefox (version 2.0), and had full support of all Firefox add-ons and plugins, some of which Netscape provided.[22] Also for the first time since 2004, the browser was produced in-house with its own programming staff.[23]

A beta of the program was first released on 5 June 2007.[24] The final version was released on October 15, 2007.

On December 28, 2007, Netscape developers announced that AOL would discontinue their web browser on February 1, 2008, due to low market share.[25] On January 28, 2008, Netscape revised this date to March 1, 2008, and offered support for migration to Flock and Mozilla Firefox.[26]

Release compatibility[edit]

Operating system Latest version
Mac OS v9.x-10.0 7.0.2 (2003)
v10.1 7.2 (2004)
v10.2-10.5 (2008)
Microsoft Windows 3.1 4.08 (1998)
95 6.2.3 (2002)
98 7.2 (2004)
98SE-Vista (2008)
Linux Linux kernel 2.2.14 (2008)

Release history[edit]

Internal Build Old final version Final version Pre-release version
Browser Name Series Version Based on Release date Notes
MCOM Mosaic
0.4 Netscape September 9, 1994 First In-dev Release
Mosaic NetScape 0.5 Netscape September 18, 1994 In-dev Release
0.6 Netscape September 26, 1994 In-dev Release (Private Beta by request [27]) - "http://" prefix no longer needed when entering website address
0.7 Netscape October 1994 In-dev Release - New throbber and application icon; Stop button now only enabled during transfers
0.8 Netscape October 1994 In-dev Release
0.85 Netscape October 1994 In-dev Release, possibly only for X11[28]
Mosaic Netscape 0.9 Netscape October 13, 1994 First public beta release - Added inline JPEG and cookie support.
0.91 Netscape October 1994 In-dev Release
0.92 Netscape October 1994 In-dev Release - Windows keyboard back/forward shortcut changed to alt+left/right (from ctrl+left/right); support for p align parameter
0.93 Netscape November 1994 In-dev Release - First version with Security (RSA/SSL) enabled
Netscape Navigator 0.94 Netscape November 21, 1994 In-dev Release
0.96 Netscape December 7, 1994 In-dev Release - Throbber changed to 'N'
1.0 Netscape December 15, 1994 First non-beta release
1.1 Netscape March 1995 Added support for tables, background images or colors. Throbber changed to 'N' on hill.
1.22 Netscape August 1995
2.0 Netscape September 18, 1995 Including JavaScript support, Java support, plug-ins, integrated Messenger / Collabra, Auto-dither, Live3D. Support for font color, div, wrap and textarea tags. Superscript / subscript, Animated GIF
2.01 Netscape March 18, 1996
2.02 Netscape
3.0 Netscape August 19, 1996 Added support for LiveAudio, LiveVideo, QuickTime, POP3, HTML 3.2 and extra tags.
3.01 Netscape
3.02 Netscape
3.03 Netscape July 31, 1997
3.04 Netscape October 4, 1997
Netscape Navigator / Communicator 4.x 4.0 Netscape June 11, 1997 Suite version marketed as Netscape Communicator included Navigator, Messenger, Composer, Collabra, Netcaster, and Conference.
4.01 Netscape June 18, 1997
4.01a Netscape July 19, 1997
4.02 Netscape August 18, 1997
4.03 Netscape September 14, 1997
4.04 Netscape November 14, 1997
4.05 Netscape April 2, 1998
4.06 Netscape August 17, 1998 Added Macromedia Flash plug-in, "Smart Browsing" and NetWatch.
4.07 Netscape October 5, 1998
4.08 Netscape November 9, 1998 last release for 16-bit Windows and 68k Macs
Netscape Communicator 4.5 Netscape October 19, 1998 Added integrated / Internet messaging, enhanced SmartBrowsing
4.51 Netscape March 8, 1999
4.6 Netscape May 18, 1999 Added AIM, RealPlayer G2, NetHelp
4.61 Netscape June 14, 1999
4.7 Netscape September 30, 1999 Added Netscape Radio, Shop@Netscape, AIM 3.0, Winamp and PalmPilot.
4.72 Netscape February 22, 2000 Removed Calendar Client feature
4.73 Netscape May 5, 2000
4.74 Netscape July 22, 2000
4.75 Netscape September 17, 2000
4.76 Netscape October 25, 2000
4.77 Netscape April 16, 2001
4.78 Netscape July 20, 2001
4.79 Netscape November 10, 2001
4.8 Netscape August 22, 2002 Final Communicator-based release
Netscape 5
PreAlpha1 Netscape Never released, didn't reach Alpha or Beta status
PreAlpha2 NSLayout
Netscape 6
6.0 Mozilla 0.6 November 14, 2000 First Netscape release based on pre-release Mozilla Application Suite. Included Sidebar, customisable installer size, integrated search, themes, privacy protection and multiple e-mail accounts.
6.01 Mozilla 0.7 February 9, 2001
6.1 Mozilla August 8, 2001 Added new default interface, searching from location bar, Mac OS X support on preview release.
6.2 Mozilla October 30, 2001 Improved QuickLaunch, AutoComplete. Full support for Mac OS X and Windows XP
6.2.1 Mozilla
6.2.2 Mozilla
6.2.3 Mozilla May 15, 2002 Last officially supported version on Windows 95.
Netscape 7
7.0 Mozilla 1.0.1 August 29, 2002 Based on final Mozilla Suite releases. Added tabbed browsing, pop-up blocker, full-screen mode, download manager, P3P support.
7.01 Mozilla 1.0.2 December 10, 2002
7.02 Mozilla 1.0.2 February 18, 2003 Last release to support Mac OS 9.
7.1 Mozilla 1.4 June 30, 2003 Support Windows Media Player ActiveX control, web services by JavaScript API's.
7.2 Mozilla 1.7.2 August 17, 2004 Improved password manager, vCard support, Palm Sync. Added Netscape Toolbar and table editing in Composer.
Netscape Browser
0.5.6 Firefox 0.9.3 November 30, 2004 Stand-alone Windows-only browser based on Firefox, beta version. Uses both Gecko and Trident layout engines. Added site controls, multibar, password auto-fill, and advanced tabbed browsing controls.
0.6.4 Firefox 1.0 January 7, 2005 Pre-beta version
0.9.4 Firefox 1.0 February 17, 2005 Pre-beta version
0.9.5 Firefox 1.0 February 23, 2005 Pre-beta version
0.9.6 Firefox 1.0 March 3, 2005 Beta version
8.0 Firefox 1.0.3 May 19, 2005 Finished Netscape 8 release
8.0.1 Firefox 1.0.3 May 19, 2005
8.0.2 Firefox 1.0.4 June 17, 2005
8.0.3 Firefox 1.0.6 July 25, 2005 Firefox 1.0.6 August 8, 2005 Firefox 1.0.6 August 17, 2005
8.0.4 Firefox 1.0.7 October 19, 2005
8.1 Firefox 1.0.7 January 25, 2006 Added spyware and adware protection, new Dynamic Security Centre, profile manager, new options panel, and enhanced RSS controls.
8.1.2 Firefox September 27, 2006
8.1.3 Firefox April 2, 2007 Final Netscape 8 release
Netscape Navigator
9.0b1 Firefox June 15, 2007 Stand-alone browser based on Mozilla Firefox 2, total re-write from Netscape 8.x. Gecko-only support. Added Netscape.com integration, enhanced FTP listing interface, customizable link-pad, multi-platform support, greater Firefox add-on compatibility, and new user interface.
9.0b2 Firefox July 12, 2007 Added greater tabbed browsing options
9.0b3 Firefox August 15, 2007 Removed Propeller integration.
9.0rc1 Firefox October 1, 2007 Re-added optional splash screen
9.0 Firefox October 15, 2007 Finished Navigator 9 release Firefox October 22, 2007 Firefox November 1, 2007 Firefox November 2, 2007 Firefox November 27, 2007 Firefox December 11, 2007 Firefox February 20, 2008 Final version of Navigator 9. Support discontinued March 1, 2008.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dunn, Kent. "The First Great Internet Browser War". TopTenReviews. Archived from the original on 2014-09-04. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  2. ^ "Home :: The Netscape Archive". Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2006-09-29.
  3. ^ Lasar, Matthew (2011-10-11). "Before Netscape: the forgotten Web browsers of the early 1990s". Arstechnica. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  4. ^ "Netscape Communicator 4.0 Available". Information Technology Services. The University of Hong Kong. Archived from the original on 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  5. ^ "January 22, 1998 – the Beginning of Mozilla | Mitchell's Blog".
  6. ^ Mike Pinkerton, "Open Source Developers at Google Speaker Series: Camino", January 19, 2007
  7. ^ marcoos (May 16, 2004). "Where to download Netscape Communicator 5 alpha version". SillyDog701. Archived from the original on May 29, 2012.
  8. ^ Moeller, Michael (1998-07-24). "Netscape works out kinks in Mozilla". ZDNet. Archived from the original on 2001-11-17. Retrieved 2024-05-09.
  9. ^ McLean, Prince (2007-10-18). "Road to Mac OS X Leopard: Safari 3.0". AppleInsider. Retrieved 2024-05-09.
  10. ^ Festa, Paul (2004-10-13). "Unearthing the origins of Firefox". CNET. Retrieved 2024-05-09.
  11. ^ Eich, Brendan (1998-10-26). "Development Roadmap". Mozilla.org. Archived from the original on February 24, 1999.
  12. ^ Koman, Richard (1998-12-23). "Gecko Changes Everything". WebTools. Archived from the original on September 30, 1999. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  13. ^ Corre, Catherine (2000-04-05). "Netscape Launches Next-generation Netscape 6 Browser, Available Today for Download On Netscape Netcenter". Business Wire.
  14. ^ Mains, Derick (2000-08-08). "Netscape 6 Preview Release 2 Available Today". Business Wire.
  15. ^ Mains, Derick (2000-10-04). "Netscape Unveils Redesigned Netscape.com, Launches Netscape 6 Preview Release 3". Business Wire.
  16. ^ Corre, Catherine (2000-11-14). "Netscape launches groundbreaking Netscape 6 Browser". Business Wire.
  17. ^ Netscape Community - Netscape 8.1.3 Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 8 February 2007.
  18. ^ Netscape Community – Netscape 8.1.3 released Archived 2009-01-10 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 8 February 2007.
  19. ^ Netscape 9.0 confirmed on Netscape's community support board Archived 2008-03-27 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on January 24, 2007
  20. ^ Netscape 9 – 20 February Announcement Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on February 20, 2007
  21. ^ Netscape 9.0 – 30 Jan 07 announcement Archived 2008-05-28 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on January 30, 2007
  22. ^ Netscape 9 – 6 February 2007 announcement Archived 15 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on February 6, 2007
  23. ^ Netscape announces cross-platform Netscape 9 to be developed in a house – Mozillazine Retrieved on February 5, 2007
  24. ^ Netscape 9.0b1 released Archived 2009-01-09 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 5 June 2007
  25. ^ Drapeau, Tom (2007-12-28). "End of Support for Netscape Web Browsers". The Netscape Blog. Archived from the original on December 29, 2007. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  26. ^ Drapeau, Tom (2008-01-28). "Netscape Browser Support extended to March 1st – The Netscape Blog". The Netscape Blog. Archived from the original on January 31, 2008. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
  27. ^ "Marc Andreessen. "WWW-Talk Jul-Sep 1994: anyone want to beta test a new client?". The World Wide Web History Project.
  28. ^ "Welcome to NetScape Beta 0.85". Mosaic Communications Corporation.

External links[edit]