Netscape Communicator (or Netscape 4) is an Internet suite produced by Netscape Communications Corporation, and was the fourth major release in the Netscape line of browsers. It was first in beta in 1996 and was finally released in June 1997. Netscape Communicator addressed the problem of Netscape Navigator 3.x being used as both the name of the suite and the browser contained within it by renaming the suite to Netscape Communicator. It included more groupware features intended to appeal to enterprises.
The Mozilla Foundation was created in 1998 to co-ordinate the development of its successor, Netscape Communicator 5. However the ageing Communicator code proved to be difficult to work with, thus it was abandoned. The whole source code of Communicator was re-written by Mozilla, who were then testing it as Mozilla Application Suite. Netscape, now owned by AOL, finally released Communicator's successor Netscape 6 in November 2000, based on Mozilla Application Suite with changes and additions. Minor updates to Communicator continued to be issued, culminating in the release of Netscape Communicator 4.8 in August 2002.
Netscape Communicator was available in various editions, such as "Professional" and "Complete". The following components were included in Netscape Communicator (different editions had different components and some components were dropped in later editions):
In 1998, a major update to the program was released as Netscape 4.5. This included many improvements, mostly to the Messenger e-mail client, which now also took on the features of Collabra. However, some of the less popular components, such as Netcaster, were dropped. A feature called "Roaming Profiles" was added in version 4.5 that synchronized a user's bookmarks, address book and preferences with a remote server, so that a user's home and work browsers could have the same bookmarks. By the time version 4.5 was released, Netscape had started the Mozillaopen source project and had ceased charging for Communicator.
The term "Navigator" referred to the browser component alone, while "Communicator" referred to the suite as a whole, as established in version 4.0. However, due to user confusion, the names were often used interchangeably. Also, because none of the applications besides Navigator were popular on their own, and because Netscape never produced any other desktop software that approached the popularity of Navigator, people would often refer to both the Communicator suite and the Navigator browser as simply "Netscape". Further complicating the matter was the fact that the command to start Navigator in Unix was "netscape".
The Mozilla Foundation continued to develop the Netscape code base, providing the Mozilla Application Suite as a continuation of Netscape Communicator. The Mozilla Foundation decided in 2006 to discontinue development of the Application Suite. A community-maintained version called SeaMonkey has come to replace the Application Suite.