RIP: Netscape Navigator (1994-2008)

Netscape Navigator, once the de rigeur browser for more than 90% of web users, will no longer be supported by current owner AOL after February 2008. Link. Post your ode to this code in the comments. Extra points if you can manage to refer to yourself as a "netizen" with a straight face. (thanks Bill)


  1. Netscape Gold 3.0 came in a box… in the store. Blew Mosaic out of the water. Netscape 4.x was great for awhile, but stuck around a little too long. Netscape should have been drug out back and shot a long time ago.

    Now if we could just see the same RIP headline for Internet Explorer.

    IE team, if you are reading: I hate you so much for IE6.

  2. I always saw that ‘N’ in the logo as stepping over the horizon, toward me. Now it is stepping away, out of sight. Presumably to have a party with BeOS and Grokster.

  3. Sometime in 1999, a roommate at the time– a student at NYU– was complaining that she couldn’t see certain images on the web. A bit of investigation revealed that the university’s software package had installed Netscape 1.0– which didn’t support JPEG images.

    I miss the throbbing “N”, though. It was just so hypnotic and subtly threatening.

  4. I thought Netscape died when Mozilla started to gain popularity. I suppose it did, in terms of whether people actually used it.

  5. Our thoughts and prayers are with JWZ, who survives the loss.

    First, the IBM 650 and now Netscape. These things happen in threes don’t they? We’re looking your way Internet Explorer… who will write your EULAgy?

  6. Ahh, I remember switching from Mosaic to Netscape. I can’t remember how I downloaded my first web browser though… Gopher, maybe? Probably FTP.

  7. I worked for the company that created the LiveAudio plugin for Navigator 3, and created the first LiveAudio-aware website for the band The Verve Pipe. We wrote demo pages that got carted around by Netscape executives, had almost-daily communication with a (then-small) team of Netscape engineers working on “LiveConnect” (the way to access plugins via Javascript).

    All in all, we were really excited with what we were doing. It was that Wild West frontier spirit.

    We had no clue that we would be the instigators of the second-most-reviled web hack of embedded auto-starting audio inside a page. (The most reviled hack, of course, being the popup, which we had nothing to do with– I don’t think.)

    So, on behalf of the little 5-man web development shop who, back in 1996, created the “what the hell is coming out of my speakers?!?!?” phenomenon, I would like to apologize.

  8. #9 M242: I forgive you. Sorta.

    Loved Netscape. I remember being so upset when AOL got a hold of it. It was a “The bastards won!” kind of feeling. Now it seems so trivial and long ago.

  9. I’ll miss Natscape’s little animated astronomical display in my top browser corner. On a slow dial-up connection back in ’94, it was pretty much the only thing that told me my Mac wasn’t completely frozen.

  10. [Cranky Old Man Mode ON] I’ve been a netizen since well before there was a World Wide Web. I remember reading on USENet about this World Wide Web thing. And I thought, “That’s all very well for them eggheads at CERN, but it won’t replace Gopher or USENet.” Then I got Mosaic somehow. I remember when there were less than a hundred web sites.

    In my day, we looked at web sites at 33.6 kbit/s. And we liked it that way!

    Now you got these newfangled weefiis and deesels, eh, you kids’re spoiled. Spoiled I say! Cable TV was meant for TV, not teh internets. It promotes promiscuity, I tell ya. [COMM OFF]

  11. Net-scape?

    Netscape, IIRC, was a world wide web super information highway communication application or something, right?

    Netscape lost me when they had about six million different browsers out at the same time. There was Netscape, Netscape Gold, Netscape 4.x, Netscape Navigator, Netscape Communicator or Commander or some damn thing and probably some other tinkly-winkly hurdy gurdy version — they may have all been the same damn thing for all I knew — but you could never tell what with all the (new and obsolete) shrapnel arriving on disc in the mail, on cereal boxes, in my stool, in magazines, so it was a bit mad, and since I could never figure out what the eff netscape version was the latest that I was supposed to install, esp. since I kept installing versions older than what I had had, I just gave up, used something else (wow, cannot even remember the name), and waited for Firefox to come along.

    Netscape, good riddance.

  12. I remember making the shift in gears from my life in da toobs via DialCom, billboards, UseNet and the deep late night dips into the Well – from there to the World Wide Web, when it finally came along, lookin’ all fancy with its pictures and pages – oh yeah, my first Mosaic browser, as clunky as it was, seemed soooooooo revolutionary – and then shortly after that I was always always always on with the Netscape – that was my toob truck – riding the big N on the infobahn – flipping the bird to IE whenever I got the chance – what a ride – never thought it would ever end – and I didn’t stop driving the N ’til I went on Safari – even then, it was with guilt and wistful apprehension – leavin’ a friend behind. Of course now the Safari’s over and my Fox is on Fire! I knew the toob music had died the day the AOLsters gobbled up the big N – ’twas only a matter of time – and so where do we go from here? No matter where, nor how, there will always be hanging in the bright aurora of the toob lit night sky the luminescent shadows of that big N and the memories and knowledge of where it took us all.

    G’nite N.

  13. #3 “I always saw that ‘N’ in the logo as stepping over the horizon, toward me….”

    I just remembered a dream I had, in probably 1997. The dream took place in the not-too-distant future (probably about now.)

    I dreamt I woke up in my bed and a translucent, humming, poster-sized 3-D Navigator logo was floating over the foot of my bed.

    I was kind of mixing metaphors in my sleep, because the logo hummed quietly with a sci-fi motor sound until I woke up, then said in the voice of HAL from 2001, “Good morning Michael….Where would you like to go today?”

  14. This is like reading the obit about someone you chummed around with in high school but lost track of when you went to univ.

    Somehow we got “Netscrape” on our old Macintosh LC4xx in what? 95?

    The first site we visited was the Louvre’s website. (And, I’m embarrassed to admit, I wondered if, somehow, we’d be charged for using the site. HA)

    I honestly feel, if it hadn’t been for the pioneering spirit of the first Netscape developers, I might not be sitting here, using Firefox. (Good Zod, I might be sitting here using IE.)

    RIP – anyone for a 21 version salute?

  15. #19 “This is like reading the obit about someone you chummed around with in high school but lost track of when you went to univ.”

    Jesus. I spit coffee on my monitor laughing when I read that! And it’s so damn true.

  16. #19 “This is like reading the obit about someone you chummed around with in high school but lost track of when you went to univ.”

    Jesus. I spit coffee on my monitor laughing when I read that! And it’s so damn true.

  17. #14 Doggo – I believe you jest, had you been a true netizen you’d have been waxing lyrical about upgrading from 2400 to 9600. We dared not even dream about 33.6K!

  18. #22 – I went straight from 2400 to 14.4. Now that was speed.

    Netscape was my first real browser (I remember Lynx, pine, trn, all of those lovely text-based tools). I lost track of it around the time my husband convinced me to move over to PCs from Macs so he could play games. #19 has it exactly right.

  19. I spent 1995-96 obsessively doodling Netscape “N” logos on legal pads during newspaper staff budget meetings. I wasn’t sure what it all meant, but it felt like a portal to a better world.

  20. I arrived a bit behind the wave but Mosaic was still the default on the Win95 machine I bought. Took me about 3 days to figure out when I was actually browsing the Internet Web; that is, following 3 days of figuring out what a desktop was.

    Moving up to Netsacpe 4 started my advanced Web use, precipitating my life as a netizen.

    Maybe Firefox finally fixed all the old Mozilla memory problems they had on Windows. But it occasionally acts like they are still there, occasionally acts like the vestiges of Netscape.

  21. I arrived a bit behind the wave but Mosaic was still the default on the Win95 machine I bought. Took me about 3 days to figure out when I was actually browsing the Internet Web; that is, following 3 days of figuring out what a desktop was.

    Moving up to Netsacpe 4 started my advanced Web use, precipitating my life as a netizen.

    Maybe Firefox finally fixed all the old Mozilla memory problems they had on Windows. But it occasionally acts like they are still there, occasionally acts like the vestiges of Netscape.

  22. Somehow, I will remember Netscape as my most opaque browsing experience. Internet Explorer, then Safari, then Firefox have all been, more or less, windows of different tints, while Netscape Navigator was not simply a mode of viewing the web; it was using Netscape Navigator to access the web

    I think it was due to the presence of a splash screen.

    Actually, it’s amazing how small it looks on a modern LCD.

  23. See? I told Marc that Netscape was a dumb idea. Who’d pay for it when Mosiac was already available for free?

  24. I was the first person on my campus to get a web browser running — pokey old Mosaic. Had to download the entire contents of the page before it could free up enough brains to render anything. Netscape 0.9 (which, if memory serves, was called Mosaic Netscape) was a revelation. Not just because of the Big Blue N that pulsed luridly in and out of the screen, but because it rendered data as it came in. That’s probably not, in the end, any faster but it sure seemed like it. In a sense, the battle goes on. Mozilla/Firefox derives from Netscape, and Internet Explorer is based on Mosaic, purchased by Microsoft in 1995.

    Mosaic still loses.

    By the way, Jon Adair, Netscape was free too. It was released in a regular version and an “N” version (e.g. 1.0 and 1.0N). This version was freely downloadable for evaluation purposes, but you were supposed to voluntarily pay for it when you decided you liked it. Nobody ever did. Within a year, the distinction was dropped and only the free version was left, as long as you downloaded it. For the CD, you paid money, but why?

  25. Kind of died with the ad-supported version for me and pushed me to ie. still in use on loads of university catalogue terminals in the uk.

  26. I loved Netscape Navigator. Best browser available for a few years at least. I even actually paid for it! That’s right, I’m the only person I know who did, but I felt that it was so good that I wanted to help support the developers who made it. I was a good shareware user. Turns out forces much larger than I could imagine would enter the story not longer after my check was cashed.

    In honor of Netscape, I uploaded my original electronic receipt for Netscape Communicator 4, as a reminder for future generations that Netscape tried to sell their software to consumers for a while:

  27. What to say about ol’ Netscape? We were together for a while, sure. She was my first browser, introduced to me by a friend on my first computer. Well, we had some good times. I was still rooting for her when it became clear that IE was going to push her out of the market. Then her life was left in tatters. I just couldn’t hang around and watch her throw everything away like that: desperately trying to reinvent herself every week, foundering hopelessly, clinging to a time when she was more popular. “Nutscrape” everyone jeered as she started sinking below the surface, trying to sell all of her friends useless garbage and getting more and more bogged down. Yeah, that was when I stopped paying attention … a while back. I’m with another browser now and I can’t say that I’ve even thought about ol’ Netscape in a long, long time. *raises glass* To ol’ Netscape, we’ll remember you fondly.

  28. Just last week, I saw a boxed copy of Netscape Navigator Gold in a thrift store. It was kept in a glass case along with all the other (mostly outdated) software. I had to wonder whether they thought it was a valuable program or an antique. Maybe it’ll show up in a museum soon.

    Netscape was the best game in town for a while, but there were a couple years in the early ’00s where IE seemed far more usable and reliable (to me, at least). IE6 was lousy enough to put an end to that reign for good, and IE7 was just the nail in the coffin. I’m glad that Firefox is around to carry the torch now, in spite of its obscene propensity for memory leakage in Windows (just checked, and mine is currently taking up 1.2 Gb of memory – that may be a new record!).

    Xarker, I love your description of the N logo as this mysterious portal to a better world. I imagine it as the symbol of some vast underground network, like Pynchon’s muted post horn. The net was like that for a while, when things were new and hard to find. Surfing the web wasn’t just checking in on what’s new in the world; it was the discovery of arcane lore from parts unknown. My nostalgia for the big N is a nostalgia for that time. I’d say that I miss it, but it was already gone long ago.

  29. My two Netscape artifacts are thus: an in-the-box 3.5 inch floppy version of Navigator 1.0 (with manual), and, somewhere on one or both a cobweb-infested Mac Quadra 650/PowerMac 8500, a pre-commercial release (beta?) when the “N” logo was a pulsing magenta sans-serif bold monstrosity. Or am I imagining that last part…?

  30. “#14 Doggo – I believe you jest, had you been a true netizen you’d have been waxing lyrical about upgrading from 2400 to 9600. We dared not even dream about 33.6K!”

    HERE HERE! I was about to say the exact same thing!
    I still have my 2400 modem somewhere, it’s a thing of beauty!

  31. I remember when those new fangled URL things started appearing on yanoff’s list but it took a while for the local bbs i used as ftp/gopher/usenet gateway to provide web access.

    Napstimpy: I don’t believe so, I think there’s even a firefox theme for that look.

  32. I used netscape all through middle school and i have a bit of nostalgia about it. currently i use firefox with a netscape skin (YES!). It is cool, but I am still sad to hear they are getting rid of real netscape.

  33. I would still rather probably choose an early version of Netscape Navigator over today’s IE, but I am cranky that way.

  34. I worked for NCSA from ’90 through ’91, writing chemistry visualization software and porting the NCSA sci-vis tools to the IBM RS6000. They were just starting up this whole ‘hypertext viewer’ thing. They asked me if I wanted to work on the project. I said it sounded like boring network programming, and I wanted to do cool stuff like graphics.


    I still fondly remember Netscape, and my stubbornness sticking to it even at a point when IE was a clearly faster, more stable program on my windows box, purely out of reflexive anti-MS sentiment.

    I’m sure if I pulled out the box of ancient backups, I’d find a 3.5″ floppy of Netscape on it.

    And for the record, I remember ftp’ing Mosiac from the NCSA site for the SGI PI35. My coworker got via gopher.

    God, I’m so old.

  35. That time really reminds me on the whole plug-in craziness…anarchic assaults to cram any type of functionality into poor little Netscape, which it clearly couldn’t handle.

    But some of these technologies were actually brilliant…well, I think so. The main constraint was obviously bandwidth, so that’s where a lot of the creative thinking was spent.

    I can’t remember the name, but there was this “rich midi” plug-in where one would supply the sounds and then the midi score that triggered them. People did some great stuff with that. Can anybody remember that thing?

    Also liked what some artists did back then…anything from weird javascript hacks to mutilating animated gifs in absence of any other moving pictures…in particular this black girl from New York who did one of the early Depeche Mode sites (and lots of others). I spent hours trawling through her online labyrinths…again, anybody remember her name?

    RIP NS-times…

  36. I was a proud netzien (face straight). Netscape was my first and only browser in my early home computer days. Always good to me with no serious glitches or security problems. Hated using IE at work and couldn’t wait to get home to NS. I grudgingly added IE as a secondary browswer about ten years ago, just to to view those certain sites that looked better on it, or so I was told. Still used NS as primary and had my customized NS homepage. Went through several updated versions. At some point, NS stopped supporting the homepage features. One by one they stopped working. Then the browser support seemed to become more sporadic. Felt like the NS controllers were telling us the end was near. Fearing a major crash calamity,I finally gave in and did not load it on my latest computer. R.I.P. my old friend.

  37. Ah, back to the days of the high frontier… the first browser I used was Mosaic 0.3, and it was only maybe three or four months later that Netscape 0.9 appeared. It revolutionised the nascent web industry with tables with border=0 so you could position things instead of just present data, and a default white background instead of grey.

    It was the first real case of software being developed in the wild I think: every new release was jumped upon and poked and prodded for new HTML tricks and hacks. One I remember from quite early on was the multiple BODY hack, in which multiple body tags with different backgrounds could give a strobing or primitive animation effect. That was in 1.1 I think, and even the BBC used it for their homepage for a while. It was fixed in 1.2.

    The about: pages were abused horribly inside Netscape. Regular staff had homepages linked to their handles (or in jwz’s case, a new throbber too) but there were so many easter eggs: the fishcam, about:mozilla (still in Firefox) and the error handling in v3 and v4, which met any unrecognised command with ‘whatchew talkin’ about, Willis?’ (might have been only the Solaris/Linux version, but I think you could coax it out of the Mac and Windows versions somehow).

    For all that, it was possible to distribute Netscape 0.9/1.x, Eudora, WinFTP, FreeAgent and HotMeTaL on two floppies. Tell that to the youth of today and they won’t believe you.

  38. Rest in peace, Netscape. You opened my eyes and guided me into internet. Your blood and vision continue in future generations, Firefox and others.. Thank you, just…thank you.

  39. Yeah I remember downloading Netscape 0.9 from my Uni at 33.6 kbit/s when it first came out. I loved it and used it for years and to be honest stuck with Netscape far too long after the browser had become a load of rubbish. Oh well, its final passing is a bit sad and I’ll miss Netscape but to be honest if its developers truly cared about the poor old thing they would have euthanasised it a long time ago…

  40. Netscape Communicator was my first browser. I loved it so dearly. I admit I was an Internet Explorer user for about a year after that, but then I discovered Opera, later Mozilla, and now I am a devout Firefox user.

    Ye shall be missed, O Netscape.

  41. I know I used Netscape, but I can’t remember too much about it. Oh, well. History marches on and nothing lasts forever.

  42. “netizen,” ha!

    i’m a “wellpern,” you young whippersnappers.

    now get off my lawn! ::shakes fist::

  43. This brings back memories of my first time on a high speed connection, and the whole dot-bomb era. Killed by The Clueless Masses firing up IE, never knowing they weren’t getting the “real” web experience. Feels like remembering an old favorite car model that long ago bit the dust.

  44. Hmmm….I wonder whether I should finally put my original Netscape 1.0 3.5″ floppy in original packaging up on eBay…..will probably fetch 50 cents.

  45. I remember downloading Netscape from Gopher (or maybe it was compuserve) and being absolutley amazed that the internet had PICTURES!!!

  46. Switching from Lynx to Mosaic to Netscape had its downsides too.

    First of all, remember all the constantly expiring free downloads?

    Second, remember <blink> and other proprietary non-standard HTML?

    The engineers at Netscape seemed more to be adversaries of w3c than participants. Their app never really understood SGML at all, and never had a document model, and reacted to each tag it saw in order, in a haphazard fashion. The result was millions of web page authors were taught bad HTML.

    It was fast, though, and those early downloads included all kinds of things — mail readers, ftp hosts, AIM — in a relatively unbloated package.

    Netscape is dead. Long live Mozilla.

  47. I guess I’m sort of a latecomer… I remember learning HTML on an old Mac back around ’97 or so. I think it was Navigator 3.0 back then? I’ve used every browser since then, on both Mac OS and Windows, before finally settling on Opera. Thanks, Netscape, just seeing your splash screen brings back memories of a simpler time.

  48. Ok this is on a tangent but still on topic (Me prays). Please please tell me I’m not the only one to have ever used or tried this or I might start believing I am going mad…

    I used the net well before I had a graphical web browser (mosaic), the trouble was not that the web was fresh (it was) or that I couldn’t run the browser, but my trouble was that the provider I used, which was a local scientific institute where I (and lots of other kids) used a professor’s stolen login to connect, was devoid of slip or ppp (PPP was high tech at that time) it was VT100 terminal only…

    Until I found slipnot or slipknot, it was a browser like mosaic, designed to run over a terminal connection, without slip… it used lynx and ftp on the shell of the server to obtain the page source from the web, and then rz to zmodem it to itself to build and display….

    After weeks of fight, I managed to make it work ONCE, and never again, it took me… what, three years to visit the web in graphics again (gopher was still fun back then. I miss it.). And never ever heard about it again.

    I’ve tried to find material about this browser, to prove I was not hallucinating, but that damn band had to take a similar name, and bury any references of it away from the nooks of google and yahoo forever….

    Please someone prove to me I was not mad!

  49. I remember opening NCSA Mosaic back in ’93 on a Sparcstation using Openwindows, it was like the heavens opened and angels sang when I browsed the Zima website.

    Remember web 1.0, when they introduced frames to HTML and people complained endlessly? And 90% of webpages had the default gray background with the “under construction” icon surrounded by blink tags. I don’t miss those days.

  50. That’s the saddest news I’ve heard in a while.

    Dear Netscape, while you were my first, you most certainly weren’t my last. RIP old friend.

  51. in 1993, me and my geeky pals made NWHQ, one of the first art/hypertext literature websites in the world. using mosaic. anyone remember the first mosaic webwideworld conference in chicago? hah… i was there.

    in 1994, we upgraded the site, to netscape. and then, tables! wheeeeeeeee…

    ah, them were heady times… we actually thought we would change the world.

  52. Netscape 4 was responsible for me leaving IT and going back to the mailroom and the dole queue for years until the damage it did blew over.

    I was a CSS true believer from an early date, and Netscape’s handling of CSS made Microsoft look positively saintly. By version 4 Netscape’s highest priority was control of the platform (ie. the Web), so they not only had no interest in playing nice with others, they had a strong incentive to do otherwise.

    While they were working on selling licenses to corporate IT departments and recasting their software as an even clunkier alternative to Lotus Notes, any attention to quality went out the window. Not only was Netscape’s implementation of CSS so far from the standard (and Microsoft’s) that you couldn’t use it in the real world, it was so flaky you couldn’t even use it in a controlled, all-Netscape intranet. You could crash NN4 with valid CSS.

    Netscape deserved everything that happened to them. The one positive thing I learned from the experience was to never put yourself in a position where you have to depend on proprietary software for your livelihood.

  53. Netscape beta was my gateway drug from Prodigy, America Online v2.0 and Sierra’s !magination (anyone remember that?) into the proper world wide web, a wild and lawless world where people were just coming to grips with adding images into their web pages when I arrived.
    Back then newsgroups were still the dominant type of web community, people were still designing websites for Lynx and Mosaic, and you could still find phone numbers for BBSs to call.

    I will miss it the way one would miss watching their first bicycle get thrown away, but I’m not surprised. Given the history of computer science, it isn’t surprising that Netscape is now dead. Technological innovation in practice is a viciously competitive place, and if you make enough wrong business or development decisions you’ll lose your competitive edge, the true kiss of death for anything having to do with computers.
    Several of their priorities (such as DHTML) turned into dead ends, and while the anti-trust lawsuit bought them some time, it’s never good for a business to bite the hand of the operating system which runs their software, much less to buck a trend towards integration that still continues today.

    It will always have pride of place in history, like the Amiga before it, as an alternate evolutionary path computers might have taken had things gone differently.

    And for those anti-Explorer rebels still among us, Mozilla’s next of kin Firefox is alive and well.

  54. I was one of N’s stockholders way back in the day. Made a nice (little) piece of change from finally selling a year later.

  55. Dear Netscape:

    don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you AOL-acting forever downloading intrusive crapy-stuff on my computer musty old outdated browser.

  56. Nice to know we have all these DARPANET geezers and Wellpern and refugees from FIDOnet and GEnie and alt.warlord hanging about. Why, we used to dream about 9600 … and when you logged on to GEnie from our area, and the automated login script virtually punched the 11-digit login code into our touchtone phone, it played the opening notes of the “Loony Tunes” theme.

    Clay, thanks for the splash screen. Haven’t seen that in years. I remember when the splash screen and the pulsing Netscape logo seemed perfect in the silence of the night, as I stayed up way too late to surf the newly-forming web. I had the sense that I was somehow sailing into its star-dotted darkness on a voyage of discovery.

    The pulsing logo is inextricably mixed up with the memory of sleep starting to overtake me, making the slightly jerky animation even jerkier as the image blurred and doubled.

    We were, of course, on the cutting edge of the new.

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