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What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?

Through my daily reading of tech news, I came across this dandy: Netscape Navigator 9 Beta released.

Wait a second, you mean to tell me that Netscape A) even still exists and B) is still releasing new versions of Navigator? Until reading that headline today, Netscape had ceased to exist in my mind. The last version of NN I played around with (out of curiosity) was something in the 7.0 timeframe (5 years ago) which left my machine as quickly as it got there, namely due to huge memory consumption.

The point is this: I'm a web developer, and I forgot about the company who once used to dominate the browser market...that's how much of a non-commodity they've become.

Curiosity got the better of me and I did a little poking around to see what kind of market share (if any) Netscape still has after all these years. The results were not surprising in the least:

And from own site's last 10,000 hits (first column is hits):

  • 7 0.07% Netscape 7.2
  • 3 0.03% Netscape 7.1
  • 1 0.01% Netscape 8.0.4

I haven't been on a team that tested site compatibility in Netscape since the first year or 2 of my career. All of this screams the question, "who over at AOL is still signing these guy's paychecks?" And "why are stockholders still allowing development to continue on what is effectively a dead platform?" AOL is still locked into 3 more years of a 7 year contract with Microsoft to use IE code in the AOL browser, so they can't even use NN/Gecko in one of their flagship products...very strange bedfellows indeed.

The irony of all this is of course that the Gecko engine released by Netscape way back in 2000 managed to survive the carnage, and is now the foundation for numerous popular browsers, notably Firefox which commands much higher market share, but it doesn't do AOL any good until 2010. Any other company would have cut the codebase loose by now. Chop it up, salvage what you can, and move on.

It's still an interesting story though...a Classic Silicon valley tale. Here's to hoping I forget about Netscape in the not so distant future yet again.

Sidenote: I think if I was an engineer at AOL on the Navigator team, I'd lie to all my programmer friends and just say I worked on Real Player. It's that bad. Which is crazy seeing as they used to have some of the most amazing talent in the browser biz. Poor management will do that to a team.
 


Posted Thu, Jun 7 2007 1:05 AM by Jayson Knight
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Comments

Simone wrote re: What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?
on Wed, Jun 6 2007 11:47 PM

My blog, up and running since December 06, had only 4 visits (not hits) over almost 17.000 total visits, all from 7.2 versions of netscape.

Same number as "gzip" user agent :-|

Fuzzyman wrote re: What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?
on Thu, Jun 7 2007 4:46 PM

From Voidspace ( http://www.voidspace.org.uk ) - around 80000 visitors in May:

Netscape 6595 0.2 %

The 6000 is hits obviously, not visits.

Of those:

NETSCAPE 6595 0.2 %

Netscape 8.1.3 No 896 0 %

Netscape 8.1.2 No 343 0 %

Netscape 8.1 No 101 0 %

Netscape 8.0.4 No 113 0 %

Netscape 8.0.3.4 No 59 0 %

Netscape 8.0.3.3 No 27 0 %

Netscape 8.0.2 No 55 0 %

Netscape 8.0.1 No 20 0 %

Netscape 8.0 No 10 0 %

Netscape 7.2 No 1384 0 %

Netscape 7.1 No 300 0 %

Netscape 7.02 No 164 0 %

Netscape 7.01 No 19 0 %

Netscape 7.0 No 110 0 %

Netscape 6.2.3 No 8 0 %

Netscape 6.2.2 No 3 0 %

Netscape 6.2.1 No 38 0 %

Netscape 6.2 No 36 0 %

Netscape 5.0 No 960 0 %

Netscape 4.8 No 7 0 %

Netscape 4.79 No 6 0 %

Netscape 4.78 No 22 0 %

Netscape 4.77 No 12 0 %

Netscape 4.76 No 4 0 %

Netscape 4.7 No 31 0 %

Netscape 4.61 No 15 0 %

Netscape 4.5 No 89 0 %

Netscape 4.08 No 9 0 %

Netscape 4.06 No 142 0 %

Netscape 4.0 No 1553 0 %

Netscape 3.01 No 37 0 %

Netscape 3.0 No 10 0 %

Netscape 2.0 No 1 0 %

Netscape 0.91 No 3 0 %

Netscape 0.6 No 6 0 %

Erwan wrote re: What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?
on Thu, Jun 7 2007 10:57 PM

I'm not affiliated to Netscape or AOL in any way, but:

1. Since Netscape is still based on Gecko and most web developers test against Firefox, there is no compatibility problem

2. The browser market is huge (billions of users) and even a ridiculous percentage can mean a lot of users, even enough to be profitable

I'm not saying that Netscape is a good product, just that it may be worth continuing for AOL :)

Oleg Tkachenko wrote re: What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?
on Fri, Jun 8 2007 4:00 AM

They don't build their browser indeed. Netscape Navigator nowadays is just mozilla browser with Netscape logo.

Why not? After all they donated Navigator sources so now we have Firefox.

Karthik Hariharan wrote re: What If You Built A Browser, But No One Used It?
on Sun, Jun 10 2007 7:59 AM

agreed, seems like a waste of AOL's money to continue its development.  Maybe its some sort of ad-stream for them though.

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