Netscape Navigator, 1994-2007

Time Warner has announced that it will stop supporting or updating Netscape Navigator. I didn’t know it was still being produced.

Back in the dark ages, before “the Internet” and “the Web” were synonymous to most people (before most people had ever heard of either, actually), when Bill Gates was still laughing off the Internet and the founders of Google were probably still in high school, the dominant web browser was NCSA Mosaic, produced by the good folks at, and available for free.

Then some of those folks left and started their own company, which they renamed Netscape after the University of Illinois objected to their calling it Mosaic. The release of Netscape 1.1 in late 1994 was a milestone; the first time that HTML tables had been properly implemented in a web browser. Among other things, this meant that publishers could put ads next to articles. Suddenly, we who were talking about web publishing had a business model.

I can’t find an image of it, but after they changed the name of the company they adopted one of the single ugliest corporate logos ever, a big blue embossed N, that when the browser was loading a page, reversed perspective, sinking into the page and then coming back up, so that it was universally known as the “breathing N.”

By 1996 or so Internet Explorer was already edging it out, and I now remember Netscape mainly as a pain in the ass, with its horribly broken Javascript interpreter and non-standard silliness like “server push.” Between Netscape’s bugginess and IE’s deliberate disregard of standards (and its bugginess) the late 90s were not a fun time to build fancy web applications that actually worked for the majority of your users.

But Netscape had a good run, managed to shake up Microsoft when it was nearly all-powerful, and was for a while the biggest news in the industry.

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