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Netscape Logs Off

Today is the last day of the rest of Netscape's life. AOL, which bought the browser when it purchased Netscape Communications Corp. in 1998, is ending all support for it tomorrow. It will stop issuing updates and bug fixes and instead is pointing Netscape users to two newer browsers, Firefox and Flock.

AOL first announced the expiration of Netscape at the end of December, then gave users a one-month reprieve. In making this decision, the company was succumbing to the inevitable: Its erratic stewardship of Netscape had destroyed this browser's value long ago. The ugly, awkward and unreliable Netscape releases of the last few years had little to do with the
sleek program that captivated users beginning 1994.

Netscape was not the first browser I used--that honor went to NCSA Mosaic--but it was the second. And in spite of its frequent system crashes, it remained my primary Web software for years after that until its increasing bloat drove me to Internet Explorer (remember when that was the fast, modern alternative? How times have changed...).

Now it's all over for Netscape. This browser's market share has shriveled to barely six-tenths of a percent, and I hope that number drops to zero quickly--using a browser that no longer gets any security updates risks a drive-by hacking of your computer by hostile Web sites.

Of the two browsers AOL suggests as a replacement, I would go with Firefox. Although both it and Flock are based on the same source code as Netscape itself, Firefox is simpler overall, without Flock's added social-networking features. (Netscape's decision to publish its source code and welcome the contributions of outside programmers in early 1998 allowed its work to live on outside of AOL's mismanagement.) But either of these two programs would be a major improvement over what Netscape has become.

Please, share your memories of the departed browser in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  February 29, 2008; 11:19 AM ET
Categories:  The Web  
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