29 February 2008

End of an Era on the Internet

An icon of the early days of the Internet will bite the dust, as of tomorrow. It's the once-popular Netscape Navigator.

I remember my early days on the Web, when I was running a very buggy version of Mosaic - on a hand-built 486 running Windows 3.1 and 16-bit winsock.dll for Internet access. (Of course, 16-bit winsock.dll has itself been history for ages.) This was in 1994. Mosaic couldn't even center text, much less display animated graphics or tables; nevertheless, I used this primitive World Wide Web to get enough information to, say, meet Mariah Carey. (Back then, most of the serious stuff on the Internet was available through other primitive technologies, such as Telnet and FTP, as opposed to the Web. There was very little commercial content.)

Not long afterwards, beta versions of Netscape Navigator started to circulate, with its distinctive blue N, moving in and out to indicate browser status. It was downloaded from mcom.com (Mosaic Communications), later renamed netscape.com. That blue N lasted until the first official version, 1.0N, then was replaced by a more elaborate graphic scheme starting at version 1.1. It was with this browser, by now much more stable, that I visited the first commercial websites available, such as Toyota and American Airlines, in 1995. By version 2, framed browsing was available, and I used those functions in my own website projects.

Those were the early days. I stopped using Netscape Navigator when version 6 came out, with its extremely buggy HTML editor and email program. I had preferred Netscape due to its leaner architecture over Microsoft Internet Explorer, but by Version 6, it was MSIE that was leaner and more stable. I haven't used Netscape since about 1999 for this reason, preferring MSIE, which was bundled with Windows anyway. In the past few years though, I've migrated over to Firefox, which uses the same Mozilla technology once used by Netscape, and is leaner, more stable, and easier to use than MSIE. And with my migration to the Macintosh platform, using Firefox has become a requirement, as I don't like Apple's own Safari, and MSIE is no longer available for Macintosh.

Netscape died due to Microsoft's predatory practices, but also due to Netscape's own faults, especially in releasing the bug-infested Navigator 6 that turned me off for good. But it's still sad to see an early icon of the Internet, one with many memories associated with it, disappear into oblivion. Here are some links dealing with Netscape Navigator:

Netscape Archive Page