When you have 1.2% market share of the all the Web Browsers, there becomes a time when you just concede the fight and recommend your users use the best Web browser available. Netscape (owned by AOL) has reached its end-of-life and has announced the end of Netscape Browser to their users to use Mozilla Firefox. The most recent release (9.0) was essentially a Netscape-themed Firefox release.
“Recently, support for the Netscape browser has been limited to a handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.”
— Tom Drapeau, Director, Propeller/Netscape
Netscape cites the reasons for the changes were due to the changing business of the AOL organization, the Mozilla Firefox codebase and the transition of Netscape to the AOL portal.
It is also worthy of pointing out that the Netscape Web browser was based off the original Mozilla codebase; similarly so is Firefox, but Firefox trimmed out the additional features that Netscape had while breaking the e-mail client into a separate codebase known Thunderbird. Traditionally, AOL provided $2 million in annual funding to the Mozilla Foundation (now Mozilla Corporation). Mozilla has partnered with Google by embedding it’s search in the browser and has reported $66.8 million in revenue in 2006.
Netscape provided an archive of the distributions of the Netscape, but advises that no further product support will continue at http://browser.netscape.com/downloads/archive/.
Netscape Portal: Banged & Bruised
Netscape hasn’t had a lot of good news this year, either. I know I’ve been critical about Netscape and I see the now-current Propeller being more than just “another Digg clone.” When Jason Calacanis decided to empower Netscape users and revamp the Netscape.com homepage to be social, he rivaled his critics and disrupted the Social Media industry. Essentially, he accomplished what I can only imagine the main goal of his changes: increase engagement. However, after sustained negative feedback, people began losing faith in the portal.
Then Calacanis paid users for using the site, knowing full well about Participation Inequality, exploited it to his advantage with the Netscape “Navigators” system. One thing that set off the Social Media Blogosphere — his bounty for top users on other sites. Even I disagreed with the aggressive call to action; nonetheless, there was some drama. Digg’s owner, Kevin Rose promptly removed the Top Users section to prevent their most productive users in an effort to prevent being “bought” by other social news Web sites.
Then came the metrics. Page views were not sustaining since the launch, despite numerous advancements to the site and additional buzz about it. Calacanis defended that it performed the same (or better than) Digg did since their initial launch.
Later, AOL migrated Netscape.com e-mail addresses and ported them to AOL Web Mail. This was the final blow before Netscape’s numbers really saw some impact. One could argue that Netscape users were probably the most highly engaged e-mail users due to the significant drop in page views.
And recently, AOL re-branded the Netscape social news section and spun it off into Propeller and redirected users of Netscape.com to Netscape.AOL.com; a co-branded Netscape/AOL portal. (Another example of a co-branded AOL portal is HP/AOL…)
One thing is true — Netscape was a very static portal, with content that rarely changed. For users that stuck with it throughout the many (re)volutions that it had, they’ve proven they can adapt to change within the portal and brands pretty darn well.
What do you think?