AOL has announced that February 1, 2008, will mark the end of the Netscape browser. I know many of you probably weren't around for this, but Netscape was the first product that really acknowledged the fact that home computer users wanted to -- and could -- easily use the Internet. It wasn't the first browser we used -- NCSA Mosaic was -- but Mosaic was built by and for folks on very high speed connections at universities and government institutions. Using Mosaic over dial-up -- which was all that the "rest of us" had back then -- was a trying experience as we waited for each and every image and page to download each and every time. Netscape was the first browser (in alpha and then beta releases) to include a cache, so we didn't have to re-download copies of stuff we already had.
Netscape's IPO sent shockwaves through the industry, and really got "mainstream" investors focused on emerging tech in a way that was revolutionary for the market.
Then, of course, came the browser wars between Netscape and IE and, well, the rest is pretty well known. Netscape has been unable to regain any ground against IE, and instead says they're going to work on making a Netscape "skin" for Firefox, perhaps as a nod to their faithful users.
In a way, I'm sad to see it go, but only because of what it represents in terms of the industry's revolution. Business-wise, it has simply been around too long, and needs to be squashed. Good move, AOL.
Now a question for Time Warner: how long until you sell off AOL and get back to business?