AOL has effectively killed off Netscape, the browser that started the whole WWW thing, laying off 50 developers and moving what is left of the project — an open source version of the browser called Mozilla — to a non-profit basis, Paul Thurrott of WinInfo writes in its latest newsletter.
AOL purchased Netscape in November 1998 for a $4.2 billion (no, really) but last month signed a 7-year contract with Microsoft to use its Internet Explorer as the underlying technology in its AOL software, which pretty much signalled the depth of faith it had in its own browser. It really is the end of an era, or else the end of a very long funeral. IE now controls 95% of the browser market, pretty much reversing the situation about seven years ago.
Wired puts a more positive spin on the development, quoting Mozilla folk as saying this is the beginning of a new chapter, and saying that the Mozilla browser has “surpassed IE in terms of features and standards compliance. For example, the latest versions of Mozilla support tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking and junk-mail filtering — none of which is provided by IE.” This is Mozilla’s own version of the event.