Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Netscape Navigator: The King Is Dead, Long Live the ??

Well, I guess this is dating myself, but I remember when this Time magazine cover (see below) of the first Internet-Golden-Boy-of-the-Moment Marc Andreessen came out and essentially heralded the start of the first Web boom.


Specifically, it was Feb. 19, 1996, and the picture of the young entrepreneur–the driving force behind the first commercial browser, the Netscape Navigator–barefoot and sitting on a throne with the title, “The Golden Geeks,” was a wow moment for anyone covering the young but fast-growing sector.

It would be the first of many such covers that continue to this day about the latest and the (not necessarily) greatest next big thing in the digital sector.

But it still remains the most special one of its kind.

Sad then to see the end of the era when Time Warner-owned AOL said it would be pulling the plug on Navigator, as of Feb. 1. In Web terms, it is ancient–having launched in 1994.

AOL’s announcement last week means no more development and technical support for the piece of software that changed the entire Internet game, even though the Netscape name will limp on as part of a–let’s just say it, shall we?–likely-to-be lame ad play by AOL.

It’s not the most surprising decision, of course, given the Navigator was doomed a long while ago, mostly due to the aggression coming like a Death Star laser beam from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

But its demise–as I wrote in my first book about AOL–was also due to a series of oafish moves by Netscape execs, as well as one landmark deal AOL’s former CEO Steve Case did in that era to replace it in the then-top-dog service with Explorer.

Thus, AOL killed Netscape way back then and, after buying the company in 1999 for $10 billion, stabbed its heart again.

Of course, not completely, with the recent popularity of Navigator’s open-source kin, Firefox, gaining ground back from Explorer (it now has about 10% of the market).

Still, Navigator’s end is a poignant moment, and, in an industry with hardly any historical gravitas and where its young eat its old on a daily basis, it is a moment that cannot pass without some notice.