Posted by: reformedmusings | January 19, 2008

Death of a Pioneer

Netscape Navigator is officially dead. R.I.P.

My first graphical browsing experience was with NCSA Mosaic. It was challenging to setup and configure, but it worked great and literally ushered in a new era of connectivity. Netscape followed thereafter, building on the Mosaic platform and popularizing the web for the masses. Its and the Internet’s popularity rocketed past all expectations.

Just as at the start of Genesis 3, there was a snake in paradise. Microsoft couldn’t stand Netscape’s success in opening the Internet to the masses, so created the anemic Internet Explorer based on another variant of Mosaic. Unable to compete with the superior Netscape browser, Microsoft decided to win the battle not with superior innovation, but by giving their browser away for free. They also integrated IE deeply into Windows, essentially short-cutting any competition.

While the anemic IE floundered at first, free is a tough act to beat and stay in business. Microsoft could fall back on its lucrative income from its bloated operating system and application suites to cover the development and give-away of IE. Although Netscape led for a long time in innovation, they couldn’t compete with a free browser included and installed with every copy of an operating system. After a succession of valiant attempts to survive, including a successful lawsuit, the Netscape Navigator browser has finally closed its GUI for the last time.

Yet today, Microsoft faces an older and more enduring adversary that hasn’t folded for two reasons. First, it doesn’t require a revenue stream to survive. Second, because of sustained superior innovation from a diverse community. That adversary, the Zorro of the IT world, is Open Source Software. Innovative and superior browsers like Firefox, email programs like Thunderbird, office suites like OpenOffice.org, and the Linux operating system are growing in popularity. And they are all free–as you all can be if you will just climb out of the Windows of your software prison.

BTW, this was written in Firefox under Linux, as always.

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