The Story of the Netscape Browser

Platforms Macintosh: 68K, Power Mac
PC: Win95, 3.X, NT [Intel and Alpha], OS/2
Unix: AIX, BSDI, HP-UX, IRIX, Linux, OSF, Sparc Solaris, SunOS
VMS: VAX, Alpha
About the
In mid-1994, Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark collaborated with Marc Andreessen to found Mosaic Communications (later renamed to Netscape Communications.) Andreessen had just graduated from the University of Illinois, where he had been the leader of a certain software project known as "Mosaic". By this time, the Mosaic browser was starting to make splashes outside of the academic circles where it had begun, and both men saw the great potential for web browsing software. Within a brief half-year period, many of the original folk from the NCSA Mosaic project were working for Netscape, and a browser was released to the public.

Netscape quickly became a success, and the overwhelming market share it soon had was due to many factors, not the least of which was its break-neck pace of software releases (a new term was soon coined - "internet time" - which described the incredible pace at which browsers and the web were moving.) It also created and innovated at an incredible pace. New HTML capabilities in the form of "extensions" to the language were introduced. Since these capabilities were often flashier than what other run-of-the-mill browsers could produce, Netscape's browser helped cement their own dominance. By the summer of 1995, it was a good bet that if you were browsing the Internet, you were doing so with a Netscape browser - by some accounts Netscape had as much as an 80%+ market share.

With the launch of Windows 95 and a web browser of its own (Internet Explorer) in August 1995, Microsoft began an effort to challenge Netscape. For quite a while, Internet Explorer played catch-up to Netscape's continual pushing of the browsing technological envelope, but with one major advantage: unlike Netscape, Internet Explorer was free of charge. Netscape version 2.0 introduced a bevy of must-have breakthrough features (frames, Java, Javascript and Plug-ins) which helped distance it from the pack, even *with* its attendant price tag. Mid-1995 to late-1996 was a very busy time for both browsers; it seemed like every week one company or the other was releasing a new beta or final version to the public, each seemingly trying to one-up the other.

But slowly, Internet Explorer gained market share ground. By the fourth generations of both browsers, Internet Explorer had caught up technologically with Netscape's browser. As time went on, Netscape's market share diminished from its once-towering percentages.

In January 1998, Netscape made an announcement that their browser would thereafter be free, and also that the development of the browser would move to an open-source process. This came as wonderful news to many on the Internet. In the period since this announcement though, an official browser from this "Mozilla" process has yet to see general public release. The process has taken much longer than originally anticipated, what with the Netscape/AOL merger and the late-hour decision to integrate an entirely new next-generation HTML rendering engine.

Even with the tantalizing promise for authors of finally having a wide-distribution browser that completely adheres to the official language standards for HTML, CSS, DOM and ECMAScript, the market-share that Netscape once held has significantly eroded (by some accounts its market share is now down to around 30%.) It has been almost 3 years since Netscape delivered a major new version of its browser. It shall be interesting to see how the public takes to Netscape version 6.0.

Early in 1999, AOL bought Netscape, and a year later America Online and Time Warner announced plans in January of 2000 to merge in an all-stock deal the companies value at $350 billion. The new company, called AOL Time Warner Inc., will have combined revenue of over $30 billion.

Version Released Features

1.0B1 Oct. 1994 The First Beta of version 1. The original release of the browser supports all basic HTML 2 elements and some limited HTML 3 functionality.
1.0 Dec. 1994 Final Release of version 1.0

1.1B1 Mar. 1995 The first Beta of version 1.1 added table support as well as many of its own new HTML elements and attributes.
1.1 Apr. 1995 Final Release of version 1.1

1.2B1 Jun. 1995 First Beta of version 1.2 which updated the user interface for Windows 95 and added no new HTML support.
1.2 Jul. 1995 Final Release of version 1.2

2.0B1 Oct. 1995 First Beta of the Navigator release added several HTML 3 elements, Frames and the ability to handle Java.
2.0B3 Dec. 1995 This version added the ability to process JavaScript
2.0 Mar. 1996 Final Release of version 2.0

3.0B1 Apr. 1996 First Beta which was originally titled Atlas, this release added many new plug-ins, and support for background colors in tables.
3.0B5 Jul. 1996 This version adds support for underlining, frame border control and Font FACE styles. It also adds new elements to allow for column layout (<Multicol>) and spacing control (<Spacer>)
3.0B7 Aug. 1996 The only new HTML feature in this version appears to be the ARCHIVE attribute to the APPLET element.
3.0-3.04 Aug. 1996-
Oct. 1997
Final Release of version 3. Point releases beyond this add no new HTML support, just address Javascript functionality and security bugs.

4.0B1 Dec. 1996 Preview release of 4.0 (Netscape Communicator.) This adds the new LAYER element that allows precise positioning control in documents.
4.0B2 Feb. 1997 Second preview release of 4.0 (Netscape Communicator.) This adds in-line layering, and Cascading/JavaScript Style Sheet Support.
4.0B3 Apr. 1997 Third preview release of 4.0 (Netscape Communicator.) Improves upon the very rudimentary style sheet support in Beta 2 (PR2.)
4.0B4/5 May. 1997 Fourth and fifth beta of 4.0. Beta 4 was a PC-only release with minor HTML improvements, while Beta 5 is cross-platform and adds the Netcaster push technology.
4.0-4.08 Jun. 1997-
Nov. 1998
Final Release of Communicator. Final tally adds more CSS support (much but not all of the CSS1 spec and the CSS positioning draft are implemented), minimal dynamic font and OBJECT element support. Point releases beyond this add no new HTML support, just address security bugs.

Jan. 1998 Netscape announces its browser will be free.
Also announced: Browser source code will be made available for free on the Internet.

4.5B1 Jul. 1998 Various functionality improvements, but no new HTML or CSS support.
4.5B2 Sep. 1998 Beta 2.
4.5-4.7 Oct. 1998-
Sep. 1999
4.5 final release. Point releases beyond this add no new HTML support, just address bugs.

Nov. 1998 Netscape decides to integrate its new NGLayout rendering engine into Mozilla (v.6.0)
AOL Buys Netscape.
Jan. 2000 Mozilla project hits Milestone 13 (M13) - considered to be first "alpha" quality release of the project.

6.0B1 Apr. 2000 Netscape/AOL releases 6.0 PR1 - its first all new beta browser in several years. This release integrates the Mozilla code approximately from the Milestone 14 (M14) work.
6.0B2 Aug. 2000 Netscape/AOL releases 6.0 PR2. This release integrates the Mozilla work from ~ the Milestone 17 (M17) timeframe.
6.0B3 Oct. 2000 Netscape/AOL releases 6.0 PR3. This release integrates the Mozilla work from ~ the Milestone 18 (M18) timeframe.
6.0 Nov. 2000 Final release of version 6.0.

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