The ghost of browsers past, present, and future

MozillaZine: "[T]he end of Netscape does not mean the end of Mozilla."

I’ll never forget the shiver that ran down my back when, eight or so years ago, I got the to the end of the ReadMe file for the first beta of Netscape Navigator, from the fledgling Mosaic Communications Corp. It concluded with the following line: "Yes, this is Mozilla."

The Internet was always more than a collection of protocols, a bunch of meteoric IPOs, a set of powerful business innovations, a new way to distribute content, or a communications channel. Things like that come along every few years, stay interesting for a while, then fade away. The Net is something bigger. It’s the kind of sea change we will be lucky to see once in our lives. For me personally, the Net is the center of my professional life and a big chunk of my personal relationships… and I don’t see that ever changing. Yet the Net, as we know it, *did not exist* when I entered law school.

There were Internet startups before Netscape, browsers before Mosaic, and an Internet before the Web. Doesn’t matter. Those were the three horsement of the revolution. Seeing any one of them firsthand immediately made something click.

Netscape the company almost killed Netscape the product. By the time the bubble popped, Microsoft’s browser was both the market leader and the better product. The story, from Marc Andreessen’s days at the University of Illinois through Jim Clark, Jim Barksdale, acquisition by AOL, and AOL’s merger with Time Warner, is the prototypical narrative of the Internet boom. Appropriately, though, as Netscape’s story comes to an end, Mozilla’s story continues.

The open-source Mozilla and its Firebird cousin are, to my mind, the best browsers out there. And the browser remains the one ubiquitous new desktop application of the past decade. Let’s hope it still has some room to grow.