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Home > Learn More > Tech > The History of Netscape Navigator

The History of Netscape Navigator

Marc Andreessen is a central figure in the Netscape saga. He is cofounder of Netscape Communications Corporation and is also the co-author of Mosaic at the National Center for Super computing Applications. He graduated in 1993 and shortly thereafter moved to Enterprise Integration Technologies where he met Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon graphics. Jim Clark’s belief was that the Mosaic Browser had fantastic commercial use and henceforth provided initial funds to get it up and running. He quickly became Vice President of Mosaic Communications Corporation which was situated in Mountain View California.

Since the University of Illinois was not pleased with the Mosaic name, the name was changed to Netscape Communications. The web browser was subsequently named Netscape Navigator. Netscape announced in the initial press release that it would make Netscape Navigator available to all non-commercial users for free. Netscape's initial corporate policy on Navigator was provocative. It stated that Navigator would be freely available for non-commercial use in compliance with the notion that internet software should be distributed freely. It was within just two months of the press release that Netscape reversed its original statements, making Netscape distribution and use free only for non-profit and educational institutions.

The initial releases of the product were available in various evaluation versions. During production, the Netscape browser was known as Mozilla, which by no coincidence is the name of a Godzilla like mascot figure displayed prominently on the web site. Mozilla’s name was used also as the User-Agent in HTTP requests by the browser. Mozilla today is a blanket name for matters related to the open source successor to Netscape Communicator.

When the internet revolution occurred in the mid to late 90’s, Netscape was quite capable of taking advantage of it. The program had some fantastic features and a licensing schematic which provided for only non-commercial purposes. Internet service providers assisted in this availability and freely distributed the software to their customers as part of their service package, usually on a 3.5” floppy disc. One of the more astounding features offered by Netscape were its on-the-fly displays. Text and images would appear on the screen while the remaining page was loading. Other web browsers were unable to do this and did not offer this as part of their features, leaving the web surfer having to wait while the entirety of the web page content was downloaded.

Through out  the latter part of the 1990s, Netscape ensured Navigator stayed the technical leader among competing web browsers. New features included cookies, frames, and JavaScript. W3C compliance based a great many of its standards on these features. Netscape really showed how valuable a web navigating experience could be. People were using the net more due in fact to the relative ease of Netscape. Microsoft hoped directly on board after seeing the success Netscape was experiencing. They licensed the source code from Spyglass, Inc. from which, by using the basic code created Internet Explorer.

Thus the war between Microsoft and Netscape was born, with Explorer gaining popularity over Netscape by being introduced as part of the software package provided by Microsoft for its operating system Windows 95. It wasn’t long before Microsoft closed the distance and were well on their way to beating Netscape with improved stability, which took a significant amount of market share from Netscape. As the decade neared its end, Netscape was losing its dominance and Windows internet Explorer was far ahead in the race. In a financial arrangement occurring in August of 1997, Microsoft invested $150 Million in Apple computers and required Apple to make Internet Explorer default browser in all new Macintosh OS installs.

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