Five Years Ago: Netscape Announces Intention to Release Source Code

Wednesday January 22nd, 2003

On this day in 1998, Netscape Communications Corporation announced that it was planning to release the Netscape Communicator 5.0 source code to the public. Heralding the move as "bold" and "aggressive", Netscape described how it intended to "create a special Web site service where all interested parties can download the source code, post their enhancements, take part in newsgroup discussions, and obtain and share Communicator-related information with others in the Internet community." You'll know this site as

#50 Do you really believe this?????

by PaulB <>

Friday January 24th, 2003 7:17 PM

You are replying to this message

With all the reports of the lack of security reported against I.E. every since 1997 how do you think Microsoft kept its users and at the same time increase their user base. Does it make sense for customers to continue to use an insecure product? Where Eudora, for example, survive for very long if it had had the same number and frequency of security reports. It would have been quickly dropped by its user base, unless its users are not very bright.;)

What worked in Microsoft's favour was code intermingling, setting I.E. as the default browser on Windows Machine, making it hard for users to set any other program as their default browser. Some companies kept using Netscape primarialy for its security for mail and browsing. But the more Microsoft set its browser to pop up regarless of which bowser the users set as default and added proprietay tags and replaced the then standard Javascript and Java with VB and its non standard Microsoft Java users felt they had little choice but to swith to continue using the web.

What could Netscape do to counter this? Sure they could have released a Version 5 for Netscape. Could they have ensured this version would work with the web sites of the day. Not likely since the competitor kept changing the standards its browser followed with every service pack. The only choice Netscape had IMHO was to strive to be as standard compliant as possible, otherwise it was dead.

Think about it. Your competitor has comingled its code into its OS. Your competitor also has chosen to diviate from W3C standards and has even produced WSIWYG web site design tools which follows these propritary standards which only work well in its browser. How could Netscape keep up with a moving target. Netscape could have set to the task of implementing Microsoft's propritary standards, but what would keep Microsoft from the next day tweeking the standard so that it now only worked with IE. Thus the only way Netscape could move forward was by strictly adhering to W3C standards. Netscape had to use standards which could not be changed at the whim of Moicrosoft.

Little would have changed if there had been a version 5 for Netscape. The code they were working with was not very standards compliant and could not easily be made compliant. It had to be scrapped. Netscape, to remain in the game, desperately required a standards complient browser. It is too bad that it took 4 years to get a standards complient browser, but if time had been wasted working to first release a version 5 and Microsoft might have 99-100% of the browser market.

I am very happy that Mozilla correctly(IMHO) chose to scrap the 4.x code. By so doing they kept Mozilla in the browser game. Now as Mozilla/Netscape matures toward a version 2, as gecko is used in many projects including the AOL browser and as users tire of the insecurity of IE the gecko based browsers will gain market share.

BTW without Mozilla's insistance for following standards it is very likely a lot more web sites out there would fail to open in anything but IE. You know what brought me to testing Mozilla (starting with milestone 6) was the fact that with Netscape 4 ten to fifteen percent of the sites I visited failed to open and another ten percent displayed a downgraded Netscape page. Today for the sites I visit, including my two banks, display fully without a redirection to a downgraded page for Netscape. This situation would have been less likely today if developers had took the precious time to first udate version 4 to version 5.

I could be wrong. This is the way I understand the Mozilla history.