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

#7 Re: 90% marketshare

by rkl

Wednesday January 22nd, 2003 6:16 PM

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This makes the assumption that Netscape *would* have held onto "some" marketshare if they'd have released a Netscape 5. Considering that the Netscape 4.X series of browsers were arguably no improvement on the 3.X series (and certainly weren't standards compliant), then unless Netscape did a complete re-write, NS 5.X would be 4.X plus a few minor changes one suspects. Remember that opening the source has not only increased the number of eyes looking at the code, it's also increased the number of *ideas* (RFEs) going into the melting pot - some of which have been implemented and many more wait to be.

Microsoft would have continued its bully tactics against OEMs and ISPs and NS 5.X would probably have lost almost as much market share as Mozilla currently has. The problem with Web browsers nowadays is that they are hellishly complex to write and the 4.X codebase was known to be a complete mess and difficult to extend (e.g. to make standards compliant). The rewrite was ultimately the right decision and, yes, it's disappointing it took several years to significantly overtake IE (tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking being when Mozilla advocates could finally point to major user-desirable features that IE showed no sign of having), but we've ended up with a world-class browser at the end of the day, so we can't complain :-)

Of course, the "fight" is never over - Mozilla may have the best feature list of any browser, but there are still two evils in this world - Macromedia Dreamweaver (which, in most versions I've seen, produces abhorrent and usually non-standard HTML) and - often coupled with this - Web design firms who only test on IE. BTW, I bet many "new" Web designers barely know any HTML - they use the sausage factory approach of "point-n-click in Dreamweaver, test in IE, then I'm done" drives me mad...