AOL to Release New Netscape Update in Early Summer
Tuesday March 30th, 2004
The Inquirer is reporting that America Online is to release a new version of the Netscape browser. The upgrade will be a "'point' release based on the latest Mozilla code" and "will be made available in the very early summer timeframe." Speculation that an update was in the works began last week, when the San Francisco Bay Area's Mercury News paraphrased an AOL spokeswoman as saying that "there will be future versions of Netscape that are essentially repackaged upgrades of Mozilla."
The confirmation that a new Netscape release is on the way does not indicate that AOL is planning to provide any further development or financial support to the Mozilla project. Indeed, no AOL employees are paid to work on Mozilla and we can expect this latest version to be even more similar to Mozilla than previous releases. The more intriguing question is what made AOL change its mind about shelving the veteran browser.
I think this can only be good news for Mozilla. People who know about Mozilla will continue using it (increasing firefox rather than the suite), where as people who don't know about Mozilla will see that Netscape is still being developed, so will continue using it. I also think is has been helpful for Mozilla that AOL initially said that they wouldn't be producing any more versions of Netscape - it has forced the organisation to that the new, consumer focused approach rather than relying on Netscape for that.
From AOL's point of view, it also seems to make sense. From the sound of it they are just going to be slapping a few Netscape icons on it, so it won't cost them much more than the download bandwidth fees, but it will keep the Netscape brand alive and promote their portal. If they want to add more adverts to it like before, then that could also earn them money.