Bye-bye Netscape?
June 6, 2001
While it's not a huge surprise, Netscape seems to be throwing in the towel in the browser wars to become an internet media hub. Why should user-experience designers care? Because it likely means the end of the battle to build a better browser and support for web standards is still lacking—meaning we'll be building on an unstable foundation long into the future.

Imagine a world where TV shows wouldn't display your favorite show properly depending on which TV set you had. That's what web developers have been putting up with for years. (And I can speak from bitter experience here: building my own site (almost) without HTML tables and keeping it from blowing up on 4.x browsers has been a major challenge even though it's been coded to W3C standards, with a few exceptions for backwards compatibility.) This has meant that when carrying user experience design down to the actual interface we've often been hamstrung in a medium that's inherently far more limited in its user interface capabilities than traditional software.

Part of this was indeed caused by the browser wars, which caused both major participants to rush out half-baked browsers to beat each other to market. Unfortunately, based on Microsoft's past behavior, I don't have high hopes that they'll use the opportunity to take their time and release fully polished browsers. Instead, development on future versions is likely to stall. Has anyone really seen major improvements in Excel or Word since Microsoft trounced Lotus 1-2-3 or WordPerfect? (OK, getting rid of Clippy in XP counts, but Clippy should have been killed in the drawing board in the first place.)

I'm sure there will be future releases of Internet Explorer (albeit probably much less frequently now), but unfortunately in the past Microsoft' has repeatedly spend a good amount of development effort on gimmicky (and proprietary) features rather than basic standards support. But then again, I'm sure masses of developers were screaming for the ability to have colored scollbars in IE5.5—never mind that it still hasn't gotten complete support for any of the web standards, which would allow web pages to be rendered properly without workarounds.

Now before hordes of Mozilla-istas swamp me with flame mail telling me the One True Browser will lead us into salvation, I've got some harsh news: no one's using Netscape 6. Various server logs show it's being used by less than 1 percent of people—and that's a requiem for a dream. Mozilla (and other browsers) will go on, and they'll probably make it into various products, but they'll probably never be more than niche players. The hard truth is that good marketing often beats better products.

And the result is we'll be casualties of the browser wars for years to come… ::

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Your thoughts…

I think you're being to hard on Microsoft. Their v5 browsers implement the standards much better than Netscape has. Regarding proprietary tags, remind me again who invented , and ? And read this: . Personally, I am glad Netscape is dead. I always had the hardest time making things work in their crap browsers. And their rendering engine just completely sucked. You might want to take a look at your site in Netscape 4.08 for the Mac, by the way.

Fatboy Slim @ 06.09.2001

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OK... I misspelled 'too' (hey, it happens), but more importantly my tags and links didn't show up. Anyway, it should have read: Regarding proprietary tags, remind me again who invented BLINK, FONT and SPACER? And the link was to 'The Day the Browser Died' on A List Apart (just enter it in Google if the link doesn't work this time), the URL of which is http://www.alistapart.com/stories/died/ . That's alistapart dot com slash stories slash died.

Fatboy Slim @ 06.09.2001

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It sounds like you say that newbiew hTML developers will have it easier now that the competition dissapears. That's not so I think.

More and more new browsers are being built (like Opera and all the various once for KDE and Gnome etc.) This is good because the more browsers there are, the more standardized the websites become. The simpler the HTML (despite w3c's specs) the more likely is the site to work in "all" browsers.

Most HTML will now say "oh no! I give up och writing 3 mile long javascripts for each browser now that there are so many".
They will think so even though 95% are still using IE.

PS. I have tried NS6 5 times on my homecomputer and at a friends. I never ever liked it (especially not the forced on "hotlinks" and "shopping" crab), and the reason I've given up on it is because it never worked and crashed finished all times :)

Peter @ 06.11.2001

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Interesting how far Mozilla Firefox has come.

– d. @ 07.05.2004

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