It’s time to bury Netscape

June 9th, 2003 § 8 comments

This month marks the sixth birthday anniversary of Netscape Navigator 4, whose first non-beta version was released in July 1997. This version, one of the most famous in the history of the Web, was an attempt by Netscape to regain the market share it was losing to Microsoft, whose Internet Explorer was making huge inroads in the Web browser market. Even with the added support to then emerging Web standards, Netscape 4 proved itself unable to face Internet Explorer 4, whose support to new formats and technologies was incontestably better at the time. When Netscape made the fatidic decision of opening the source code of its flagship product and later of rewriting it from the scrath it became clear that an era had ended.

Although it lost the market, Netscape 4 continued to be used for many years, and it’s still used in some companies. Many Web development shops have labored to create sites that support this six-year-old browsers at the expenses of Web standards, usability and accessibility. I think it’s time our customers recognize the truth that Netscape 4 is dead. It makes no sense to support a browser which has little support for standards that are already a decade old and no support at all for modern standards — it only makes development harder and costlier. I have once developed a site that supported Netscape 4 because one man — yes, you read that correctly — in the whole company used that browser.

So. next time a customer asks for Netscape 4 support, politely explain to him the reasons that is not feasible anymore. Your customer and the Web standards will surely be grateful in the long run.

§ 8 Responses to It’s time to bury Netscape"

  • John Topley says:

    I couldn’t agree more, we have to move on sometime!

  • Ronaldo says:

    I’m trying to apply this very strategy at work. So far it’s going nice, although no customer was very insistent. :-)

  • MeanDean says:

    Ronaldo, mind if I quote you copiously on my blog?

  • Ronaldo says:

    Not at all! Feel free to use it in whatever way you may need it. :-)

  • kevin says:

    Amen. Preach it.

    I sometimes see NS3 in my site log files. No one codes sites to NS3 any more. It’s time to do the same for NS4.

    Besides, if someone is using NS4, they have to know their browser is out of date. How could you not?

  • Ronaldo says:

    I will surely preach it! :-) I completely agree with your reasoning. I owe my early Web experience to Netscape 4, but it’s past time we retire this honored Web hero. Soon it will be time to stop supporting Internet Explorer 4 as well as it’s almost six years old as well. Unfortunately, it seems Microsoft won’t be updating its browser so soon, so we will get stuck with inferior tools for a long time yet. Hopefully more people will start using Firebird and Mozilla forcing other companies to catch up with the Web standards.

  • MikeyC says:

    While I agree that its about time to forget about Netscape 4 support, I still see many copies installed in various locations which I find disapointing. I live in Toronto, and every Internet terminal at every branch of the public library I’ve been to has Netscape 4 installed. As well, the Sun boxes I’ve seen at UofT still have Netscape 4. It was such a widely deployed web browser and being the only available version of Netscape for so many years means that there are copies that will be lingering around for several more years. Some organizations have standardized on it and don’t want to make the financial sacrifice of upgrading just yet. Its a big mess.

  • Ronaldo says:

    I agree with your assessment. While I’d like to never see Netscape 4 again, I have a feeling I will be developing for it for many years yet — especially in places with non-mainstream operational systems (like a huge bank here in Brazil that stardardized on OS/2). Internet Explorer 4 will be an even worse case as it was much more widely deployed than Netscape 4. Nonetheless, I hope that those browsers remain confined to controlled environments where you can fully use their strengths and work around their problems without having to bother with every other browser in existence, although I don’t think the situation will be much different ten years from now with new web standards being only half-supported by the browsers in use then. :-)

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