Final double-click on Navigator

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Netscape Navigator, the storied Web browser that launched an Internet boom but is now a mere shell of its former self, will soon be put out of its misery.

Now under the umbrella of Time Warner's AOL, Netscape will continue as a portal, but AOL said it no longer will engage in further development or even technical support for the browser beginning Feb. 1.

Netscape was started 13 years ago by Marc Andreessen and others, and the company went public in 1995, doubling on its first day of trading.

Its warm welcome on Wall Street helped to usher in the period now known as the Internet bubble, where online companies with little revenue and little prospects for profits hurriedly offered shares to an anxious public itching for stock market riches.

Netscape was purchased in 1999 for about $10 billion by AOL, though that was after Microsoft had launched its Internet Explorer browser that it was bundling for free with its Windows software, a strategy that led to Netscape's downfall.

"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer," Netscape director Tom Drapeau wrote in a blog entry Friday.

Drapeau said that at about the time Netscape was being acquired by AOL, the team had begun work to convert the browser into open-source software under the name Mozilla. The Mozilla project has since released the successful browser called Firefox.

AOL, meanwhile, has been desperately trying to regain its own footing after what, in hindsight, has been a disastrous merger with Time Warner.

"AOL's focus on transitioning to an ad-supported Web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be," Drapeau wrote Friday.

"We feel it's the right time to end development of Netscape-branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox," he added.
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