Netscape Navigator, or just Netscape, was based on the Mosaic web browser. Marc Andreessen was part of the team that developed the Mosaic browser while a student at the University of Illinois. Upon graduation, Marc founded Netscape along with Jim Clark, and together they released an updated and improved version of Mosaic called Netscape Navigator in late 1994.
Netscape was made freely available for non-commercial purposes. Copies of Netscape could also be purchased at traditional retailers on floppy disks and CDs. Netscape was launched at a time when consumer interest in the Internet was skyrocketing, and there were no established web browsers on the market. As a result, Netscape quickly became the most popular browser – a position which it occupied from 1995 up until the late 1990s. However, beginning in 1996, Microsoft began to distribute a copy of Internet Explorer with every new Windows installation, and by the year 2000 Microsoft's Internet Explorer had displaced Netscape Navigator as the most popular web browser.
Netscape Communications, including the Navigator browser, was acquired by AOL in 1999. Under AOLs management Netscape lost market share rapidly due to Internet Explorer's widespread usage as well as a perceived lack of technical innovation under AOL's purvue. By 2006, Netscape Navigator's share of the browser market had dropped to less than 1%. AOL continued to develop new versions of Netscape Navigator through 2007, and then abruptly ended support for the product line in early 2008.
Frequently Asked Questions
Did Netscape make any lasting contributions to the web?
It's hard to think of two other technologies that have had a more profound impact on the web as we know it today. So profound was the influence of Netscape Navigator on the web, that in 2007 PC World declared the original Netscape Navigator the best tech product of all time.
Is Netscape still available today?
There are a few sites that host unofficial downloads of old versions of Netscape. However, considering the fact that there have been no updates to any version of Netscape since 2007 functionality of the browser is limited and while interesting for historical purposes it should not be used for anything other than browsing of highly-trusted sites.
In 1998, just before Netscape was sold to AOL, Netscape created the Mozilla community and released the source code for the Navigator browser. Mozilla rewrote the browser source code and released a browser which eventually evolved into what we know today at Mozilla Firefox. In many ways, Firefox is considered to be the “spiritual successor” of Netscape Navigator. Using Mozilla Firefox is the best way to use a browser developed from what was once Netscape Navigator.