The History Of Netscape

by C Mitchell
Netscape, based out of Mountain View, California, is an online browsing and software company, and made the world’s first commercial web browser. It was originally incorporated in 1994 under a different name, Mosaic Communications Corporation, with the browser called Mosaic Netscape.

Mosaic was founded by James Clark and Mark Andreessen. As a graduate, Andreessen had been working as director of the project that was to become Mosaic with the National Center of Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. He teamed up with Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics, Inc., and earlier Mosaic team members from the NCSA and Silicon Graphics to start the business. In the early years, Netscape was extremely popular in terms of usage share*, with about 90% in the mid 1990’s, but later its ratings went down to less than 1%.

After the creation of the World Wide Web in in the early 1990’s, the first first browser called WorldWideWeb, later renamed Nexus, came out. In 1992 and 1993 more browsers were released, including ViolaWWW, Cello, Arena, Lynx, and the multi-platform Mosaic, which soon became the most popular. Many people thought that it would stay dominant. Gary Wolf remarked in an article in Wired, "The [Second Phase of the] Revolution Has Begun: Don't look now, but Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe are all suddenly obsolete - and Mosaic is well on its way to becoming the world's standard interface."

Then in 1994, Andesseen split off and formed a new company based off of Mosaic, renaming it Netscape Communications Corporation and the browser Netscape Navigator, to avoid legal issues with the NCSA.

In 1995 and 1996, dozens of new browsers were released, including Internet Explorer (based off Mosaic), bringing with it the first “browser war”**. But Netscape remained on top, with versions 2.0 and 3.0 released in 1996.

During the struggle between Netscape and IE, both companies rapidly released new versions and added new applications. But because they were focused on “dazzling” the public with the new features, both companies would frequently overlook security holes and glitches in their programs.

On the night of the release party for Internet Explorer’s version 4.0 in 1997, Netscape employee’s looked outside to find a giant Internet Exploerer logo and a sign saying “From the IE team” and “We Love You” on the front lawn of their office building! The Netscape employees, outraged, toppled it over, spray-painted “Nescape Now” on the side faceing the street, and placed their mascot on top; a 7-foot tall Mozilla. (go to to read an article about the incident)


Eventually, Internet Explorer won out, and Netscape would never really get back into the market. In 2007, IE had 77.4% of the browser market, Firefox had 16.0% and Netscape had 0.6%. On January 23, 2007, Netscape announced the release of their final update, Netscape Navigator 9. As of as of 1 March, 2008, AOL, formerly associated with Netscape, announced it would no longer support it, recommending either Flock or Mozilla Firefox instead.


*Usage share is a way of finding a browser’s relative popularity.It is calculated by finding the percentage of visitors to a website that use a browser. For example, a browser with 50% usage share is used by 50% of all people that visit a group of websites.

**The “browser wars” refers to two periods of history when major browsers were comoeting for dominance in the market. The first was between Netscape and Internet Explorer in the late 1990’s, and the second, mainly between Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, started in 2003 and continues to the present.



Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License