AOL announced this Friday that it will retire support and development of the world’s first web browser, Netscape Navigator, in February 2008. In a blog post, Netscape’s director Tom Drapeau wrote that because Netscape couldn’t capture Microsoft’s Internet Explorer market share, Time Warner’s AOL won’t put any further resources into Netscape, and will instead focus on developing its web business. Netscape users will be encouraged to adopt Mozilla’s Firefox instead:
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. Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, 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.
The NYT reports that Firefox accounts for about 10% of browser market share, with IE commanding the rest. Michael Arrington writes that Netscape, which started 13 years ago, once claimed 90% of the market. Kara Swisher outlines the browser’s missteps here.
Time Warner’s new CEO, Jeff Bewkes, officially takes over the company today. The retirement of Netscape is likely one of many significant changes for AOL in the year ahead.