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AOL Cancels Active Development On Netscape Browser

Dulles (VA) - America Online (AOL) is planning to stop all active development on the Netscape browser, once the most popular browser on the Internet, beginning February 1, 2008. AOL’s business focus will be on trasitioning to an ad-supported Web business, and it leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point that many of its users expect it to be, according to the company.

Netscape was originally the Mosaic Netscape Browser, developed at the University of Illinois. In the mid 1990s it became the dominant web browser and a successful public offering for the company was had in 1995. AOL acquired Netscape in 1999. Microsoft began introducing Internet Explorer in 1995 as well. It eventually took over the marketplace due to its bundling directly with the world’s most popular operating systems, those based on Windows.

Windows 95, for example, came with built-in API function calls to Internet Explorer services for direct use in applications. Windows 98 augmented these features, further entrenching the role of the web browser/operating system symbiotic relationship. This caused many third-party browser companies to "rally in arms" over Microsoft’s exclusion of their intellectual property, claiming that Microsoft had given itself an unfair advantage by allowing direct API calls to Internet Explorer, but not to their web browsers. Several years later, following multiple anti-trust lawsuits, the courts agreed.

Since then, Microsoft has been forced to release portions of their code under court order to allow third party browser companies to compete. Still, the damage was done and IE, despite its lack of full standards compliance even with its latest IE7 version, remains the dominant browser.

Safari, Firefox and Opera are significant competitors to IE and Netscape in the web browser software spaces, with each of them operating in multiple operating systems. Internet Explorer still only works in Windows.

Read more ... PC World.