AOL really kills Netscape this time

AOL releases its last Netscape update; prods users to switch to the Flock or Firefox browser

Several weeks after AOL gave Netscape Navigator a one-month reprieve, the company this week released the last update for the browser and prodded users to switch to Flock or Firefox.

"Users will see the following major upgrade notice, released as Netscape 9.0.0.6," said Tom Drapeau, the director of AOL's Netscape brand, in a post to a company blog. "When the Netscape 9.0.0.6 upgrade is accepted and run, the following notice will appear, denoting the end of support date and the recommendations of Flock and Firefox."

The pop-up Drapeau cited offers users download links to either Flock's Flock browser, or Mozilla's Firefox. Netscape's settings are automatically migrated to the new browser.

Users can stick with Netscape, added Drapeau, by clicking "Remind me later" and "Stay with Netscape" buttons. No new updates, security patches or otherwise will be provided, however, after this month. Netscape 9.0.0.6, Drapeau added, is patch-equivalent with Firefox 2.0.0.12, the browser Mozilla rolled out two weeks ago to fix a dozen vulnerabilities.

Netscape harks back to 1994, when Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark founded Mosaic Communications around Andreessen's browser. The first Netscape was released December 15, 1994; by mid-1995, Netscape accounted for more than 80 per cent of all browsers used. That same year, however, Microsoft introduced its Internet Explorer, which passed Netscape in market share within three years.

At the end of 2007, Drapeau stunned Netscape users when he stopped development of the browser and set February 1 as the end-of-support date. In late January, however, he extended support another month, saying that Netscape, Flock and Mozilla needed more time to finish migration tools.

Back in December, Drapeau named "AOL's current business focus" and an inability to revive Navigator's moribund market share as reasons for ditching the browser. He didn't elaborate any further on the decision.

Most users who left comments on Drapeau's recent posts were appreciative for the one-month grace period. Some, however, felt abandoned. "I'm sad," said Alexis Kauffmann. "Flock still needs improvement and I am not happy with Firefox's interface. I'm [an] orphan!"

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Gregg Keizer

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