Save the Netscape Browser

  • Author:
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    America Online subsidiary of Time Warner
  • Sponsored By:
    Netscape 7.1 users and Netscape.com visitors worlwide
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Dear manager of the AOL client division and related software-development positions at Time Warner's America Online subsidiary.

We are requesting that you please consider the opinions of the loyal Netscape browser users, knowledgeable people, most of which started using the Netscape browsers way before AOL "discovered" the Internet, before sealing the fate of future Netscape browser developments.

We understand that for financial or strategic reasons you had to decide the layoff of hundreds of developers, effectively closing Netscape Communications' browser division, and causing the spin-off of the Mozilla Foundation from AOL's parenthood, including some initial funding for it.

But in our humble opinion, that doesn't mean you HAVE to stop releasing "branded" Netscape browsers periodically. In fact, in our opinion, Netscape.com and AOL is in a BETTER position now than before to do so, since the bulk of the "browser engine" development is going to be handled by the independent Mozilla foundation. The only work left for AOL's client division would be the "branding" of the Mozilla browser (with the Netscape logo, splash screen, and the addition of a few existing, tried, and working modules of code, like the Instant Messenger and ICQ engine).

We think that the Netscape brand name has a big "mindshare", and that AOL is foolish to let the Netscape brand die, or be confused with limited "companion software" that in turns calls Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Netscape has been, and continues to be, a brand associated with "security", secure browsers. Internet Explorer (IE) on the other hand, has been just the opposite.

To create a Netscape branded product that in turn calls IE to render the html content is to destroy the Netscape brand name. And another question begs for an answer: if AOL is contributing financially to the Mozilla Foundation, then why make a "companion software" that calls the IE engine instead of installing the Gecko engine currently developed and perfected every month by the same Mozilla Foundation that you helped with its initial funding?.

"A happy customer is a good customer". But Netscape 7.1 browser users are feeling cheated and abused. The Netscape 7.1 web browser continues to be offered for download from Netscape.com servers, yet AOL has not delivered the "security fixes" promised at the time of the layoffs. Netscape 7.1 continues shipping with an old Java VM (1.4.0x) from Sun Microsystems, despite that newer and bug-fixed versions (1.4.2_01 or higher) are available.

The Client Customization Kit for Netscape 7.1 was also once promised but never delivered.

There are people out there who TRUST the Netscape name. Who USE the Netscape 7.1 browsers. Even people that to this day, and despite everything, continue donwloading and installing Netscape 7.1 on their systems, despite the fact that there are newer builds from Mozilla.org available that fix certain critical bugs.

To ignore this customer loyalty (that is bringing hits to the netscape.com portal page on a daily basis) and annoy their core users is not very wise for AOL's netscape.com portal future, in our opinion.

We then encourage you to consider releasing updated Netscape branded browsers periodically, taking every major stable release of the Mozilla Browser as released by the Mozilla Foundation and changing the loading logo, the animated throbber icon, and addomg the AIM/ICQ sidebar module and the other few small extensions.

We think we've been lied to when AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein "denied that the final hour has come for the Netscape browser" ny saying "We will continue to support the Netscape browser and Netscape remains a part of our multibrand strategy,"

In our opinion, it would be even possible for AOL to release, with few resources, a "Netscape Browser Kit", in the form of a small installer, that just checks the mozilla.org web site for the last release, downloads it, and "patches-in" the logo and propietary extensions, giving the users the latest, greatest and most stable and secure Mozilla browser, with all the added benefits of the Netscape Network, AIM and ICQ sidebar tab that all current Netscape 7.1 users enjoy so much. We can't be 100\% sure, but at least we feel it's an avenue worth exploring.

Finally, we think that if AOL is not serious about respecting Netscape's memory, its users, and the "mindshare" of the Netscape brand, it is in everyone's best interest that AOL gets rid -or licenses- the Netscape brand to some software company that can continue the Netscape legacy of secure, multi-platform and standards-compliant browsers based on open source software.