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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
End nears for Netscape browser
Screengrab of Mozilla Foundation homepage
The Netscape browser has moved to Mozilla
The iconic Netscape browser is about to disappear.

Netscape owner AOL has made redundant most of the staff working on new versions of the venerable net browser.

AOL said it will keep the Netscape brand alive and still support old editions of the software but it will not produce any new releases.

Many of the staff losing their jobs are moving to the Mozilla Foundation which will now take over the browser's development.

Pioneering days

Before the cuts, AOL employed about 50 people in its Netscape browser team.

AOL became the owner of Netscape in 1998 when it bought the software company.

Netscape was founded in 1994 and released the first versions of its browser in October of that year.

It gave the browser away for free and rapidly won huge numbers of fans and users.

The browser itself was based on the work of student Marc Andreessen and others at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois.

Once he graduated, Mr Andreessen set up Netscape along with Jim Clark and set about creating a commercial version of the browser.

Marc Andreessen, OpsWare
Andreessen: browser pioneer
Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn defined the protocols that made the internet, Tim Berners-Lee found a way to hide the underlying complexity of the net and move easily from site to site, but Mosaic and Netscape brought the web to the masses.

It is possible to get an idea of what the web was like in the mid-1990s by visiting sites that use browser emulators to show what websites looked like back then.

In 1995, on the back of the huge popularity of its browser, Netscape had one of the most successful debuts ever on the US stock market.

But by the end of 1998 the company was suffering partly because Microsoft was heavily promoting its own Internet Explorer browser that is included, and integrated, with Windows.

Now Internet Explorer commands 96% of the net browsing market.

Life after death

Although AOL owns Netscape, it has preferred to build its web browsing tools around Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

When Netscape became part of AOL, the core code for the browser was also passed to an organisation called Mozilla which started its own development programme.

To aid the new Mozilla Foundation that is taking on some of the former Netscape workers, AOL said it will give $2m to the group as well as domain names, trademarks and intellectual property to help the launch.

Mozilla has already produced a browser bearing its own name and said it will continue to develop the core code and make it available to anyone else that wants to tinker with it or join the development efforts.

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