Firefox 2.0: The Revenge of Netscape

by | Oct 24, 2006 | Stress Blog | 7 comments

Today (24/10/06) Firefox 2.0 will be released. One recent study shows that Firefox has taken considerable market share away from the dominant product in the field, Microsoft Internet Explorer, which was recently updated to version 7.0. Let’s take a brief look back at the history of Firefox.

In the mid-1990s, the dominant web browser was Netscape. Microsoft released its Internet Explorer (MSIE) with Windows 95, and quickly destroyed Netscape’s market share, for two reasons; one, MSIE came packaged as part of the WIndows operating system, and was the default browser for Windows users.; two, MSIE was far superior in terms of compatibility with the advanced web code of that era.

In 1998, Netscape released its source code under an open source license — its final gesture before being disbanded by AOL, which had acquired it: . The Mozilla Foundation was formed to develop a new Internet suite based on the code. The organization had named itself after Netscape’s internal mascot, “Mosaic killa”. Although Netscape indeed killed its predecessor, Mosaic, MSIE killed Netscape.

Mozilla LogoThe massive Mozilla browser/email app has been around almost ever since. I first used it about 5 years ago. One of the most interesting and useful aspects of open source software is when a group gets together and develops a new program from an existing program’s code. The process is known as a “fork”. The most famous software fork in history began a few years ago, when Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross decided to develop a small, fast version of Mozilla. They split the email client from the browser. The browser became known as Phoenix (a Phoenix is a fabulous bird, rising from the ashes of its predecessor). Phoenix was renamed because of copyright issues to Firebird, a synonym. The email client was renamed Thunderbird. There was, however, a program already named Firebird, so the Mozilla Project renamed the browser again, this time to Firefox (I suppose there were no copyright issues this time).

On November 9, 2004, after years of devlopment, Firefox 1.0 was released. What goes around, comes around. As superior as MSIE was to Netscape, Firefox was that much better than MSIE. It’s astonishing to me that this browser, which does not come shipped as an integral part of Windows (MSIE cannot be removed from Windows), has managed to grab as much as 20% of the market share, after years of total dominance by MSIE. Firefox has spread like a virus. Ironically, Firefox has become the basis of numerous forks, such as Flock, Songbird, Swiftfox, Iceweasel et al.

For those of you who choose to use MSIE, I beg you to at least upgrade to 7.0. For those who don’t know what they’re using, and couldn’t care less, to Hell with you (just kidding, follow Windows Update’s instructions).

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