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Netscape to Be Shut Down After Failing to Win Users

2007.12.30

Netscape, the Web browser once used in 80 percent of all Internet sessions, will be shut down by AOL after failing to regain market share from Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer.

Netscape users should switch to Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser, Netscape director Tom Drapeau wrote on his blog. America Online Inc. paid $9.8 billion in 1999 for Netscape, which by then had been crippled by Microsoft.

The decision ends AOL's almost nine-year effort to revive Netscape, the browser that helped popularize Internet use by making it easier for millions of consumers to log on. AOL bought Netscape to broaden its revenue sources as its dial-up Web- access service declined. New versions developed by AOL failed to dent Internet Explorer. AOL started offering e-mail and search services for free last year to boost advertising revenue.

``AOL's focus on transitioning to an ad-supported Web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be,'' Drapeau said.

America Online Inc. bought Time Warner Inc. for $124 billion in 2001. It now forms Time Warner's AOL Web unit.

Time Warner, down 24 percent this year, fell 2 cents to $16.65 at 4:32 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The New York-based company also owns Time magazine, Warner Bros. and cable channels such as CNN.

Firefox

When Microsoft released Internet Explorer in August 1995, Netscape controlled 80 percent of the market. Microsoft, the world's largest software company, hobbled Netscape by striking exclusive contracts with Internet service providers and bundling Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system.

In July 2003, AOL helped finance the creation of not-for- profit Mozilla with $2 million and helped at the development of Firefox by providing technical support, employees, equipment and intellectual property such as codes. AOL fired most of its Netscape development employees in 2003.

``Recently, support for the Netscape browser has been limited to a handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions,'' Drapeau said.

Internet Explorer had 84.7 percent of the Web browser market as of June, according to Amsterdam-based OneStat.com, which tracks Internet statistics. Firefox had 12.7 percent.

Apple Inc., which introduced a test version of its Safari Web browser for Microsoft's Windows in June, has 4.9 percent of the browser market behind Internet Explorer and Firefox, Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs said in June.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, agreed to pay Time Warner $750 million in May 2003 to settle antitrust charges over Internet browsers.

 

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