The rise and fall of Netscape (and the Rise of Mozilla)

Published on 13 mei 2022

Before Netscape, before the internet, there were online services. These were largely text-based and hard to get through. They were proprietary and if you had one, you couldn’t talk to anyone who had another. America Online (AOL) was one of those early services, and I bring them up because they’ll be important later.

In the early 1990s, researchers at CERN in Switzerland proposed a radical way of letting people communicate with each other. The internet had been around in universities and government facilities since the late 1960s, but it was hard to find what you were looking for. Sir Tim Berners-Lee and others created a system which seems so simple today, but had never been done at the scale they did it.

The original World Wide Web project was composed of two basic ideas.  The first was that every computer could be located using a Universal Resource Locator (URL) made up of plain text. The second was that you could use a simple language that displayed things on the screen and let you use a mouse to navigate to other servers. As simple as this all sounds, it changed the world. The first web page is still online, and you can see it here:

The rise of Netscape

1995 was the year when the Internet and the World Wide Web moved from the obscure realm of technophiles and academic researchers to become a household word, the year when the Web went from vague and distant curiosity to a phenomenon that would change the way people work, shop, learn, communicate, and interact.

Netscape Communications Corporation, a startup in California’s Silicon Valley that made a graphical Web browser called Netscape Navigator. Netscape was an immediate success, if not in turning a profit then in attracting the goodwill of millions of new Web users. Netscape’s defining and most colorful figure was its cofounder, Marc Andreessen, a programmer with an agile mind who talked fast, persuasively, and seemingly nonstop. Andreessen turned 24 years old in 1995; he was less than two years out of college and had not shed all the trappings and eccentricities of undergraduate life. He worked late, got up late and would terrify Microsoft.

The tale of Netscape

You can learn more about the tale of Netscape, as well as the legacy of its creators, with this video: