AOL pulls plug on Netscape Navigator

AOL has confirmed that its browser, Netscape Navigator, will no longer be supported after 1 March 2008.

When the Internet took off, Navigator was the browser of choice used by more than 90% of people online.

But since the mid-1990s, its market share has slipped to just 0.6% losing out to other browsers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Firefox.

AOL is now urging Netscape Navigator fans to upgrade their browser to either Firefox or Flock, which both share its underlying technologies.

Netscape was created by Marc Andreessen who as a student had co-authored Mosaic, the first popular web browser.

His company - Netscape Communications Corporation - released the first version of the browser in 1994.

The impact of the browser was immediate, Shawn Hardin, President and CEO of Flock told BBC News. He said that Netscape played an important role in making the Internet "a relevant mass market phenomenon".

"Netscape had a critical role in taking all of these zeros and ones - this very academic and technical environment - and giving it a graphical user interface where an average person could come online and consume information", he continued.

"During its halcyon days it really felt like the internet and Netscape were really the same thing", he added.

It was not Flock or Firefox, though, that has driven the final nail in Navigator's coffin but, unsurprisingly, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which now dominates the market.

"While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft's Internet Explorer", said Tom Drapeau on the Netscape blog last year, when the demise of the browser was first announced.

However, Firefox is gaining fans, and already has a 28% market share in Europe.

Interestingly, it is tied to Netscape Navigator as Firefox is the brainchild of the Mozilla foundation, which was itself set up by Netscape staff made redundant in 2003.

Flock describes itself as "the social web browser" and allows people to see feeds from community websites, such as Flickr and Facebook, and post to blogs without having to navigate to the page, explains the BBC.