July 15, 2003

Netscape goes byebye and Mozilla rises from the ashes

Today AOL axed Netscape. Yes, the Netscape browser and Netscape company is no more. This is sad as it was a free distribution of a browser that has been focussing on Web Standards and has greatly embraced those that understand the importance of building a browser to Web Standards.

Today, the Mozilla Foundation launched with 2 million U.S. dollars from AOL. This is to support the open source continuation of the Mozilla browser, which is the core of the Netscape browser. This is very important and helpful. The Mozilla and Netscape browser in their most recent versions have been some of the better Standards compliant browsers on the market.

Some weeks ago when Microsoft announced it had built its last stand alone browser in IE 6, things did not look so bad for standards browsers as Netscape and Mozilla were still players in the market. This site has seen the Netscape 6 and 7 (along with Mozilla variants) rise to 30 to 40 percent of all visitors in recent months. Apple Safari browsers to this site are about 10 to 15 percent. But, that is who makes up much of the readership here.

Microsoft's statement was very disappointing on a couple fronts for me. One is it is one of the most buggy "modern" browsers when working with CSS box model on Windows machines. The other important impact is IE on Windows does not adjust all font sizes as their version IE 5 on Mac browser first did, and now nearly all other modern browsers do. These two major downfalls of the Windows IE browser make Web developers jobs much harder, but the lack font resizing pokes the aging population right in the eye. The next MS browser will be bundled with their next Operating System, which is due out in late 2005 at the earliest.

I had been finding a couple trends in the past couple years. People that have decreasing vision have tended to use Netscape 6 or higher, Opera 6 or higher, or other modern browsers (including IE 5 for Mac) because they could easily change the font size so they could access the information. I had been surprised with the large number of Non-Win IE users with less than perfect vision, but when explained that the desire to have access to all information was important it made sense.

The competing item is many older folks do not know how to adjust their font size in the browsers that they do have. These older folks often do not know how easy it is to switch to a browser that has the ability to change all text to a size that is easy to read. This is truly sad for these folks. The current computing market is not to the point where their is true ease of use for product, nor freedom of choice for the non-technically inclined (this day will come, someday). The saddest part is the company with the most resources and the capability to do this most easily, Microsoft, essentially raised its middle finger at this aging population (intentionally or not they showed they did not care). Now, its longtime competitor with the next greatest market share is gone from the market.

Others with comments:
Doug Bowman
Molly Holzschlag
Eric Meyer
Jeffrey Zeldman and JZ part II
Nick at Digital Web

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Jon Udell

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