Out of the ashes of the Browser Wars arose Firefox—the Browser Reloaded. We take a historical look at the browser that is making history
After the mess that Netscape left behind, after the Browser Wars were over, out of all the dust and rubble emerged Mozilla Firefox, touted as the best browser today.
If you're ready to make the switch to Firefox, it would be nice to have an introduction into what's happened over the past decade to make Firefox what it is today.
The Rise and Fall of Netscape
With a good mix of features and a free license for non-commercial purposes, the Netscape browser soon became the de facto standard during the Internet revolution of the mid-1990s.
Microsoft saw Netscape's success as a threat to the monopoly status of the Windows OS. It began a campaign to establish control over the browser market. The resulting battle between Netscape and Microsoft became known as the Browser Wars. IE 5.0, in 1998, with many bug fixes and stability improvements, saw Navigator's market share plummet below IE's for the first time.
In March 1998, realising that the browser market was lost, Netscape split off most of the Communicator code and put it under an Open Source license. The project was dubbed Mozilla. However, the Mozilla engineers decided to scrap the Communicator code and start from scratch.
Netscape's new owners, AOL, released Netscape 6 on November 14, 2000, based on pre-release Mozilla code. The product was a huge disappointment: it was bulky, slow, and unstable. Netscape 6.1 and 6.2, released in 2001, addressed the stability problems, but were still large and slow.
In 2002, AOL released Netscape 7. It was based on a more stable and notably faster Mozilla 1.0 core and bundled with extras. The market responded to what was essentially a repackaged version of Mozilla by ignoring it.
In July 2003, AOL announced that it was laying off its remaining development staff working on the Netscape version of Mozilla. Combined with AOL's antitrust case court settlement with Microsoft to use IE in future versions of the AOL software, this marked the effective end of development on Netscape Navigator, the open source projects notwithstanding.
Coming back to Mozilla: the engineers, if you recall, had decided to scrap the Communicator code and start from scratch. The Mozilla Organization (Mozilla.org) eventually succeeded in producing a full-featured Internet suite that surpassed Communicator in both features and stability. Mozilla.org was newly-created back then; its intent, among others, was to develop an application from the mess that Netscape had left behind.
Under the AOL banner, Mozilla.org continued development of the browser and management of the Mozilla source until July 2003, when this task passed to the Mozilla Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit organisation composed primarily of developers and staff from Mozilla.org.
By June 2002, the Mozilla project had produced a serviceable, standards-based Web browser that worked on multiple OSes. The Mozilla 1.0 release in June 2002 was praised for introducing new features that IE lacked. Additionally, the Mozilla browser became a de facto reference implementation for various World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards.
In July 2003, AOL announced that it would close down its browser division, which was, in essence, Netscape's Mozilla. Far from being the end, this was the beginning of the Mozilla Foundation, formed by former Netscape/Mozilla veterans to take responsibility of the development of Mozilla.
And thus, Mozilla Firefox was born: it is the browser module of the Mozilla suite. Originally known as Phoenix and later Firebird, it is a free Web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation and hundreds of volunteers. Firefox has received a great deal of acclaim from the news media. Firefox has become the main focus of Mozilla development, along with the Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail client.
Firefox vs IE
Firefox has attracted attention as an alternative to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, since IE has come under fire by the media for insecurity, lack of features, and ease of spyware and malware installation.
Standards-compliant. A host of features that IE doesn't have. Secure browsing. Far fewer crashes. Live Bookmarks. A small download. Built from the ground up by engineers who knew the old Netscape code very well. What's not to like about Firefox?