Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Goodbye Netscape

AOL announced that it will stop supporting Netscape from Feb 1. In almost a decade the company grew to symbolize the Internet boom, it's IPO the start gun for the dot-com boom, it went through the M&A process which symbolized the excessive valuations, had an epic battle with Microsoft(which realized the power of Free! No purchase necessary) , it lost market share, became obsolete and now it's dead. It seems to have gone through in a decade what most companies go through in about 50 years.

I still recall the very first time I used an Internet browser - in 1995 when my then employer, Tata-IBM, installed a common machine on the 7th floor with Internet access and offered eligible employees an opportunity to use it. I got an approval from my manager and launched Netscape.

Until then I had e-mail which all the cubicle dwellers on my floor accessed on a DEC VAX machine and a link to IISc that went down every couple of days and stayed down for a few days. I then heard about the amazing world wide web, but did not have a browser to access it. I stumbled across an amazing utility - FTP via e-mail that gave access to many interesting websites, but since my e-mail access was available only for a couple of days a week, I would send a request for a file, come back a few days later and check out the results.

To grab the text of The Magna Carta.  Here's the message you send
to an ftpmail server:

open wiretap.area.com (The name of the FTP site)
chdir /Gov/World/ (Directory where the file lives)
get magna.txt (Sign here please, John)
quit (Bring it on home)

My father told me how he walked 3 miles to school everyday. I tell my son how I had to access the Internet via e-mail.


stpai said...

ha ha - Girish:
how true!

I was in University in the US then - '93-94 and Netscape with its swirling cloud icon was such a powerful new ammunition we had suddenly been gifted. To the previleged few who were used to campus eMails via LAN (Banyan Vines 4.5 if you remember)this was further recognition of our 'networking prowess'. Actually those days the 'killer app' perhaps was 'browsing' itself because there was simply not enough people with eMail ids to mail to....

March Andreesen was indeed the legendary teen aged start-up icon - and what a routing they gave Gates.

I also remember how Business Week carried on its cover story in '95 I think - How Microsoft nearly missed the Internet bus - having struggled to come to grips with the reality of the Net - and allowing a complete phenomenon to pass off under his very nose...well almost!

and then muscled its way to bundle IE into Windows and killed Netscape.

The browser is dead. Long live Netscape.....

Shankar said...

How nostalgic! Great read!

My first internet browser usage was when I visited US for the first time in Feb 1995, that too only for a few minutes. Later I started using the browser when I got a job with American Megatrends in Atlanta.

boon2 said...

Good post, Girish. Netscape symbolized the free spirit of the internet and was seen as "gateway" to this new/open world.

My 1st look at Netscape was in National informatics center in bangalore. I had to troubleshoot a routing problem with their sun server and when fixed the first thing, the administrator lady did was to open the Netscape browser on Sun machine. Netscape logo with it's swirling beam.

Nostalgic memories indeed,