Five Years Ago Today: Netscape Source Code Released

Sunday March 30th, 2003

On this day in 1998, Netscape made good on its historic announcement to release the Communicator source code. At 10:00am Pacific Time, an early development snapshot of Netscape Communicator 5.0 — which included Navigator and Composer but not Messenger — was posted to, together with a note thanking those who had made it happen. Netscape also published a document describing how the open source development process would work after the code release. Contemporary news coverage came from sites such as CNET, whose article featured quotes from both Netscape and Microsoft, and Wired News, who filed reports both shortly before the release and on the day after.

#1 Happy Birthday!

by Waldo

Sunday March 30th, 2003 11:23 PM

I remember that day well. It was pretty amazing-- it was like a race to see who could get 5.0 to compile first on the different platforms. The amazing thing is-- if you look at the announcement and their expectation for what would become of Netscape 5.0... it pretty much worked! The original code was chucked and we started from scratch, but after 3 1/2 years and countless discussions and input from around the world, Mozilla 1.0 finally rolled out--- along with the Netscape, Phoenix, Chimera, Galeon and other Mozilla-based browsers and software. So yeah, today IE owns 95% of the browser market ( but if Netscape hadn't lead the way in promoting open-source and giving it publicity and support, the Internet and computing in general would be in much worse shape.

#2 Did mozilla achieve what it promised ?

by gangz

Monday March 31st, 2003 2:20 AM

It surely is a wonderful feeling to have a complete framework which has withstood the test of time and growing. But let us look at it from a critical point of view. Did mozilla (or the complete range of browsers) achieve what they aimed at. I would like to know what people think about this. This post is not flamebait. It is an attempt to understand what do people feel about the objectives that were set then and whether they were achieved in the right timeframe. I honestly donot know what it was 5 years ago, coz I did not know about GPL , open source, linux those days. But I definitely knew there was a nice browser called netscape communicator and I prefered it over Internet Explorer. Happy birthday !

#4 Re: Did mozilla achieve what it promised ?

by simifilm

Monday March 31st, 2003 4:02 AM

I guess that really depends on what you define as Mozilla's goal. If Mozilla was aimed at becoming the number one browser, it has clearly failed. But IMO this was an impossible task in the beginning. As long as MS bundles IE with their OS it simply can't be beaten.

If you define Mozilla's goal as offering an open source, cross platform, standard compliant browser it was very succesful. Mozilla today is the most standard compliant browser, and although it has a small marketshare its influence on other browsers is strong. Just look at the whole tabs debatte among the Safari user. I know that Mozilla hasn't invented tabs, but I'm sure without it, tabs wouldn't be such a hot topic.

You could also compare Moz's success in relation to other open source projects, and here you can see good and bad things. Bugzilla for example has proven to very successful and was adapted in many other places. In terms of general organisation Mozilla shows a mixed picture. The general code quality could definitely be better...

Just some random thoughts...


#6 Re: Re: Did mozilla achieve what it promised ?

by vgendler

Monday March 31st, 2003 8:22 AM

"If Mozilla was aimed at becoming the number one browser, it has clearly failed" - It is not the end, it is not the end. If it were an aim I would consider it as a clear success. Without marketing even without any advertisements Mozilla already has good market share only from the word of mouth. I pointed all my friends to it and almost all of them switched to Mozilla. If Mozilla in the couple upcoming versions will offer tighter and better integration between such components as Mail and Calendar them it will increase its market share considerably.

#13 Re: Re: too bad

by simifilm

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:27 AM

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't meant as criticism but mainly to show that the success of Mozilla depends on what you consider its goal. No browser can ever beat IE as long as gets bundled with the world's most used OS, therefore Mozilla can't be critized for its failing in taking over the world.

#15 Re: too bad

by vgendler

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:04 AM

No bad feelings. "... as long as gets bundled with the world's most used OS" - It happened one time in the past with Netscape. Other examples are NetMeeting is bundled with Windows and the Windows installation program has no option to not install it but people still prefer AOL or ICQ, TextPad is always in Windows but such editors as Ultraedit, TextPad to name a few have good market share.

#22 Re: Re: Re: Did mozilla achieve what it promised ?

by pbreit

Monday March 31st, 2003 11:23 AM It is precisely the distraction of producing the non-browsing related components (mail, news, chat, compose, calendar) that eliminates the possiblility of Moz gaining meaningful marketshare. Moz's best shot at share is having AOL, Apple, bundle distribute Gecko. All the other components distract from this.

#20 Re: Did mozilla achieve what it promised ?

by vcs2600

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:41 AM

One big problem with open source projects is determining exactly what the goals and objectives really are. Which is why many of the successful projects are just clones of existing software. For example, everyone agrees that the goal of the Linux kernel is "Create a copy a monolithic UNIX kernel", where more 'blue sky' projects like HURD tend to get bogged down because few people understand what they are trying to achieve.

I really think the goal of Mozilla was nothing more than "Rewrite Netscape Communicator from scratch, except make it standards compliant and more portable."

Which they did successfully, but along the way nobody really questioned if users really *wanted* a new version of Netscape 4 -- and when people did they were generally ignored. Thus Mozilla gets the exact same criticisms that NN4 did when it was released way back when -- bloated, slow startup, too much stuff in one process space, etc. Not to mention that 7 years ago, Communicator fit into Netscape's mail/groupware/intranet server strategy, and even though that strategy went out-of-business, we still have the all-in-one Communicator approach.

Fortunately, people are hacking on Phoenix and Minotaur and other approaches to build more end user requirements-driven software based on Mozilla's "technology demonstration". But it took a long time to get there.

#3 Happy Birthday Moz! (n/t)

by Hendikins

Monday March 31st, 2003 2:49 AM


#5 Special browser(s) aimed at children?

by mamare

Monday March 31st, 2003 4:39 AM

Happy Birthday Moz and congratulations to all conributors ..

CNET .... For instance, Netscape's Lisbonne envisioned special browsers aimed at children or international markets. .....

Any plans on doing a children's version? or a plug in that would set restrictions on sites and set time limits for browsing etc .. effectively turning mozilla/phoenix into a children's version .. ?

#21 Re: Special browser(s) aimed at children?

by AlexBishop

Monday March 31st, 2003 11:18 AM

Mozilla-based browser for children:


#7 Business Week's Steve Wildstrom says ...

by DeepFreeze3

Monday March 31st, 2003 8:45 AM

... Netscape has 5% market share. I wonder how Gecko-based browsers (as a whole) are doing?

PS: Slowly, but surely, we're getting there. ;-)

#9 Re: Business Week's Steve Wildstrom says ...

by MozSaidAloha

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:01 AM

According to Charles Upsdell, Gecko has a 6.7% market share. for everyone else:

IE: 28.1% GECKO: 6.7% NN4 (Pre Gecko): 1.5% Opera: 0.95% Others: 2.3%

Total: 39.5%

The source stats are here:

#14 Improvement's a bitch, aint' it? ;-)

by DeepFreeze3

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:35 AM

YEP!! Even better than I thought!! And we're even kicking Opera's ass!! WTF??!! I thought browsers that you had to pay for were better that a community endeavour. ;-) More proof that Gecko rules!!

#23 Opera

by jonik

Monday March 31st, 2003 11:53 AM

Take into account that Opera's default UA-string is something like: "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows XP) Opera 6.05 [en]"

..and many log analyzers / trackers interpret that as MSIE (although it would be easy to identify it as Opera).

In my experience (based on some low/medium-traffic sites), Opera seems to be a bit more popular than Gecko-based browsers at the moment... But Gecko's gaining marketshare relatively fast, which is delighting, of course.

#24 Opera

by schapel

Monday March 31st, 2003 1:18 PM

> ...many log analyzers / trackers interpret that as MSIE...

Which ones?

#27 Opera

by jonik

Tuesday April 1st, 2003 2:40 AM

At least ExtremeTracking (e.g.;sys?login=sreactor ,;sys?login=mozdave ). Hmm... and probably others, although right now I can't name any... :)

#29 Opera

by schapel

Wednesday April 2nd, 2003 9:49 AM

Yeah, I don't see any mention of Opera 7 in those stats, so it looks like Opera is undercounted. However, I see no mention of Netscape 7 or Safari, either. It just looks like newer browsers are undercounted, not just Opera.

Every browser is undercounted by stats. You can use The Proxomitron to spoof the UA of any browser on Windows. Does anyone have any evidence that Opera is undercounted significantly more than other browsers? Some people claim that there are more Opera users than Mozilla users, even though the stats show that Mozilla is used three times as much as Opera. Sorry, I don't buy it!

#30 Opera

by jonik

Thursday April 3rd, 2003 2:18 AM

Yes, in Extremetracking, at least, Opera *is* significantly more undercounted than other browsers!

Netscape 6/7, Mozilla, Phoenix, (and other Gecko browsers) and also Safari are all counted as "Netscape 6", I think that's pretty well known. Opera 7 is counted as "Opera 6", but *only* if the user has manually changed the identification, otherwise it is counted as MSIE. (And yeah, obviously KHTML browsers are totally undercounted in these statistics, too.)

I have compared raw UA-string data in a logfile to corresponding Extremetracking stats, and am quite sure of this.

According to the stats I've looked at, I'd estimate that Opera has more users than Gecko. But I guess it's impossible to say anything for sure. Popularity of Opera/Gecko certainly varies depending on the site, and perhaps on geographical location of the users etc. (Exact stats from Google would probably be interesting to look at...)

#19 Re: Business Week's Steve Wildstrom says ...

by ezh

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:28 AM - Russia - Russia - Latvia - Poland (from Poland) - Poland (users outside Poland) - Poland (from Poland + outher countries)

#8 Communicator 5.0 Archived?

by Jonny_R

Monday March 31st, 2003 8:57 AM

Does someone still have the original build of Netscape Communicator 5.0 that was released 5 years ago?

#10 Re: Communicator 5.0 Archived?

by MarkHB

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:04 AM

I would have to assume it is the file found at . If anyone knows otherwise, please post. There is a Stuffit Expander version in the same directory.

#25 NN5 Archive

by IanHurst

Monday March 31st, 2003 2:23 PM

There's a build archived here:

I've never been able to run it though...

#28 Re: NN5 Archive

by ezh

Tuesday April 1st, 2003 3:59 AM

I'm pretty sure that that's not it. I had a version with installer like 4.x had and it looked like 4.[ and was unstable. Damn I deleted it. :((((

#16 Re: Communicator 5.0 Archived?

by ezh

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:04 AM

I had a copy of NN5.0 alfa, but I deleted it. :(

#11 Screenshots

by Bake

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:05 AM

After reading this I realized that I don't recall ever seeing a screenshot of N5. Anyone have any links to some?

#17 Re: Screenshots

by ezh

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:05 AM

It was absolutely as NN4.

#18 Re: Screenshots

by vcs2600

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:26 AM

Seem to recall that it looked like Netscape 4 plus a sidebar.

#26 Re: Screenshots

by lucx

Monday March 31st, 2003 10:20 PM

#12 Screenshots

by Bake

Monday March 31st, 2003 9:08 AM

After reading this I realized that I don't recall ever seeing a screenshot of N5. Anyone have any links to some?