A Nostalgic Look Back at Netscape Navigator

netscapeAlthough Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox are the three major Internet browsers right now, the truth is that they all have Netscape Navigator to thank.

This might seem like a stretch, but Navigator did many things that proved just how profitable the Internet could be, which prompted a boom of browser development. It might be obsolete now, but Netscape Navigator was the strongest browser of its time.

History and Success

Navigator wasn’t the first Web browser, but it was definitely the first modern browser. Work on Navigator began in 1993 because Marc Andreessen, the founder and creator of Navigator, was unhappy with the browsers at that time, such as Mosiac.

Finally released in 1994, Navigator was met with overwhelming support due to several key factors. Its features were much better than other Web browsers, but it was the licensing agreements that really pushed its popularity.

While many people had to pay for Navigator at the time, the company stated that both non-commercial and educational entities could download the browser for free, which ensured that students and workers would pay for the program after getting hooked on it from school or work.

It only took a year for Navigator to become the most popular browser. By 1995, about 50 percent of Internet users were running Navigator.

Unique Features

It might seem absurd now, but browsers during Navigator’s time wouldn’t load a website’s text until all of the graphics were loaded. This was a problem because most people had dial-up connections and it could take several minutes for a simple website to load.

Navigator loaded the text first so that people could explore the website much quicker than before. This was also the first browser to modernize frames, cookies, and JavaScript, and it even toyed with the idea of Web-based applications.

These features might seem mundane now, but they were controversial at the time because they weren’t standardized. While the features were often full of security problems, this allowed Navigator to stay ahead of the technological curve.


Things got bad for Netscape in 1996 because Microsoft caught up to them. Microsoft released Internet Explorer and bundled it with the Windows OS. This meant that anyone who bought the OS could automatically use a browser without downloading Navigator.

While Internet Explorer was initially slower and inferior to Navigator, it soon caught up and became both stronger and more popular. Navigator tried to gain its market share back, but the security issues; slow loading times when compared to Internet Explorer; and a difficult time with CSS sealed Navigator’s fate.


Not only did Navigator pioneer many of the basic Web design and programming standards still used today, but it also spawned one of the most popular browsers. Mozilla Firefox is based on Netscape Communicator, which was the successor to Navigator.

Navigator was also responsible for the Internet’s popularity as a whole because few technology firms were willing to invest in browsers since they were a fringe market at the time. Navigator showed the world just how important and profitable the Internet could be.

While slow and inferior by today’ standards, Navigator was the first modern browser that made it easy for people to use the Internet. Not only did it pioneer many new standards, but it also made the Internet popular, which led to all of the amazing browsers that exist today. If you really want to thank any one program for the Internet’s success as a whole, then you better give praise to Navigator.

About the author: This piece was composed by Derek Seton, a freelance writer who concentrates on the internet, IT consulting, gadgets, gadget accessories, cell phones, computers, technology and other related issues; iPod owners searching for neat accessories may want to check out the kensington ipod dock from kensington.com.

photo credit: kiclaw


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