Friday, February 22, 2008

Continuing where Netscape failed

Today is apparently the end of the line for Netscape, with the release of the final version (ever): Netscape for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. As previously announced, AOL is pulling the plug on Netscape support at the end of the month.

The release is mainly a security bug-fix (incorporating Mozilla fixes) on top of the existing Netscape 9 features. It also lists tools for migrating to Mozilla, and something called Flock.

Flock is a social networking browser that is particularly suited for bloggers. It builds on the Mozilla code base but as a separate browser. The software hit 1.0 in November and (now I recall) was being demonstrated during my visit last month to Macworld Expo. The first 1.1 beta was released earlier this week.

However, unlike the open source Mozilla, Flock comes from a for-profit Silicon Valley company co-founded by Bart Decrem, a Mozilla (and Eazel) veteran. Decrem has since left the company and been replaced by an experienced big company manager.

The company has won funding from angels and three VCs (Bessemer, Shasta and Catamount). The only cloud on the horizon that Mozilla has responded with its own social network extensions (subtly named The Coop).

Am I the only who sees an irony here? AOL released Netscape as open source (creating Mozilla) in hopes of helping its browser business, but the effort failed and so it got out of the browser business. Meanwhile, some entrepreneurs come up with an idea for a better browser, but rather than building it from scratch, they leverage the Mozilla code base to create a brand new business.

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