AOL quietly announced Friday that it was ending support for the Netscape-branded browser, handing sole control and (vocal) support to the Mozilla Foundation for what was once the worldis dominate Web browser. The announcement was made via the Netscape Blog by Tom Drapeau, who wrote that the Netscape team would continue to release security updates for the current version of Netscape until February 1st, 2008, and recommended all Netscape users switch to Firefox.
It has taken years for AOL to kill off the Netscape company which it bought in 1999 after Microsoft destroyed the market of for-profit browsers by illegally dumping Internet Explorer for free, and then tying it to the Windows operating system. Netscape, which derived much of its revenue from the sale of Netscape Navigator to consumers, saw declining sales, and sold itself to AOL.
As noted in the blog announcement, Netscape was in the process of turning Navigator into an Open Source project at the time of the AOL acquisition, and AOL was the sole funder of that effort (named Mozilla) for several years. In 2003, AOL launched the Mozilla Foundation as an independent organization to manage further development of the Open Source Mozilla. Until now, AOL has continued to release Netscape-branded browsers that were based on Mozilla releases.
The announcement also said that AOL would be providing an archive of old Netscape releases, but the company was fairly adamant about encouraging Netscape users to make the switch to Firefox.
It may or may not be of interest that the announcement was made during one of the slowest news weeks of the year.