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Red Hat Linux to Drop Netscape Browser When Mozilla 1.0 Ships

Oedipus Revisited, Is Mozilla Slaying Netscape?

Mike Angelo -- 11 May 2001(c)

Red Hat Software officials stated this week that Red Hat Linux will drop Netscape altogether and go only with Mozilla when Mozilla reaches 1.0 status (Scot Petersen, eWEEK, May 10, 2001). That Red Hat statement, reported in eWEEK, makes it official.

We discussed this issue with Melissa London, Red Hat´ Director of Corporate Public Relations, today. Clarifying Red Hat´s browser plans, she states: The plan is to drop the Netscape browser as soon as Mozilla has equal functionality. It is close now, so if that release happens to be Mozilla 1.0, then yes, it will be the sole browser. If functionality is not equal, we will continue to ship both until such a time when Mozilla is a comparable and better replacement.

However, Red Hat's decision to drop the Netscape browser-suite in favor of the Mozilla browser-suit should come as no surprise to those who read MozillaQuest Magazine's April 19 interview with Red Hat's Melissa London.

Excerpt of the MozillaQuest interview with Melissa London, Red Hat's Director of Corporate Public Relations,

MozillaQuest: Why did you choose Netscape 4.76 instead of Netscape 6.x?

Melissa London: Netscape 6.x is not freely distributable. 4.76 is the last version based on the "old code", and is faster and uses less memory than Netscape 6.x

MozillaQuest: Why did you choose to include Mozilla?

Melissa London: It is a picture of where open source browser technology is going. The Mozilla we shipped is better than Netscape 6.x.

MozillaQuest: Why did you choose to include both Netscape & Mozilla?

Melissa London: They both have strengths and weaknesses. A future release will likely see the drop of Netscape 4.7x.

Nor should it come as a big surprise to readers who are using Red Hat Linux 7.1. Netscape 6 is noticeably not included with the new Red Hat Linux 7.1 distribution. However, Mozilla 0.7 and Netscape 4.76 are included with Red Hat Linux 7.1. (For the London interview and more about Red Hat Linux 7.1, please see our article, A Red Hat Linux 7.1 Preview: What's Under the Newest Fedora.)

Scot Petersen concludes When Red Hat Inc. bundled the Mozilla Web browser into its latest Linux distribution, version 7.1, it was the beginning of the end for the company's relationship with America Online Inc.'s Netscape browser. (eWEEK, May 10, 2001. Link in the Resources section below.)

More importantly, perhaps, is that Red Hat's plans to drop the Netscape browser-suite from Red Hat Linux could mark the beginning of the end for the Netscape browser suite. Browser-wise, Microsoft's Internet Explorer already dominates the several Windows platform variants. Linux has been Netscape's last safe harbor.

So far, the computer press and end users alike have heavily criticized the preview and initial shipping versions of the new Netscape 6 browser suite. Additionally, our MozillaQuest monthly Web server log analyses consistently show Netscape 6 even is losing the browser war to its now outdated predecessor, Netscape 4.x editions. So, it does not appear at this time that Netscape will re-take the Windows market. Score that as Microsoft 1, Netscape 0. Or score it as Netscape 4.x = 1 and Netscape 6 = 0. Either way, Netscape 6 comes out the loser.

The Linux desktop battlefield seems to be Netscape's last stand. There is no Microsoft Internet Explorer browser to compete with Netscape for the Linux desktop. So, pretty much as a matter of course, Linux distributors such as Red Hat and Caldera have included the Netscape browser suite with their Linux distributions.

Red Hat Linux clearly is one of the leading, if not the leading, commercial Linux distribution. Red Hat's decision to drop Netscape will cost Netscape about 30% of the commercial Linux market. If Mandrake and Caldera also decide to drop Netscape, there goes another 40% or so of the Linux market about 70% altogether for these three Linux distributions.

If Caldera, Mandrake, and other commercial Linux packagers already have not come to the same browser-suite decisions to which Red Hat has come, chances are they will make the same conclusions and decisions that Red Hat has made to drop Netscape and replace it with Mozilla. Score Red Hat's plans to drop Netscape for Mozilla as Mozilla 1, Netscape 0.

(Note: even if Netscape is not included with the Linux distributions, Linux users still can download Netscape and install it themselves. However, if the Mozilla and KDE Konqueror browsers come pre-installed with the Linux distributions it's not likely that Linux users will bother to download and install Netscape.)

When and if more Linux distributors drop Netscape, Netscape will have lost its last stronghold. Netscape will have lost the browser wars.

Mozilla clobbering Netscape is a very curious happening. First, it was Netscape that created the Mozilla organization. Is the child killing its own parent?

The Netscape browser-suite is based upon the Mozilla, open source, browser suite. The lion's share of Mozilla developers is comprised of Netscape employees. And Netscape is the Mozilla Organization's largest money and infrastructure contributor.

Moreover, the Netscape browser, e-mail, and composer modules pretty much look and feel like the comparable Mozilla modules. Is AOL/Time-Warner's Netscape division shooting itself in the foot somehow?

In large part, the Mozilla browser suite and the Netscape browser-suite (sans Netscape's bloatware additions) are the same darn thing. In essence, Netscape is losing to Netscape. What AOL/Time-Warner management genius has come up with the lose-to-yourself management model?

More than curious, this mess is indeed unfortunate. Netscape 6, based on the underlying Mozilla browser suite, had the potential to be a great product. However, somehow AOL/Time-Warner's Netscape division has managed to turn what should be a great product into a flop.

AOL/Time-Warner's Netscape division's problem might not be merely the Netscape 6 product itself. In MozillaQuest Magazine's April 19 Melissa London interview, she explained why Red Hat chose Netscape 4.76 over Netscape 6.x for its Red Hat Linux 7.1 distribution: Netscape 6.x is not freely distributable. 4.76 is the last version based on the "old code", and is faster and uses less memory than Netscape 6.x.

Brian Profitt reports that according to Preston Brown, manager of Linux Operating System Development/Engineering at Red Hat . . . `The simple answer is, . . . we don't have the redistribution rights for Netscape 6.' The latest Netscape browser was released under entirely different terms than the older Netscape 4.7 line of browsers, and Brown said that Red Hat would have to undergo extensive negotiations with AOL or Sun Microsystems to get the rights to distribute Netscape 6. (BrowserWatch, May 10, 2001. Link in the Resources section below.)

The next important upcoming Netscape edition is Netscape 6.5. It could well be Netscape's Last Stand.

The pressure certainly now is on AOL/Time-Warner's Netscape division to put out a product that will attract its former users and supporters to return to the fold, or at least stop the remaining Netscape fans from jumping ship. In addition to improving product quality, AOL/Time-Warner's Netscape division will have to make Netscape 6.5 freely distributable too if it wants to stay on the Linux desktop..

If you thought the browser wars were over, forget that. Pull up a chair and get a supply of popcorn, peanuts, hot dogs, beverages, and other such tailgate party supplies. The show is not over yet folks. Stay tuned.

Note: Red Hat, Inc. released its Red Hat Linux 7.1 distribution for free, public downloading April 16, 2001 and started shipping commercially packaged RHL 7.1 on or about April 23, 2001.

Resources

Related Articles

The Snail Moves: Mozilla Milestone 0.9 Browser-Suite Released

More Mozilla Roadmap & Development Plan Changes: Mozilla 1.0 Pushed Back to Q3 2001

A Red Hat Linux 7.1 Preview: What's Under the Newest Fedora

New Browser War Heats Up -- But It's Netscape vs. Netscape

How To Download, Install, & Configure Netscape 6.0 -- Safely!

Red Hat to go solely with Mozilla browser (Scot Petersen, eWEEK, May 10, 2001)

Red Hat Linux Will Drop Netscape for Mozilla or Other Browser (By Brian Proffitt, BrowserWatch, May 10, 2001)

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Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved

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