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May 17, 2001

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Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars?

Part I: Linux Could Be Netscape's Last Browser Battlefield

Mike Angelo -- 17 May 2001(c)

Netscape 6 is noticeably absent from the Red Hat Linux 7.1 the Linux-Mandrake 8.0, and the SuSE Linux 7.1 distributions. It's also noticeably absent from Caldera's OpenLinux 3.1 beta. Meanwhile, MandrakeSoft, Red Hat, and SuSE include the Mozilla browser-suite in their latest Linux distributions.

Mozilla is not Netscape 6's only competitor for the Linux desktop. For example, most Linux distributions include the K Desktop Environment (KDE), which includes the Konqueror browser. Sun's cross-platform (XP) StarOffice suite has browser functionality and is included with many Linux distributions. StarOffice also is available for free downloading. And many Linux distributions such as Red Hat Linux 7.1, SuSE Linux 7.1, Mandrake 8.0, and the OpenLinux 3.1 beta include Netscape 4.7x rather than Netscape 6.

There are even more choices than that for Linux browsers. Keyword here is choices. Linux distributors have plenty of choices when it comes to including browsers in their Linux packages.

Users have their choice of the assortment of browsers that are included with Linux distributions. Add to that the bevy of Linux compatible browsers that easily can be downloaded. Altogether, Linux users and system administrators have a very nice selection of browser choices.

If Netscape wants to stay on the Linux desktop, it is going to have to outdo its Linux desktop competitors. And so far, Netscape does not seem to be doing that. Meanwhile, Mozilla and KDE's Konqueror appear to be picking up support from Linux distributors and users.

The overwhelming success of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) in kicking Netscape off the Windows desktop in large part is that IE ships with the Windows distribution package. Therefore Windows users try Internet Explorer as a matter of course, find that it does the job, and then look no further for a browser -- bye-bye Netscape.

Likewise, Linux users are likely to try the browser(s) that come with their Linux distributions. If they find an included browser that does the job, they will look no further for a browser. So in the scenario where Netscape is not included with the Linux distribution, bye-bye Netscape.

(Note: even if Netscape 6 is not included with the Linux distributions, Linux users still can download Netscape 6 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.)

Taken together, Caldera, Mandrake, Red Hat, and SuSE comprise about 90% of the Linux distribution market. So far, AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape Division has not been able to get these Linux distributors to put its Netscape 6 product on their Linux desktops. Therefore, Linux-wise Netscape 6 is a flop. And Netscape 6 will continue to be a flop, Linux-wise, unless AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape Division can get Netscape 6 included in the major Linux distributions.

Nevertheless, Netscape still is on the Linux desktop. But that only is because the Linux distributors have continued to include the three-year old Netscape 4.7 code in their Linux distributions. The reason that old Netscape 4.7 product still is being shipped with the major Linux distributions appears to be that the Mozilla browser suite still is a work-in-progress. Red Hat's decision to drop Netscape is an example.

For the original 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.
Melissa London is the Red Hat Director of Corporate Public Relations. In earlier discussions, she told MozillaQuest Magazine that Red Hat Linux 7.1 includes both the Mozilla browser suite and Netscape 4.76 because: They both have strengths and weaknesses. A future release will likely see the drop of Netscape 4.7x.

Further discussing Red Hat´s browser plans, Melissa London stated: 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 . . . 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.

For more about Red Hat's decision to drop Netscape from its Linux distributions, please see our articles Red Hat Linux to Drop Netscape Browser When Mozilla 1.0 Ships and A Red Hat Linux 7.1 Preview: What's Under the Newest Fedora.

In Part II of this Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? series, we take a closer look at just why the Linux distributors are rejecting Netscape 6, and why they are replacing Netscape 4.7 with the Mozilla browser suite in their Linux distribution packages. Additionally, we will consider some steps AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape Division can take to try to turn the tide of battle, and to get Netscape 6 included in the major Linux distributions. Stay tuned.


Resources

Related Articles

Is Netscape Losing the Browser Wars? Part II: Why Are Major Linux Distributions Rejecting Netscape 6?

Red Hat Linux to Drop Netscape Browser When Mozilla 1.0 Ships

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

The Snail Moves: Mozilla Milestone 0.9 Browser-Suite Released

Linux for Microsoft Windows Users: #4-- Getting Started Using the Windows-Like (KDE) Desktop for Linux

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