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Netscape Navigator
Only six years ago Netscape took the world by storm, ensuring a place in history for the Mountain View, California-based company founded by Net luminaries Mark Andreessen and Jim Clark.

The Netscape Navigator browser, successor to the groundbreaking Mosaic, played an inestimable role in the development and growth of the Internet and World Wide Web, giving users what at the time was a revolutionary graphic user interface.

For the first time pages on the World Wide Web could be more than just collections of boring blue hypertext and chunks of text. The results are history. The web exploded - gaining in popularity every month after Navigator came out.

In the process, Netscape revolutionized not only the World Wide Web, but also the way we do business. By giving away Navigator as a free download, the company helped create a new business model that would take advantage of the Internet's power as a distribution tool and fuel the rapid growth of the US software industry.

Skeptics wondered how Netscape would ever survive without a steady income stream.

The answer was telling. It turned out drawing visitors to Netscape's web site created more income generation opportunities than anybody expected.

The company made money selling advertising. Money licensing the product. Not to mention a lot of money from the sale of other products, like Netscape's Server software.

In 1997 America Online acquired Netscape for $4.3 billion in cash and stock.

Navigator's mystique seems to have worn thin since. Many longtime fans complain that the browser just doesn't feel the same anymore.

If so, the subtle changes put in place by the new management in Virginia may be to blame. AOL brought in pop-up advertising, a development many surfers found unsettling.

The company also experimented with advertising during downloads - a phenomenal idea from the marketing department's point of view - but a real bummer from the perspective of users unused to having their quiet time interrupted by plugs for Beanie Babies.

On the other hand, Navigator's decline may be no more than the inevitable loss of momentum that happens to every leader in a race - a natural letdown after the heady early years of the company's success.

Despite the problems, Navigator remains a popular choice with surfers and will be around for a long time to come.

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