Happy birthday Netscape 4.0

Scott Andrew LePera has created a tribute to Netscape 4.0 for its fifth birthday:

“Happy birthday, Netscape 4.0
Now please go away.”

Some tribute, Scott.

Despite its limited standards support, we should still try to accommodate Netscape 4.x. Yes, this goes against the philosophy of the resurrected Web Standards Project and many developers will think I’m crazy. Here’s some of the reasons that Netscape 4.x should still exist and be supported:

  • It’s in the best interest of the Web to have viable alternatives to the dominant web browser from you-know-who. How well Netscape 4.x is competing is subject to debate, but an argument can be made for supporting it. Stats I have seen indicate that Netscape 4 still have greater usage than Mozilla and derivatives combined, depending on the site. As other web designers and developers will affirm, it is getting more and more difficult to convince customers and bosses to support anything other than IE. And I don’t see the trend toward supporting standards, I see it toward being IE-specific. In commercial sites it makes no sense to turn away part of your audience, though, so this may even out, especially if AOL actually moves to using the Gecko engine.
  • Netscape 4.x in notable areas still has better usability than Mozilla 1.0 and derivatives: a navigation bar that is not combined with the URL bar, bookmarks drag and drop that works as expected, fewer preferences, text widgets that work as expected with platform cursor positioning, a stop button that stops image animation, a find in page that positions the found text so it is reasonably visible, etc.
  • Netscape 4.x may be somewhat less resource intensive than Mozilla on older machines. And Netscape 4.x has a pretty good security record as compared to IE. For security concerned users, IE isn’t a reasonable choice and Mozilla/Netscape 7 may be too bloated.

I look forward to improvements in Mozilla usability and performance and I hope for more diversity in web browsers. If we can gain diversity as on the Mac while at the same time increasing the available standards support, it will be terrific.

Happy birthday, Netscape 4. Go Mozilla!


So close and yet so far.

It seems the bugzilla administrators want to snatch defeat from the jaws of success. Perhaps they’re trying to make bugzilla as confusing as the browser by adding multiple ways to search. The default search interface should not be the broken old version. We know the old version intimidates newbies and causes them to skip looking for existing bugs. This leads to duplicate bug reports and time wasted. Having to scroll the old form to get to the submit button also wastes time.

I should have expected this type of leadership. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a product make a huge overhaul of a feature like this and then hide it behind the old interface. We know that the new design is the better one, otherwise it wouldn’t be planned for it to be the default interface in the future. Let’s hope the future is soon.