Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goodbye Netscape

You might as well tack this sign to New York's Time Warner building:

Netscape Navigator,
the browser that made the World Wide Web famous,
won't be brewed here anymore

(A rewrite of the lead from a 1981 Milwaukee Journal story the day The Jos. Schlitz Brewing Company announced that Schlitz, "the beer that made Milwaukee famous," would no longer be brewed there.)

Friday's announcement that America Online, a division of Time Warner, would end development of the Netscape Navigator Web browser on Feb. 1, 2008, comes as a punch in the stomach to those who grew up on it. Yes, most of us, including this writer, abandoned it long ago for Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox or even Opera Software's Opera browser.

However it was Netscape's valiant David-vs.-Goliath court battles with Microsoft that endeared us to the sometimes-troublesome Web browser. Netscape staggered, but didn't slay the software giant, but the court battles gave us all a lesson in not giving up even when the odds were against us.

I've always had a soft spot for also-rans. I was a New York Mets fan when finishing above last place was considered a major achievement. In the end, AOL's decision was a simple one, made like a baseball team owner gazing at a stadium full of empty seats.

According to the official Netscape blog:

"AOL's focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. Given AOL's current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it's the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox."

For more information, zip over to the Netscape blog (

Thursday, December 27, 2007

World's oldest e-mail address? Nah!

Happy Birthday 72407,3343!

(Note: Mailing address on card is obsolete.)
Today my CompuServe e-mail address turns 22 years old. Think of how many online services, Web portals, e-mail services and other Internet-borne businesses have come and gone in that time.

I still remember that magic moment in 1985 when I dialed in and signed on and waited -- and waited -- and waited -- for that first CompuServe welcome message to crawl across the monochrome screen of my cutting-edge Tandy 100 laptop.

And I do mean crawled -- at 300 bits per second. That's 300 bits per second -- not kilobits or megabits! Yes, in 1985 most of us could type faster than our computers could transmit data.

At that time CompuServe was by far the top name in online services, offering more useful content and more access to important databases than any other service.

The fact that you could also use it to send e-mail to was almost an afterthought since at that time you could only send messages to other CompuServe members. Other online services of the time had the same limitation. That explains the many e-mail address at the bottom of my old business card (see above).

Of course things changed over time as CompuServe initially opened special gateways to MCI Mail and other select online services and later opened the gates wide open so that members could contact any e-mail address.

CompuServe, born in 1969, is still alive today, although it's hard to tell from its rather lame home page ( America Online, which acquired CompuServe in 1998, barely markets the service and seems intent on letting the venerable old name peter out through membership attrition.

Who would have thought in 1985, when cell phones were the size of milk cartons, that we would be checking e-mail on shirt-pocket-size handsets today.

No, my CompuServe address isn't the the oldest e-mail address in the world by a long shot, but... Do you have an older one?

This curious mind would like to know.

Text and image Copyright 2007 Stadium Circle Features

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Smartphones for gift-giving

Looking for a new smartphone? Take a look at my latest piece in the New York Daily News for some guidance. And let me know what you think!