BitDepth 625 - April 28

Warp and Netscape are gone, here are some final words.
A Requiem for code

OS2 Warp may be dead to IBM, but the code lives on as eComStation’s custom PC product.

All good things come to an end, some more mourned than others. In the world of computing, the end for products is often sudden, merciless and mostly unnoticed.
Competition for the attention of fickle consumers in a field which was once the exclusive province of the nerdy has resulted in rapid turnover of products.
Most popular products have already taken their poison pill, their cycle of utility programmed into a relentless production rhythm of release, repair and update that tends to run on cycles of twelve to eighteen months.
I nurture, for instance, a powerful memory of Photoshop 1.07, the software that essentially changed my career, but a recollection is all I’ll ever have now. I have no computers with floppy drives to read the three discs that it shipped on, no CPU that can respond to the instructions the software would require to run.

Photoshop is dead, then, but long live Photoshop.
At the end of 2006, IBM finally pulled the support plug on the operating system that could, its in-house brewed operating system, OS2. You can still buy the software, which is now distributed as eComStation, but the last official version, known by then as Warp, was released by IBM in December 2001, ending development that began in 1985.

“I need warp, Scotty.” “Ye canna have it, sir.”
OS2 had big fans among those who used it. It was the first operating system to have an advocacy group, grassroots supporters who disseminated information about the new software.
Differences in culture between IBM and Microsoft who collaborated on early versions of the product along with slow support for drivers for printers and other peripherals pushed the product into niches. At least one major local bank ran key aspects of its operations on OS2 for many years before changing platforms fairly recently.

OS2 was very sophisticated software in its time, capable of running Windows in a virtualisation layer and support for new technologies such as Java were quickly added to releases in 1996.
As newer OS releases increased stability, its use was slowly phased out in major installations and the remaining faithful hope that OS2 will one day be released as open source code.
In February this year, America Online (AOL), the official owners of the Netscape brand and browser, announced the discontinuation of the product.

For many, the point was moot. Netscape as a browser had not been actively developed for years, and releases since version 6 have been based almost entirely on the codebase of the open source Mozilla project is now better known as the source of the popular Firefox browser.
So the final version of the Netscape browser, version, is, to all intents and purposes, Firefox version

Bringing the web to the world
Netscape’s place in the popular development of the Internet, however remains secure. The first product of a commercial company created by Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark, the Netscape browser was built on the pioneering work that Andreessen had done in creating the Mosaic browser; the first software to turn the industriously geeky World Wide Web into pages that the average user could view and read.
From a high in 1994, Netscape Communications quickly became embroiled in a damaging battle for marketshare with Microsoft, which poured resources into a competing, free browser called Internet Explorer.

Between 1994 and 1998, a development war raged back and forth as both companies fought to be the preferred browser of web browsing computer users.
Both companies were damaged by the battle; Microsoft mismanaging its public relations in Justice Department instigated antitrust proceedings that found that it had “abused monopoly power” to displace Netscape from the desktop.
Netscape Communications never recovered, and the weakened company was bought by AOL in 1998. AOL never knew quite what to do with the new asset, but allowed the open source development of the browser code, which birthed the Mozilla project that extended the viability of Netscape releases and created a range of browsers built on the steadily developed Gecko rendering engine, of which Firefox is only the most well known.
Netscape may be dead, but its spirit lives on in SeaMonkey, the closest analogue that the Mozilla project offers to the all-in-one goodness of Netscape in its prime. But AOL’s generosity has also given the world Flock, a “social” browser and the browser built into the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. 
In one of those grand ironies you can’t make up, it’s even the browser engine of choice in Second Life.

There’s one more elegy on my blog about Polaroid

Mozilla's Browsers
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