At the end of 2007, AOL announced that it would be ceasing support for Netscape's Navigator browser on February 1st 2008. As of that date, the Netscape brand will have reached it's nadir. What an amazing rise and fall. Most of the coverage on this subject has been lamenting the decline of a truly innovative brand that made the web accessible to the world back in the heady mid-90s. Moreover, Netscape's demise is blamed largely on Microsoft, which suddenly woke up to the power of the internet and crushed all in its path in its attempt to catch up. The free bundling of Explorer with all new Windows operating systems was the first nail in Netscape's coffin. We all know this story, but what's been bugging me about it is that Netscape has been portrayed as the innocent victim of Microsoft's zealous power. I think that Netscape was just not good enough at the time to survive. It was not crushed by a ruthless Microsoft, but by the power of the market. People voted by not opening their wallets.
Firefox from Mozilla has shown that an alternative to Explorer is still viable. It embraces the principles of Web 2.0 (open source, free, collaborative, sharing, working towards best practice) and actually emerged from the ashes of Netscape's technology in the late '90s when Netscape programmers started working on a simpler browser, free from Netscape's commercial sponsorship responsibilities.
While it is a better product than Explorer (less open to viruses and phishing, simple navigation etc), the most important thing going for Firefox is that it represents a viable alternative brand - one to identify with that isn't from the massive supplier, one that embraces collaboration and change and is open to its users influencing its growth and development. Another lighthouse brand making its way.
The Dozen is an eclectic take on innovation, branding, media, strategy and research, brought to you by the creative minds at Egg Strategy.