Is it really the case that Mozilla Firefox is a modern day version of Netscape Navigator?


Yes, it’s true, as explained in Wikipedia’s entries for the Mozilla application suite and Firefox. More accurately, Firefox is a descendant of Netscape Navigator; most of Firefox has been rewritten in one way or another since the days of Navigator.

Most of Netscape Navigator (or rather, Communicator) was released as open source in 1998; this was then extensively rewritten and eventually emerged as the Mozilla application suite. Some of Netscape’s engineers started developing a subset of the suite to produce a nimble browser, and that eventually became Firefox (after conflicts over its previous names, Phoenix and Firebird).

The initial Mozilla rewrite took four years, and ended up being used as as an example of why not to rewrite software (see also Wikipedia’s entry on the history of the suite).

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    With seamonkey one can relive the Netscape Communicator suite feelling. I used it for a long time on my work PC. seamonkey-project.org – Patrick Schlüter Mar 24 at 14:50
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    "an example of why not to rewrite software" - if your software is non-trivial and actively maintained the whole time. CRUD frontends are rewritten all the time, after the client decides that after 10 years of only necessary bugfixes and 0 development he now wants a new features. – user11153 Mar 25 at 14:15
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    The reason that the source had to be rewritten was because it never was production quality in the first place because it too was a rewrite that shouldn't have been done. If Netscape 3 had been open sourced instead, the browser wars might have had quite a different outcome. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 25 at 16:30
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen Do you mean Netscape 4 (before anything was open sourced) was a rewrite which shouldn't have happened, and was "not production quality" (even though it was publicly released)? Or were you just misremembering the version number, and saying that the unfinished Netscape 5 code had already had heavy rewrites before the Mozilla Foundation took over? – IMSoP Mar 25 at 21:37
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    @imsop 4 was the communicator which was quite usable. The failed rewrite from scratch (which the open source community threw out after the initial excitement ) was the supposed Netscape 5. I liked Netscape 3 Gold better. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Mar 25 at 22:02

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