In the recent news about the end of support for Netscape, a few people suggested that someone should buy the Netscape brand and donate it back to the Mozilla Foundation. This made me start thinking about just how strong the Netscape really was back in the golden (?) years of Netscape dominance. While I’m certainly willing to admit I know little about brand strength analysis, I thought these figures would be interesting nevertheless.
Back in December 1996, Netscape dominated the browser market with a more than 75% market share. While pre-1996 statistics were even more impressive, the Internet population grew very fast, so the 75% market share of 1996 was more impressive than the >80% market share of 1995. Some 30 million people were using Netscape in 1996.
Fast forwarding eleven years and we’re back to present time. Today, the number of Internet users are exceeding 1,245 millions. Netscape hasn’t done quite so well. It now has a market share of 0.06%, translating to roughly 770,000 users.
At the same time, Firefox currently has a global market share of (very conservative figures here) around 10%. That translates to some whopping 125 million people.
Why is this interesting to me? Because for a long time after the actual death of Netscape, I thought Netscape was a very strong brand, and would have agreed with the people suggesting Netscape should be given back to Mozilla to be used as the product name for Phoenix/Firebird/Firefox. But (quoting an infamous CEO): “Not anymore baby!“
It turns out Firefox has a much stronger brand-recognition than Netscape ever had. Only veterans like myself could possibly be fooled to think otherwise. This is also anecdotally evidenced by the fact that few people know what Netscape is when I explain to them about the legacy of Mozilla.
R.I.P. Netscape indeed.