Firefox brand stronger than Netscape ever was

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.

firefox-logo.jpgWhy 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.

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15 thoughts on “Firefox brand stronger than Netscape ever was

  1. Toe

    A correlation that might be made is in people who first got online (not necessarily when they had their first computer) in the Windows 9x era or before vs. those who first went online in the XP era. The Windows 98 era was the height of the browser wars, and so people likely heard about both IE and Netscape. But by the time XP came out, IE was clearly the dominant browser and Netscape was on its way out. Thus someone who was a newbie in the XP era was much less likely to know Netscape.

    There’s a big detail in that that’s easy to overlook, though: rates of internet development in different parts of the world. A lot of the US first got online in the 9x era, but a lot of other countries didn’t reach the same level of development until a few years later in the XP era.

    So the Netscape brand is probably worth a lot more in the US and other ‘early adopter’ countries than it is elsewhere in the world.

    But even in the US, the Netscape brand has been out of the limelight for so long that it’s probably not worth a whole lot at this point. I see no reason to change Firefox’s name.

    Reply
  2. Gc

    How do the numbers look for the SeaMonkey project? Many Netscape users adopted the Netscape Communicator suite design (browser+mail+HTMLComposer), which Seamonkey continues. Seamonkey would be a more familiar upgrade path for these Netscape users.

    Reply
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  4. Justin Dolske

    Hmm, well, I’m not so sure. Netscape seems different in that it made a huge splash in the mainstream, non-technical media. Just think of all the curmudgeonly financial types who got exposed to the name when they IPO’d.

    Still, even if Netscape did have higher recognition in its heyday, I don’t think it’s worth much now. I suppose it might be interesting to have the Foundation take ownership of the name, though, if only to prevent another case of brand necrophilia.

    Reply
  5. ml

    There are still a lot of websites that require “IE or Netscape”, linking to the download pages for each. Since Firefox is the recommended upgrade path for Netscape users, I wonder if AOL will redirect the Netscape browser download pages to mozilla.com. It would be interesting to have a page (www.mozilla.com/firefox/netscape?) welcoming legacy Netscape users and people going to the Netscape download page, advising them to download a supported version of Firefox.

    Reply
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  8. Internet Service Deals

    I wonder how long before the others give up? If they can’t all agree on the display of HTML, then I’m afraid to say that the fewer the better. I like the Netscape Add-on idea, use a common base and save web programming waste!

    A few of the sites I webmaster have top 10 browser stats that look something like this: Internet Explorer 73%, Firefox 16%, Safari 1%, Netscape 1%, Opera 1%, Others 8%. I would expect other sites to show similar results, post if you have them. I think it’s interesting info.

    Reply
  9. RyanVM

    Might it also be useful to see about having MARs for Netscape –> Firefox (or Seamonkey) upgrades that AOL could offer to existing users? With the exception of profile location, such an upgrade could be largely trivial.

    Reply
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  11. herr_chagall

    there were even people who started going online with windows 3.1 -> ncsa mosaic, anyone?

    picking up the torch, netscape was the web browser application that really pushed the web, so personally, it will always remain my #1, if for nostalgic reasons only.

    Reply
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