2003.07.16

I had one more AOL/Netscape/Mozilla thought. Let’s for a moment assume AOL is planning ahead. They know that they can use IE as their browser for the next 7 years or so, but want to plan ahead anyway. Initially, the thought was that AOL would keep Netscape/Mozilla around as insurance, so that they could switch to some Gecko-based browser at any time. Now that Netscape has been killed, and Mozilla set free, how has that changed? AOL can still create a Gecko-based browser anytime they want, using the current Mozilla code, and since they no longer employ people working on Mozilla code, they save money that way. They are contributing $2 million and other services to the Mozilla Foundation, but that’s all deductible, as the Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit group. And guess what? Other companies (Sun, IBM, Red Hat, are contributing money towards Mozilla as well, which would not happen if Mozilla was under AOL’s control.

So what’s the big loss here? Well, the Netscape brand will go away. Honestly it had more or less gone away long ago. Perhaps AOL knows that the Netscape brand doesn’t hold what it used to. (Of course this could all be AOL’s fault I guess.) Now, Mozilla could be the new brand, in some yet-to-be-determined name. With the death of standalone IE, and the end of Netscape, Mozilla appears to be the #1 freely available, cross-platform browser. (I’m not counting Opera as free, though I suppose it’s free ‘as in beer’ if you don’t mind the ads.)

So does it come down to marketing? If you take your average everyday user, someone who has used IE bacause that’s all they’ve ever known, and install Mozilla for them, and walk them through the features, and explain why they might enjoy using it more than IE, do you think they’ll go back to IE? I think if I had to come up with a good catch phrase for Mozilla it would be Smart People use Mozilla, or something like that, because while 90% or more of the general web users might use IE, well over 90% of the people I respect and admire seem to use Mozilla…

Well, that’s enough semi-coherent rambling for one day… More tomorrow!

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