It seems that AOL have decided to kill off Netscape. After the Microsoft settlement, most of us wondered whether AOL was going to do this. Some people speculated that AOL would keep Netscape going until the Mozilla Gecko engine was at a stage where they could easily embed it into their applications; indeed, it was already in the Mac versions of the software, one presumes as a trial to see what it would be like and whether their users would complain.
Or maybe it was just to show Microsoft that they could use another browser in order to put pressure on MS to give them a good deal for using IE in the AOL software. After the news of Netscape’s demise, one is forced to conclude that maybe the latter opinion is correct. Netscape used as a tool to forward one large companies ideas whilst directly benefiting another.
If AOL had started to use the Gecko engine in all their software, maybe MS would have had to continue developing IE for Windows and carry on the good work they had done on standards support.
Using hindsight, the timing of the AOL settlement with MS and the decision of MS to drop developing the standalone IE/Win seem rather suspiciously timed. To my mind at least, their closeness in time seems to indicate that MS may have had a reasonable hunch that they would be able to get AOL to continue using IE, and so have little worry about IE starting to look long in the tooth if AOL chose to use Gecko. Maybe just a coincidence, but, then again, maybe not…