Netscape 20-Year Anniversary

I’m reliving the Netscape heydays by listening to Brian McCullough’s excellent podcast series at the Internet History Podcast. Highly recommended.

It’s amazing how many things Netscape pioneered at the time.

Things that are now taken for granted but back then would have been inconceivable to most people.

Among them:

  • Public beta: Delivering an unfinished product to the market early in order to: 
    • test market response
    • get feedback on your roadmap
    • get tens of thousands of volunteer testers
    • block the market for other entrants
  • Early IPO for a young company that was not making a profit. These days this is standard practice. We may be discussing the numbers in particularly extreme cases (the upcoming Box IPO comes to mind) but back then IPOs required multi-year histories of growth and profit.
  • Blended free/paid business model. Offering the beta for free and asking people to pay for the finished product (but not turning it off if they don’t) was also a first.
  • Bypassing the corporate buying center. By offering the software as a self-service download corporations found hundreds and thousands of copies of Netscape Navigator running on their machines. So they paid for it.
  • Viral marketing. Remember the “Netscape Now!” button? (http://archive.is/Zp5py)

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