Many readers still have faith in Netscape Communications despite recent setbacks to the company, but nearly an equal number say its heyday is over, according to the latest NEWS.COM Poll.
In the last two weeks, Netscape (NSCP) declared that it will begin giving its browser and source code away for free, but it has also announced up to 300 layoffs and quarterly earnings well below analyst expectations.
In a time of mixed news like this, it's small wonder that readers were divided when asked, "Are Netscape's glory days over?" The optimists tipped the scales in their favor in the informal write-in survey, with 52 percent responding that rumors of Netscape's demise are greatly exaggerated.
Some readers believe that Netscape is merely going through a difficult adolescence. "The old saying, 'That which does not kill me makes me stronger,' is often very true in business," wrote one poll respondent. "It will survive this and learn. It will end up with a business model based on reality."
Other readers who voted "no" reasoned that Netscape will soon see its browser's market share rise now that it can compete on price with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Many believe that free access to the Communicator source code will result in an innovative renaissance for Web developers.
"By opening up the source code, [Netscape] is going to harness the creative talent of the world," wrote James Carter.
Both Microsoft fans and foes alike contend that Netscape just cannot compete with the 800-pound software gorilla. Those who voted "yes" believe that Netscape will eventually be crushed either by Microsoft CEO Bill Gates's will alone or by his software's superiority.
"No matter what Netscape wants to do, it can't avoid the fact that Gates can spend as much as is necessary to make the better product," wrote Larry Roelofs.
Others were still more pessimistic about the future of the Mountain View, California, company: "Eventually," another reader said, "Netscape will become a niche product for Microsoft haters."
For more reader comments, see the next page. Following is a sample of reader responses to the NEWS.COM Poll.
No, Netscape's glory days are not past
"With opening up the source code, Netscape is going to harness the creative talent of the world."
"The old saying, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger," is often very true in business. Netscape will survive this and learn. It will end up with a business model based on reality."
"So IE is around every corner; how many developers are working with it? Just the ones at Microsoft. And now with source code, every developer's pet platform will be running Netscape, and those ported browsers will be offered to others. "
"The job cuts are for obsolete jobs, such as not porting the Java Virtual Machine to multiple platforms. By making moves such as freeing the source code, Netscape is showing a bold, new energy."
--Java the Hut
"For a long time, Netscape has gotten a larger share of revenues from its server/enterprise products than browser sales. This is a major restructuring for them, yes, but it is not a death cry, by far."
"Certainly, its browser share will start to increase again now that Netscape is free and will (I think) give it the sense of momentum it needs to push more of its enterprise software."
--Kendall Helmstteter Gelner
"Netscape's glory days are hardly over. They've got a line of great products, which are a huge asset. The key is can Netscape play its cards right?"
"Are the glory days over for Netscape? I don't think they've even begun. By announcing that it's giving away their Navigator and Communicator standard products for free (as expected), Netscape stopped its market share free-fall. With the brilliant move of posting the source code for Communicator 5.0, Netscape has decided to draw on the thousands of amateur and professional programmers on the Internet to improve their product. By allowing companies to customize a browser with their name and logo, ISPs and corporate customers will flock to the lure of free advertising on the program itself. With its shift to the enterprise market and its SuiteSpot product, Netscape will become even more attractive to businesses. This is what makes me so optimistic."
--Jeffrey J. Bacon
"Netscape didn't invent the Web; it didn't even write the first Web client. It was the first to see the wave and ride it...Innovation is the key. Netscape needs to do something different and get out of this keystroke and protocol horse race with Microsoft. Find a niche that Microsoft is too big and clumsy to tackle and get there before MS does." --John Southmayd
"Although Netscape will certainly have a tough battle ahead and should probably continue to sell its browser, it will come through the Microsoft hammering if they start to attack Microsoft where Gates can not win--in the quality of its product. Netscape will have to make a better product, period. Call me old-fashioned and naive, but if you build a better product, 'they will come.' And Microsoft certainly can't build one." --Paul Ferzoco
"I feel that Netscape still has a strong business model, so long as it doesn't lose sight of its strengths. The move to make Navigator freeware was an intelligent, long-overdue decision."
Yes, Netscape is done for
"There's no reason to use Netscape any more. Microsoft's browser works well, is tightly integrated with the desktop, easy to program. Why use Netscape?"
"No matter what Netscape wants to do, it can't avoid the fact that Bill Gates can spend as much as is necessary to make the better product."
"The Fortune 1000 companies do not just buy technology; they buy relationships and long-term viability. As IE usage statistics increase, Netscape's industry influence will be increasingly marginalized and long-term confidence in the company's viability will be further diminished. When Netscape's problems hit a certain threshold, they will become cyclic: Reduced confidence will slow diffusion and adoption of Netscape products. This will lead to lower earnings, which will lead to less R&D funding, less innovation and product offerings (and potentially longer development cycles), and reduced long-term confidence."
--John J. Kilfoil
"Netscape can never have the control it needs to survive in the Wintel market. The only thing it can do to survive is create its own OS. This seems to be what it has been trying...with very little success." --Jason Torgerson
"It's all over for Netscape now, and it shows. No source code giveaway can save it."
"It should have had a full marketing campaign highlighting its browser during the DOJ sessions. What a time to capitalize on that great opportunity. Netscape should focus on brand recognition first and foremost and establish dominance in the market. Five years from now, it will just be another software developer."
"Netscape can't compete. This isn't a monopoly issue; this is an issue of narrow focus and poor marketing and decision-making. The problem is that Netscape doesn't offer anything fresh anymore. The browser isn't as good, and its server-side solutions aren't all that compelling [except for] the core elements. There are better cheaper and more robust systems out there."
"Not only is IE more stable, but it's also FREE."
"Netscape simply has no weapons in its struggle to generate revenue. It has no native technology to call its own, no significant installed base. Giving the source code away is not going to increase the value of the products is still has or the revenue it brings in. And no amount of whining to the feds is going to make up for lack of products and corporate assets. Expect Netscape to be bought out by IBM, Sun, or Oracle at a bargain price in less than 18 months."