Today in Apple history: Mac’s default browser company goes public

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Apple
Do you remember Netscape Navigator?
Photo: Netscape

August 9August 9, 1995: Netscape Communications, the company behind the Macintosh’s then-web browser Netscape Navigator, floats on the stock market.

While not totally an Apple-centric moment, this was big news for Mac fans in 1995 — and the experience of using Netscape Navigator to surf the internet on a Macintosh is something many older Apple users will still remember fondly.

Netscape first launched its flagship Navigator software in October 1994. A bit like Mac vs. Windows, Netscape Navigator hit a snag when Microsoft came in with a rival product shortly after it debuted — in this case, the arrival of Internet Explorer just weeks after Netscape’s public offering.

An August 1997 deal between Apple and Microsoft hit Netscape hard when — in return for Microsoft investing $150 million in Apple in the form of non-voting stock — Apple agreed to install Internet Explorer as the Mac’s default web browser in place of Navigator.

That deal stood until the 2000s, when Apple debuted its Safari web browser, and Microsoft stopped developing Internet Explorer for Mac.

There was one other profound way in which Netscape’s August 1995 IPO affected Apple’s big players. When Netscape Communications went public with a valuation of $2.9 billion, it persuaded investment banks that underwriting other tech companies which existed on promise but no immediately obvious way of making money was a good idea. (Whether it turned out to be, given the subsequent dot-com crash, is up for debate.)

Nonetheless, as noted in the book Becoming Steve Jobs, one of the companies which benefited in the immediate aftermath was Pixar, then still in the process of producing its first feature-length movie, Toy Story.

Based on the success of Netscape’s IPO, San Francisco investment bank Robertson Stephens agreed to underwrite an IPO for Pixar, which it filed with the SEC a few months later in October. The eventual November 29, 1995 public offering made Steve Jobs (who, at one point in the 1990s, was hemorrhaging money) a billionaire. It was the start of a prolonged “hot streak” that made up the big third act comeback of Jobs’ career.

Do you remember using Netscape Navigator back in the 1990s? Leave your early memories of surfing the internet on your Mac (or other computer) below.

  • TheMadTurtle

    Yup. I remember using Netscape in the early 90’s when I was in college. Our computer lab had 2 Mac and the rest were Gateway PCs.

  • Geoff Gentry

    I remember seeing it on one of the 2 SUN computers on my campus. The in the labs. I also remember buying the cool box it came in.

  • TeeJay2000

    I tried to remember some great feature or nuance of Netscape I could share. The reality is that while browsers have become more complex, they are just gates to content. Thank goodness they now allow personal tracking and lots of ads /s.

  • bIg hIlL

    For those who, like myself, have absolutely no idea whatsoever what IPO means, here is a clear definition. It may make the above story more clearly understandable to you, as it did for me. Previous to gaining this information, the simple fact of telling a story using unexplained industry jargon rendered it incomprehensible:

    Initial public offering (IPO).
    When a company reaches a certain stage in its growth, it may decide to issue stock, or go public, with an initial public offering (IPO). The goal may be to raise capital, to provide liquidity for the existing shareholders, or a number of other reasons.
    Any company planning an IPO must register its offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
    In most cases, the company works with an investment bank, which underwrites the offering. That means marketing the shares being offered to the public at a set price with the expectation of making a profit.