On This Day in 2003, Netscape Went Offline Forever
On July 15, 2003, AOL Time Warner gave Netscape the axe, disbanding the company that had started the dot-com boom with its incredible IPO in 1995. Virtually all the engineers were laid off, and the Netscape product suite was discontinued (though a handful of products remained in a kind of maintenance mode, and the Netscape brand was slapped onto a news aggregation site in 2006). It was the end of an era.
On that day, blogger Anil Dash suggested that Google get involved and make a "Google browser," perhaps by hiring the laid-off Netscape team. Guess what? Google did hire some of those folks, and launched Chrome in 2008. Perhaps the single biggest moment in that transition was when Google hired the Firefox lead developer in January 2005. (Firefox 1.0 had just been released in November 2004.)
Years earlier, Netscape did something very prescient: They made the core of their browser product open source in 1998, right before AOL bought them. This meant that the browser could live on regardless of what happened with its corporate parents. At that time they also created Mozilla.org, a community rallying point to organize the open source development effort.
Along with mass layoffs at Netscape on July 15, 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was officially born, with a $2 million pledge from AOL. The foundation is a California public benefit corporation charged with furthering the open source work of the pre-existing Mozilla organization. It did its job, as Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, and a variety of other open source products arrived throughout the 2000s, created through a massive collaboration of engineers.
In this multi-year saga of the death and rebirth of Netscape, perhaps the most important moments happened in 1998 and 1999, when Mozilla was first formed and then Netscape was bought. Fortunately, a film crew was present to document that time. The documentary Code Rush focused on that era, and particularly the rush to get the open source code released. That film was later released under a Creative Commons license. Because of that, you can legally watch the film online. It's just under an hour long. Have a look: