Raiders of the Lost Netscape Archives

Today I had the unfortunate pleasure to have to download and install Netscape Communicator 4.06, a browser which I have loathed since its release back in 1998.

As a browser, the Netscape 4.x was slow, buggy and prone to screwing up perfectly coded Web pages, and the damn thing was barfing over one of the pages on my work Web site.

Internet Explorer 2, which just plain didn’t work, and Internet Explorer 3, with its haphazard implementation of cascading stylesheets and bastardized HTML were arguably worse browsers. But the fact is that Netscape 4.x and its various incremental kin represent the browser that forced millions of people into the waiting arms of a far, far better Web browser, Internet Explorer 4 and effectively ended the browser war. That, coupled with the fact that its bloated, bit-rotted corpse lingered on for years after its initial release, is enough for me to crown it “worst browser ever”.

That said, if for some reason, you need to subject yourself to the electronic bowel movement that is Netscape 4, you can find it archived on Netscape’s Web site. Note that I didn’t say “easily find” it — they go out of their way to make it nigh near impossible to reach the archive from the Netscape downloads page (a change they wrought with Netscape 7). I finally found it after doing a Google search. The url of the archives is:

It contains archived versions of the browser from 2.x through to 4.x for just about every platform imaginable, as well as most major languages. I will say this about Netscape — at least I can install multiple versions of the browser on one machine. IE wouldn’t let you do that at all.

Anyway, thanks to the archive, I was able to figure out what my problem was: it turns out that Netscape 4 does not like it if you link to a stylesheet that doesn’t exist. Unlike other browsers that fail gracefully and just display the page without the stylesheet information, Netscape decides to go and find the non-existent stylesheet, which in turn