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Web Browser History
Dozens of innovative web browsers have
been created by various people and teams over the years.
The first widely used web browser was NCSA
Mosaic. The Mosaic programming team then created
the first commercial web browser called Netscape Navigator,
renamed Communicator, then renamed back to just Netscape. The
Netscape browser led in user share until Microsoft Internet
Explorer took the lead in 1999 due to its distribution advantage.
open source software version of Netscape was then developed
called Mozilla, which was the internal name for the old Netscape
released in 2002. Mozilla has since gained in market share,
particularly on non-Windows platforms, largely due to its open
and in 2004 was released in the quickly popular FireFox version.
A chronological listing of some of the influential early
web browsers that advanced the state of the art is
- WorldWideWeb. Tim Berners-Lee wrote
the first web browser on a NeXT computer, called WorldWideWeb, finishing
the first version on Christmas day, 1990. He released the program to
a number of people at CERN in March, 1991, introducing the web to the
high energy physics community, and beginning its spread.
- libwww. Berners-Lee and a student at CERN named Jean-Francois
Groff ported the WorldWideWeb application from the NeXT environment to
the more common C language in 1991 and 1992, calling the new browser
libwww. Groff later started the first web design company, InfoDesign.ch.
- Line-mode. Nicola Pellow, a math student interning at CERN,
wrote a line-mode web browser that would work on any device, even a teletype.
In 1991, Nicola and the team ported the browser to a range of computers,
from Unix to Microsoft DOS, so
that anyone could access the web, at that point consisting primarily
of the CERN phone book.
- Erwise. After a visit from Robert Cailliau,
a group of students at Helsinki University of Technology joined together
to write a web browser as a master's project. Since the acronym for their
department was called "OTH", they called the browser "erwise",
as a joke on the word "otherwise". The final version was released
in April, 1992, and included several advanced features, but wasn't developed
further after the students graduated and went on to other jobs.
- ViolaWWW. Pei Wei, a student at the University of California
at Berkeley, released the second browser for Unix, called ViolaWWW, in
May, 1992. This browser was built on the powerful interpretive language
called Viola that Wei had developed for Unix computers. ViolaWWW had
a range of advanced features, including the ability to display graphics
and download applets.
- Midas. During the summer of 1992, Tony Johnson at SLAC developed
a third browser for Unix systems, called Midas, to help distribute information
to colleagues about his physics research.
- Samba. Robert Cailliau started development of the first web
browser for the Macintosh, called Samba. Development was picked up by
Nicola Pellow, and the browser was functional by the end of 1992.
- Mosaic. Marc Andreessen and Eric
Bina from the NCSA released
the first version of Mosaic for X-Windows on Unix computers in February,
1993. A version for the Macintosh was developed by Aleks Totic and released
a few months later, making Mosaic the first browser with cross-platform
support. Mosaic introduced support for sound, video clips, forms support,
bookmarks, and history files, and quickly became the most popular non-commercial
web browser. In August, 1994, NCSA assigned commercial rights to Mosaic
to Spyglass, Inc., which subsequently licensed the technology to several
other companies, including Microsoft for use in Internet Explorer. The
NCSA stopped developing Mosaic in January 1997.
- Arena. In 1993, Dave Raggett at Hewlett-Packard in Bristol,
England, developed a browser called Arena, with powerful features for
positioning tables and graphics.
The University of Kansas had written a hypertext browser independently
of the web, called Lynx, used to distribute campus information. A student
named Lou Montulli added an Internet interface to the program, and released
the web browser Lynx 2.0 in March, 1993. Lynx quickly became the preferred
web browser for character mode terminals without graphics, and remains
in use today. Resources include the Browser.org
Lynx page, the ISC
Lynx page, and the Lynx
Tom Bruce, cofounder of the Legal
Information Institute, realized that most lawyers used Microsoft
PC's, and so he developed a web browser for that platform called Cello,
finished in the summer of 1993.
- Opera. In
1994, the Opera browser was developed by a team of researchers at a
company called Telenor in Oslo, Norway. The following year, two members
of the team -- Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivars°y -- left
Telenor to establish Opera Software to develop the browser commercially.
Opera 2.1 was first made available on the Internet in the summer of 1996.
- Internet in a box. In January, 1994, O'Reilly and Associates
announced a product called Internet In A Box which collected all of the
software needed to access the web together, so that you only had to install
one application, instead of downloading and installing several programs.
While not a unique browser in its own right, this product was a breakthrough
because it distributed other browsers and made the web a lot more accessible
to the home user.
- Navipress. In February, 1994, Navisoft released a browser for
the PC and Macintosh called Navipress. This was the first browser since
Berners-Lee's WorldWideWeb browser that incorporated an editor, so that
you could browse and edit content at the same time. Navipress later became AOLPress,
and is still available in some download locations on the Internet but
has not been maintained since 1997.
- Mozilla. In October, 1994, Netscape
released the the first beta version of their browser, Mozilla 0.96b,
over the Internet. On December 15, the final version was released, Mozilla
1.0, making it the first commercial web browser. An open source version
of the Netscape browser was released in 2002 was also named Mozilla in
tribute to this early version, and then released as the quickly popular
FireFox in November, 2004.
- Internet Explorer. On August 23rd, 1995, Microsoft released
their Windows 95 operating system, including a Web browser called Internet
Explorer. By the fall of 1996, Explorer had a third of market share,
and passed Netscape to became the leading web browser in 1999.
Many other browsers were also developed in the 1990's to address niche
requirements, several of which are listed below:
Mosaic for X
Resources. The following references provide more information about
- Browser applications --
lists sites that keep track of the different types of browsers which
- DejaVu.org --
maintains a browser history timeline and a fascinating set of older browser