By 1996, Netscape had captured 80% market share. Development was rapid, seeing the incorporation of CSS and table layout features as time passed. Microsoft put out the first version of Internet Explorer a year after Netscape, but found little success.
The good times couldn’t last forever, though. Microsoft released IE 4 in 1998. Thanks to some advanced features, IE captured the number one spot in only 12 months. A series of poor decisions left the Netscape browser in the hands of AOL, and we all know how that went. Development slowed, and the once great browser languished. Support was finally completely dropped in 2008.
Amid all the dark times, one great thing did happen with Netscape. The browser code was open-sourced in February 1998. It wouldn’t become apparent until years later how well that worked out for the web. From Netscape, the Mozilla Foundation built Firefox. Many feel that the Firefox browser is the best available, and it enjoys a healthy 27% market share. Let’s all have a moment of silence to remember Netscape on, this, its 15th birthday. Was Netscape your first browser? Any fond memories of those dial-up days?
In order to surf the web, you need a web browser, and today there are several different ones to choose from. If you're looking for a lean, no-nonsense browser, Chrome is the one for you. Internet Explorer still stands as the odds on favorite when you want to make sure pages load correctly (not because of superior standards support, but because its majority market share have driven developers to code their webpages to look best on IE). Firefox has found more than a niche market by giving users near endless customization, and Apple's Safari purports to run circles around everyone else (it doesn't). And then there's the cornucopia of alternative browsers and browser shells, like Flock (Firefox-based) and Avant (IE-based).
No matter which browser you choose to surf the web with, the features you take for granted today are the result of nearly two decades of browser design. On the following pages, we'll take you through a visual tour, in chronological order, of every major PC-based (read: not Mac) web browser that ever was, starting with the very first one: WorldWideWeb. We'll tell you what made each one unique and, when applicable, what it contributed to modern browser development.
Sit back, buckle up, and hit the jump to get started!
If you've been surfing long enough to remember the heated browser battle between Netscape and Internet Explorer, then you also remember how Microsoft buried its competitor in the ground, unfairly some would claim. Netscape isn't making a come back, but its developer, Marc Andreessen, is barging back into the browser scene by backing a start-up called RockMelt, a company determined to build a new browser.
According to The New York Times, Andreessen isn't yet ready to elaborate on the project, but he did suggest the new browser would be unlike any that are currently available.
"There are all kinds of things that you would do differently if you are building a browser from scratch," Andreessen added.
RockMelt appears to be a good fit for Andreessen. The company was founded by Eric Vishria and TimHowes, both of which held executive spots at Opsware, a company Andreessen co-founded before selling off to HP for a cool $1.6 billion. Howes also was part of the Netscape team.
And is there any wonder? Time Warner has been in talks with both Microsoft and Yahoo about selling off its AOL unit through out this year, but both companies have been much more interested in each other than the crumbled remains of AOL. Time Warner has showed a renewed interest in a deal and Microsoft and Yahoo continue to listen, but neither company appeared to be especially interested.
The NYTimes.com quotes Richard Greenfield, an analyst who covers Time Warner for Pali Capital, “I don’t see why anyone would make a move now with all the pieces on the chess board where they are,” he said. He adds that Time Warner was in a bad spot because the value of AOL was declining. (Doesn’t everyone want dialup?) Its main business is now selling graphical display ads and that is under pricing pressure. Greenfield also says its brand has a “toxic” connotation with consumers. The company does not even use the AOL name when it starts new web sites.
From its days as the evil empire of dialup companies, they earned the nickname ‘AOHell’. The company seemed to lack firm direction, buying various companies with no obvious connection to their business and often ruining them in the process. Perhaps the most famous of these is ICQ. The most popular IM program of the time was turned into bloatware, which quickly sank out of sight. Don’t even get me started on Netscape. AOL entered the portal ring way late and had already bled dialup users seeking the freedom of the internet compared to AOL’s own internal version of it. The company has been aimless and with its almost necrotic touch, is it any wonder consumers find the brand toxic?