A Web Browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the web.
Today’s web browsers are faster and more feature-rich than ever before. If you’re not sure which one you should use, then it’s not a easy task to pick one as i have seen many people saying don’t use Internet Explorer (IE), use Firefox, it’s much better. On the other hand some people say, don’t use Firefox, use Opera, it’s the fastest browser on earth. And there are few which say, use Safari, typical product from Apple, it’s the best. Some say go with Google brand and use Google Chrome.
The main keys for any web browser are browsing mode, speed, and customizability. Here, In this article we trying to shade some lights on the history of some popular web browsers so you get to know that how they came so far.
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Due to new features like “audio” and “video”, the new HTML 5 and CSS 3 seem to be the core of a new revolution in the www industry. The latest news about them can be found easily on HTML 5 and CSS 3; we all are fully prepared and impatient to operate with these magical languages, but one problem is often neglected: are browsers also prepared to render these features? A very good and quick solution to test the readiness of your browser regarding the HTML5 implementation is html5readiness. Some of the browsers present headways regarding a certain progress some of them enclose, while others aren’t interested by the new developed technology. Specialists of the www world forecast that this year will be the year of HTML5 & CSS3; therefore do not worry about the fact that your preferred vendor browser perhaps does not show interest in this implementation, surely it is a market decision and they work and hide the details. The most important players of the Internet are working to render well all features (drag and drops, canvas, border radius, 3D transforms and so on).
YouTube is working on a new video player that is supported by HTML5; it won’t need any plug-ins as Flash Player. Unfortunately, it can only be used with very few browsers yet there are great plans for the future.
“The future of the web is HTML5. Microsoft is deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C. HTML5 will be very important in advancing rich, interactive web applications and site design” said Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager of Internet Explorer at Microsoft. I believe that this opinion is enough to understand that the future is linked to HTML 5 & CSS3.
Before being so happy with the new versions, we should implement these modifications in design and coding and finally…the browser should render the website according to new standards.
First of all what is the definition of a browser? According to Wikipedia a browser “is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web”. Therefore the browsers are the main tool in surfing on the Internet. We should always pay attention to them regarding any new implementation of standards.
When we are very curious about the future a good choice is to look back to the past, so before trying to see the new browsers and the way they will be rendered the new websites let’s analyze the history.
Since Internet has been born recently specialists developed a lot of browsers. Some bear up to the new challenges and others disappear.
The first browser was called WorldWideWeb (rename later Nexus to avoid any confusion with the www system) and was developed by Tim Berners Lee (maybe he didn’t invent the Internet, but his work was primordial in its creation and expansion). Did you know that the first version of WorldWideWeb was released on 25 December 1990? I do not know, maybe this coincidence wants to show all of us that the Internet is a good thing and only sometimes bad people use it in wrong directions. It was used especially at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory) and it was a big step in speeding up the exchange of information between scientists. The same Berners Lee in collaboration with Jean-Francois Groff released libwww; the main innovation was that the browser was created in C language, which was a more common one than NeXT, the language of Nexus. In the 1992 other browsers evolved: ViolaWWW, Erwise, Line-mode and Midas.
Probably Mosaic was the first browser which had a worldwide development and this led to an exponential use of the Internet. Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina from National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) are the creators of this browser which was able to run primarily on Unix computers. Few months after a version for Macintosh was released and Mosaic became the first browser with cross-platform support. It is a natural question: what features had Mosaic?
It was the first browser which displayed inline pictures and not on a separate window, it presented support for sound, bookmarks and history files; with these main features it became the most popular browser.
Marc Andreessen started his own company leaving NCSA and called it Netscape. In 1994 he presents Netscape Navigator which was the most popular browser of mid 1990s. I believe that the main advantage of Netscape is the fact that it shows texts and images during the time of downloading; until Netscape was born, a user had to wait to complete downloading all the elements of a page (more precisely sometimes you had to wait some minutes and watching a white background and after full downloading the page and its content you can see it). At its climax it accounted for 90% of all the web use.
As a reaction to the domination of Netscape and seen as a new financial treasure Microsoft released Internet Explorer 1 in August 1995.Since then IE became a vital actor in the market of browsers. The next step in its evolution is November of the same year when IE 2 was presented to the users.
One year later Internet Explorer 3 was released and it was remarkable because it supports CSS (Cascading Style Sheet), also it was able to play MIDI sounds and display jpg/gif images. Another great advantage of IE in the competition with other browsers and especially with Netscape being the leading in this domain was that it was free for all Windows users.
Internet Explorer 4 was one of the greatest products of Microsoft: it was created by learning from the previous mistakes improving all negative aspects. The coming out of IE gives birth to a historical controversial: was it right to distribute Microsoft Windows with IE included?
The next edition was included with Windows 98 and the main attention was focused on the improvement behind the scenes so the design and new features weren’t changed (here we could mention the bi-directional text support, a feature very important for the universality of browsers).
The IE 6 edition confirms the supremacy of the browser but at the same time puts down the Netscape. Even if Microsoft had problems with the law in the antitrust case, the year 2002 was the one in which they crushed the market (it attain 96% of the web browsers usage share). Due to the lack of competitors between IE6 and the next version a five year length period passed by. It is a part of Windows XP and as main a novelty is the improving of security and privacy, but it has at the same time advancements at enhancing the Images Toolbar, Auto Image Resize and Print Preview.
The market of web browsers was growing and Microsoft wanted to maintain its supremacy therefore the IE7 had to be a quality browser and that really happened. The most important tidings are tabbed document interface (allow you to have multiple documents in one window), page zooming, feed burner. The latest version of Internet Explorer is IE8, was released on 19 March 2009 and it runs for Windows XP, Vista, 7, Windows Server 2003 and 2008. The good news comes with the better implementations of CSS, RSS and Ajax, but despite that IE9 is very expected to let the users know how Microsoft prepares the future with HTML5 and CSS3.
The developers made room for Firefox 3.0 on the browsers market on June 17, 2008 with a lot of good modifications, new implementations and improvements of standard compliance. As new and important changes I could mention the redesign of download manager and the possibility to resume downloads but very attractive was the fact that this version used different themes for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows XP or Vista. Maybe due to these characteristics of Firefox 3.0, June 17, 2008 was called the “Download Day”; in this day a new record was established Firefox 3.0 being the most downloaded software. According to World Guinness Book on the 17th June 2008 were counted 8,249,092 unique and complete downloads (Firefox 2.0 counted “only” 8,002,530). As it is normal we all expected the Firefox 3.1, but the guys behind it release Mozilla Firefox 3.5 in June 2009. They called this version 3.5 because it presents features and improvement that make it a super browser comparing to the previous one (Firefox 3.0). It was credited as being faster than any previous versions, including private browsing, support for
<audio> tags of HTML. The supremacy of the most used browsers was a fight between it and Internet Explorer 7.Who is the winner? You, the user!
Firefox 6 was released this year in January and contains few improvements (due to the fact that the previous version was a treasure); it is very clear that the guys behind it prepare a version that includes as many solutions as possible to be more compatible with HTML5 and CSS3.
Definitely Opera is a browser that has and will have a great number of users and they can’t be neglected in the market of browsers. This browser presents different features than Internet Explorer and Mozilla because of the fact that the latest two browsers are inspired by the same code, NCSA Mosaic, and Opera has its own code.
The history of Opera starts in 1994 when a group of researchers developed the concept at a telecommunication company called Telenor, somewhere in Norway. After two years two researchers left the company and founded Opera Software.
Opera 1.0 was released between the 10th and 14th April 1995 and wasn’t such a big success. Also Opera 2.0 which was released after a year also had a very insignificant number of users.
Opera 2 series presents two version 2.1 and 2.12 both presenting interesting features like the possibility of using zoom, multiple graphics formats support (.jpg, .gif, bmp), and support for HTML 3.0. The next series, Opera 3.0, with many versions included seemed to implement better the CSS1 and in a more poorly manner Java Script.
The next version, Opera4, became more stable and had the advantage to be able to run on various Operating Systems. Opera5.12 which was released on June 2001 was a very good browser that is world-wide known; in fact Opera became a global actor in this market. Mozilla and Internet Explorer encountered in Opera 6 a small competitor, but the next version of it really was a major step further. The seventh version comes with many improvements as: a new rendering engine which was called “Presto”, support for W3C DOM, more options for dynamic pages, Small Screen Rendering for mobile devices, Drag and Drops of tabs, fast forward. The major advantage of the next version was the removing of any ad banner and the browser became free for any kind of users. Opera 9 brings additional improvements and implements some CSS3 capabilities; therefore the new generation of browsers came to us.
The latest version of this browser is Opera 10.6 released on 31st May 2010 and the most important new features from the 9 series are: Opera Turbo, auto update, new skin elements, inline spell check, Opera Widgets for desktop, private browsing, improving zoom facility, inline page search, Search box, password manager and it is the fastest browser ever created. Another good point of this version consists in the realization of many HTML5 & CSS3 features.
Safari 1.0 was released by Apple on the 7th January, 2003 and initially worked only on Macintosh, hardly in the mid of 2007 appeared a version for Windows XP, Vista and 7.
Safari 2.0 was the first browser which passes the test Acid2, but it still has some bugs to cover, unfortunately some bugs have a prolongation in the next version or new problems arise.
Safari 4.0 is a very good browser and together with its release the market of browsers knows five big participants: Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, Google Chrome and, of course Safari. Safari 4.0 brings a lot of improvements and cool applications like:
Safari 5.0 has just been released but it promises a lot of new improvements and some application that make it outstanding. One of the most intriguing features is the ability of stopping the flash banners that truly irritates the users during reading of articles. Apple noticed that the web probably will know a new revolution due to the new standards of HTML 5 and CSS3 and tried to implement as many as possible these novelties. Regarding the speed from a year or two ago every company producing browsers claims the right of having the fastest one….anyway the users choose.
Initially Google denies their interest for creating a new browser but on the 2nd September, 2008 Google Chrome was launched in 43 languages and it became a huge success gaining continuously more users. It has a very short history maybe it is proper to say that it has a very nice beginning. Until I finish writing this article Google Chrome has 5 versions, each being a real improvement of the previous one.
Google Chrome 2 comes with stability and speed, the next version launched on the 15th September 2009 improved speed with almost 25% but, what I consider a very good move of Google is the start of implementing HTML5. Probably you can guess that the 4th and 5th versions bring more speed and stability together with deeply implementations of the new standards of HTML5 and CSS3.
The guys behind this browser thought it should be a very safe and fast tool of navigation on the Internet; much more they quit many facilities and stressed the idea of being simple and reliable. It is not a hidden promo of this browser, but it’s worthy to see it in action, and this is not because it is a perfect or a better browser, but because it is different from any other. The managers of Google decided to let it being an open source probably to fasten the process of running on other OS than Windows.
Anyway it promises to have an important word in the future.
Like I said previously there a lot of browsers, I presented only the most important players. This article hasn’t as purpose to make a comparison of them, just only a very brief history; on Internet you can find a lot of test and comparisons.
Honestly the most important and in the fact the only test is the wish of the user…if I like my browser and use it then it means it is the best, is not it?
While writing this article, it’s always a possibility that we missed some other great facts about web browser’s history. Feel free to share it with us.