The History of Web Browsers

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 History of Web Browsers

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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The HTML5 and CSS3

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

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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.

Microsoft

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“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.

The History of Popular Browsers

Since Internet has been born recently specialists developed a lot of browsers. Some bear up to the new challenges and others disappear.

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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.

 

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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.

Mozilla

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This project was born in 1998 and its roots are in the release as an open source of Netscape. At the same time with this release the Mozilla project became a global provocation and a lot of programmers contributed to it. In 5 June 2002 Mozilla 1 was released and it was the results of a world-wide contribution. This version presents interesting features, but the users of Internet probably didn’t realize the real capabilities of it. In 2002 Internet Explorer was “the One”; over 90% of the users were browsing with Internet Explorer so Mozilla 1.0 was almost insignificant. Until 2004 Mozilla suffered a lot of transformations, but what is more important was that all people contributed to the improvement of this browser. As a result of this universal contribution in 2004 Firefox 1.0 appeared which had a huge success. The most important thing is that the monopoly of Internet Explorer was put in doubt, the war between browsers became evident…it really was a war that helped mankind, hope to have many of these! Another good point in this evolution of Mozilla is that the online community saw that an open source project can be a success. Firefox 2.0 became available after 2 years of changes and upgrading. The new features of the browser were e.g. that you have a close button on every tab, after an unexpected crush the session is restored, inline spell checking for text boxes, anti –phishing protection, search suggestion for Google and Yahoo. Also this version includes JavaScript 1.7, better feed support, and new search plug-in and ads-on manager. Firefox 2.0 became official a competitor for Internet Explorer and the war expanded.

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 <video> and <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.

Opera

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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

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Definitely what impresses me the most is the result which this browser scored at the Acid 3 test: 100 points from…100 points. According to this test Safari renders perfectly web pages being built at the aim of JavaScript, CSS, XML, SVG. Really impressive, isn’t it? It is good to know that Internet Explorer got 68 points and Mozilla 94.

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:

  • Cover Flow-it allows you to see the websites visited as you see the album covers in iTunes;
  • Windows Native Look and Feel- Safari has the same look and performance both on Mac and Windows;
  • Nitro Engine- according to Apple it is the speediest browser;
  • Resizing of text that is too small or too large;
  • spell checking;
  • password management;
  • passed the Acid 3 test.

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.

Google Chrome

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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.

Conclusions

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?

Find Something Missing?

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.

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40 Comments

  1. I love the article, but I seriously doubt that you mean “Firefox 6″ :)

  2. Great article. Well written and resourceful.

  3. Opera was the first to pass the acid3 test 100/100 :)

  4. excellent post …. it depends upon the user which browser he likes . i am using Firefox and i am really comfortable with it

  5. Now chrome 6 Come..I like the Latest version of chrome but in chrome there are many problem have like:(crash Report)

  6. History of Browsers is really very interesting. I have read it, and now witnessing its evolution since last 10 years.. now, what i believe is, Future evolutions will be more interesting than its past.. lets see…

  7. It is very interesting and informative article which has delivered me a lot of new concepts about browser history. Thanks for sharing such a useful resource.

  8. Very curious post..!

  9. Thanks ToMzorz that you read my post. I wrote that Safari was the first browser which past the test due to this statement. If you have another source, let me know.

    “Safari 4 is the first browser to pass the Web Standards Project’s Acid3 test, which examines how well a browser adheres to CSS, JavaScript, XML and SVG standards that are specifically designed for dynamic web applications. ” (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2009/06/12safari.html)

  10. My favorite topic about web browser you forgot Arachne graphic web browser for DOS and other UNIX text browsers.

  11. Brilliant read, learned a few things here, I use Chrome for browsing and ff for developing and the rest for testing!

  12. The conflict between Netscape and Microsoft is very interesting. In this article there are no many details about it, but it was not a fair competition. No wander why the US government put a stop to Microsoft…

  13. Nice article, i love firefox even it is bit heavy but it provide stability.. I don’t like Chrome because every time it crash & still it is in beta

  14. i like chrome more than any other browsers. i accidentaly started using it and i am in love with it.

  15. Awesome Article.

  16. For me as webdesigner firefox is the best choice, even if he has the years and with all sorts of plugins is a bit “fat” has become. Chrome could be an alternative in the long term. There are now enough extensions.

  17. You could have mentioned the influence of hypercard on the whole process, whose Hypertalk language was a direct inspiration for javascript.

  18. Browsers is really very interesting. but i like Firefox browsers

  19. I love this Info. Thanks for all your research.

  20. Chrome i s the best bowser in the world

  21. Should be litle work on Firefox, to start up faster and creates the illusion that it is a little quickier

  22. I’m а fan of Chrome and Opera. The most important thing for me is the speed :)

  23. my favorite browse is Firefox. it´s the best.

  24. Really thanks to all who read my post…it is very important for me to know it was helpfully for somebody!

  25. For now, the fastest is chrome, but I think firefox 4 will be far better when final version is come

  26. This is a really cool article. I really enjoy hearing the history of all of these.

  27. And Opera, and Firefos and Explorer Browser are good, but I prefer Google Chrome..

  28. Now that he finally came out the fourth version of Firefox can see the difference and the speed that the developers have achieved. Firefox is a serious threat to Chrome

  29. The latest version Firefos is for me the best, although I also use the Google Crome.

  30. Honestly, all I like that new firefox and less use chrome. I am used to Chrome, but this is changing slowly

  31. i love chrome !! :D

  32. Great text with a lot of interesting information!

  33. From the browser, I use the Google Crome firefos, and I think they are the best, although the opera is not bad

  34. I am fan of firefox only because of great add-ons. But i must to admit that Chrome is pretty faster and much stable!

  35. Chrome i s the best browser in the world

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