A Brief History of Web Browsers

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Internet and SEO - Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

If all you do with a web browser is use it, you don’t much care what’s going on under the hood or what its background is. But if you do any kind of web development at all, it’s quite a hot subject. And nearly every web browser we have today is related! I’ll try to describe how this is so, without sounding like a long line of “begats” from the Old testament.

The very first web browser was named simply “WorldWideWeb” and had an editor built in. This is of course the application Tim Berners-Lee (the father of the Internet as we know it) used while creating the world’s first web server in 1990 on a NeXTStep box and getting the hypertext transfer protocol worked out. It was later renamed “Nexus” and being a prototype, it pretty much died out. Other applications and means of communicating between computers were of course available before, but this was the first web browser using the HTML standard as we know it today.

the first real commercial web browser was Mosaic, released in 1993 and originally only available on Unix systems. It was then ported to the Apple Macintosh. After that a member of the Mosaic team quit and founded his own company, which became Netscape. Netscape released Navigator in 1994. By this time Microsoft, still nursing Windows along at version 3.0, woke up to the idea that the Internet was a kind of big deal that they should get involved in, and they bought the license to a Mosaic derivative from Spyglass; Spyglass Mosaic became their own Internet Explorer.

The browser wars begin! Years of a bloody struggle produced a temporary win for Microsoft, but the ailing Netscape company jettisoned and escape pod by releasing Navigator as an open-source product called “Mozilla”. And Mozilla begat Firefox… (whoops, I promised I wouldn’t do that!) Oh, well. Mozilla and Firefox have since each spawned several of their own derivatives. The key to tracing a web browser’s lineage is finding out what rendering engine it uses. many different brands out there use the same engine.

Now a hand in the back, yes you. Are there any browsers not related to Mosaic? Yes, Opera was developed in Norway by the Opera software company. And Apple’s own Safari was developed in-house. of course, there’s other independent browsers, such as text-based ones. These days, you can write your own browser in Python in under 30 lines of code, thanks to included libraries.


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5 Responses to “A Brief History of Web Browsers”

  1. webjourneyman Says:

    You should be getting money for pieces like this!

  2. webjourneyman Says:

    I have a suggestion/request for an article. Online espionage. From just entering your name in Google I know where you live (or at least used to live), what you look like, what you looked like ,that you have been to Amsterdam, that you photographed a scene where rockets had hit, that you tryied a get rich fast online sceme but escaped with your grand investment of 3 dollars intact, and that there are only 7 other sites hosted on the same server as this site.

    How far am I with this info towards ultimately be able to read what you type as you type it and even see the screen as you see it in real time?

    Of course there are many, many steps in between such as password theft, keystroke loggers, site hijacking, and more.

    Anyway, keep up the good work !)

  3. Rea Maor Says:

    Yes, this is indeed correct (and easy to find out)
    thank you for the Article idea.. it is indeed an intresting idea and i’ll must likly follow it.

  4. Kelson Says:

    Safari was actually based on the KHTML rendering engine built for Konqueror, the web browser for the open-source KDE Desktop. Apple later adapted KHTML into Webkit, the engine Safari uses. It’s not derived from Mosaic as far as I know, but Apple didn’t exactly develop the entire thing “in-house.”

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