Say hello to the early days of web browsers (gallery)

Say hello to the early days of web browsers (gallery)

Summary: Before Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer, there were Cello, Viola, and Mosaic.


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  • MacWWW (aka Samba)

    Amusing enough, the first Mac web browser in 1993, MacWWW, aka Samba, was also a character-based web browser. It had a bad habit of crashing ... a lot. Today, it's perhaps the least well-known of the early browsers.

  • Viola

    The very first graphical web browser was Viola, which was created in 1991. Heavily influenced by Apple HyperCard, this Unix X Window System browser was invented by Pei-Yuan Wei, a Taiwanese computer science student. He had been working on hyperlinks and the internet, and had he been a bit faster off the mark, he (and not Tim Berners-Lee) might have gone down in history as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

  • Mosaic

    Mosaic was the first widely-popular graphical web browser. It was first available on Unix in 1993, but it was quickly ported to the Mac and Windows PC. It set both the look of the web browser today, and both Firefox and Internet Explorer can trace their roots to its original code. 

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Networking

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  • Lynx is a very useful browser for testing

    A site that is usable in Lynx is also scannable by search engine spiders and usable by talking browsers for the blind. Lynx is also good for quick and dirty downloads to a remote machine in an SSH session, and is even good for detecting stupidities like net bugs (they stick out like a sore thumb).
    John L. Ries
    • +1

      I do make occasional use of lynx and links browsers from the CLI on several systems. Sometimes it's just nice to test other things are working if I'm having a network based issue... Or they're great for looking up documentation.

      I suppose the most common use I have for it is just looking something up while I'm in my home server, which doesn't have an X server installed.

      There's been many times I've been in the CLI with links/lynx open in one workspace, downloaded documentation open in an editor such as nano in another and IRSSI open in a third, and I've gone to get a coffee and laughed to myself when I got back at how geeky I'm being!
  • Funny how far we've come with browsers.

    Used quite a few of these browsers myself back in the day.

    You know what, I think this must be a first for me - but I have actually enjoyed reading SJVN's last two articles. (The other one being how Netflix scales in the cloud). I can't remember ever saying that before!

    When he's not spreading FUD and lies about Windows 8, but instead sticking to what he knows, then his articles are interesting and readable.

    You may not get as many replies to these articles, compared to the Windows 8 hate articles Steven, (hence I think the point of why you do the FUD articles) but stick with this type of article and I may end up thinking a bit better of you overall and I'm sure others will do the same.
    • Crazy stuff!

      You got flagged big time for writing a good comment. Wow shows were ZDnet readers are at. "shakes head"
      • Re: You got flagged big time for writing a good comment

        Maybe you'd avoid the flagging if you kept the "good comment" part and refrained from the personal attacks.
    • FUD, huh?

      SJVN is a Linux Advocate, for sure, but an objective view of his writings about other OSes takes note of his use of surveys, citations of respected colleagues who advocate other OSes, personal experience USING Win8 and other OSes and other information to support his POV. Now you may not agree with his conclusions and that's just fine, but FUD is baseless claims designed to denigrate Windows, OSX, or Linux or any subject. ZDNet bloggers and readers are not a monolithic group and that's a good thing. I read lots of stuff on ZDNet that I don't agree with, and that I do agree with. It's "all good" in that I learn something. Too bad that so many responses take an adversarial view about just about everything written. Some of my favorite contributors to the conversation are those who are largely viewed as trolls for one POV or another. Why? because the extreme views taken are still instructive.
    • FUD from SJVN?

      One thing I don't like about SJVN is that he writes often about Ubuntu but rarely mentions its source, Debian. For instance, if Ubuntu wants to cover a new CPU they just start with the Debian port for that CPU.

      But I don't think he spreads FUD about Windows. If you know of any examples, please write about them here. Thanks.
  • How did you leave out an image of Tim Berners-Lee's first web browser?

    As explained in the link below (by Tim Berners-Lee), the first browser was a graphical browser built on NeXTSTEP. It wasn't text-based and it took great advantage of what NS provided. In fact, the concept of "back" and "forward" was borrowed from NS's column-based file browser.

    And quite interestingly, NeXTSTEP begat Apple OS-X begat Apple iOS (with many iOS APIs still having the "NS" prefix)...
    • BSD Unix at large

      as Apples products resides on that BSD UX, the inventors of TCP/IP. BTW I regard Nextstep as the most phenomenal GUI ever made, and been using clones of it on many so called OS's.
      Curious to see how OS and GUI now are defined as "OS" and with regret looking back on events of market makers forcing out RISC(ARM MIPS e.t.c.)/Acorn Unix Nextstep among others superior computing solutions. Though Revenge is sweet as RISC cpu's are totally dominant today.
      Just hope that the ones with financial muscles don't cause any more 20/30 year delays to tech developments.
      • Agreed: NeXTSTEP has yet to be surpassed

        People have borrowed the file browser, Inspectors, and scroll bars/arrows from NeXTSTEP. But no one has replicated the UI.

        How no one has identified the obvious advantage of horizontal menu bars, in particular, is quite perplexing. I hope that Apple considers bringing more NS elements into OS-X. I want tear-off menus!
        • Re: NeXTSTEP has yet to be surpassed

          Not even by Apple!?
    • +1 on this comment.

      ViolaWWW was the second GUI based browser. It is that simple.
  • First browser I used

    was simply called www. not only was it character-based, it was line-mode, meaning, essentially, it was backward-compatible with a paper terminal like the Teletype Model 33.
    none none
  • The other point about Netscape that helped bring it down

    Was that in a lot of cases you had to cough up the cash! I had a couple of free versions but as you had to pay otherwise a lot of people chose the free Browsers. That point seems to be overlooked at times. Not sure if it's deliberate or not!
    • Forgot to add!

      I was a big Netscape user, kept using until around 1998/99, the built in basic Web page maker was handy too. Can't remember the name of the package, it included email program web browser and web page maker. Good package, strange though I kept using it and only stopped using because it was dropping behind.
      • Netscape Communicator

        The entire Netscape suite (HTML editor, email, etc.) was called Netscape Communicator. It was awesome...and it is still being developed and supported today. Check this out.
    • Netscape (my first browser)

      Exactly my thoughts and situation.
      I had to pay for the Netscape browser in 93-94, but switched to IE later for the reason of it being free.
      • Adendum

        Sorry - no edit button!

        Although Netscape also became free in the following years it's ubiquitousness decreased, and eventually, the team couldn't keep the freebie alive any more.

        Good / solid browser!
        • Netscape isn't really dead

          It just morphed into Firefox!
          • Decades of IE

            Just shows how long I have been using IE now! ;)