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Say hello to the early days of web browsers

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

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1 of 9 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Lynx: An early character-based web browser

The very first web browsers, such as Lynx, were character-based applications without a graphical user interface to be seen. It may look hopelessly primitive today, but in their time from 1991 to 1993, they were great. Unlike most of the other early browsers, Lynlynx.pngx, introduced in 1992, has been maintained. Unix and Linux shell users still use it today.

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MacWWW (aka Samba)

Amusingly 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.

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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.

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Mosaic

Mosaic was the first popular web browser. It was initially 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. 

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Cello

By 1993, people outside of the scientific community were learning about the web and they wanted to be able to use it from Windows PCs instead of Unix workstations. So, it was that Tom Bruce developed the first web browser specifically for Windows: Cello. Bruce did this in conjunction with his work on the Legal Information Institute (LII), the first legal information site on the web. 

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Spry "Internet in a Box" web browser

Early internet company Spry joined forces with O'Reilly & Associates to create the first commercial internet software package. The browser itself, also known as AirMosaic, was often bundled with Windows networking and internet software, in a package sold as Internet in a Box (IBox).  

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Spyglass: Internet Explorer's direct ancestor.

Eric Sink became the project lead on Spyglass Mosaic in 1994. Sink states that while "we licensed the technology and trademarks from NCSA (at the University of Illinois). . . we never used any of the code." Microsoft saw Spyglass and decided to incorporates its code into Internet Explorer. 

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Internet Explorer 1.0

Do you think Internet Explorer 1.0 looks a lot like Mosaic? Well, it should. It was actually a version of Mosaic that had been customized for Windows by a company named Spyglass. You see, at the start of the web, Bill Gates didn't think it would ever amount to much. By 1995, he'd realized the error of his ways and rushed IE into the then-new Windows 95.

9 of 9 Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols/ZDNet

Netscape

Mosaic's inventors went on to produce their own commercial web browser: Netscape, which was introduced in 1994. In its early years, Netscape was the dominant web browser. Microsoft, however, forced the company out of business in the late 90s. While Microsoft was eventually found guilty of anti-trust behavior, it came too late to save Netscape. 

But, its code, which had been open-sourced as the company collapsed, would become the seeds for Mozilla and the Firefox browser.

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