A look back at the web browser

Tech talk with Devaka

The web browser turns 15 on October 13. In the software world, 15 years is considered as extremely short duration for a new technology to gain popularity and become a standard.

The 15 years of the browser has some interesting milestones that shows the fluidity of the Internet industry and also how fiercely competitive it was back then and still is. Here are some highlights from the past.

October 13, 1994

First commercial browser, Mosaic Netscape 0.9 is released by Netscape Communications Corp. (formerly known as Mosaic Communications Corp). The browser was later renamed Netscape Navigator. Navigator was the first commercial Web browser to be wildly successful, rapidly achieving 90% market share.

August 24, 1995

Microsoft muscles into browser market with the released of Internet Explorer version 1.0. Microsoft bundled Internet Explorer into its operating system and provided it free of charge which turned out to be the killing strategy for Netscape. In just two years Microsoft had replaced Netscape as the leading browser provider.

January 1, 1997

Internet Opera Software released its first Web browser for Windows, dubbed Opera 2.1. Opera has been a minor player in the Web browser market since then.

February 23, 1998

Netscape created the Mozilla Organization as an open source developer that would provide a free version of its browser. By February 1998, Netscape was literally vanquished by Microsoft in the browser war. In July 2003, the Mozilla Organization would morph into the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit. In 2005, the for-profit Mozilla Corp. was created and would eventually deliver the popular Firefox browser.

November 24, 1998

AOL buys Netscape for $4.2 billion. AOL was not successful at helping Netscape regain market share for Navigator. In December 2007, AOL announced that it would no longer support Netscape Web browsers.

January 7, 2003

Apple enters browser fray with their version of the web browser: Safari. It became the standard web browser for Mac operating systems later that year. Safari also is the browser used in Apple’s iPhone.

February 9, 2004

The Mozilla Foundation released a beta version of Firefox — dubbed Firebox 0.8 — that would soon catch on as a speedy alternative to Internet Explorer. By 2004, Microsoft had more than 87% of the browser market. But within six months of this release, Firefox was the preferred browser among techies. Firefox grew in popularity, and today this free, open source browser has a significant chunk of the market.

September 2, 2008

Google announced the beta release of its open source Chrome browser for Microsoft Windows systems. Google offered a developer’s version that supports Linux and Apple Macintosh systems in June 2009. Now, Google is on Version 3 of Chrome, which aims at being speedier than competitors with a cleaner layout and design. So far, Google has attracted more press than users with Chrome.

June 30, 2009

Mozilla released the latest version of Firefox, which offers several performance enhancements, particularly for Web developers. Though not the fastest browser, Firefox 3.5 is more competitive against Chrome and Safari in this area. It is estimated that more than 300 million people around the world use Firefox.

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