It may seem somewhat strange to talk about something that isn’t much over 15 years old, but that is exactly what we do when we discuss the history of Web browsers.
The internet came into existence in 1991, and the first web browsers were created at the same time.
At first, the browsers displayed only text, but in late 1993, a browser named Mosaic was released that supported graphical images. This was immediately very popular, to the point that Mosaic quickly became the most used browser.
Then, in December, 1994, the Netscape browser was released by Netscape Communications Corporation. Not only did the Netscape browser support graphical images, it also supported cookies, more enhanced HTML scripting, mouse enhancements, and multiple connections through IP. Netscape quickly became the most popular browser of it’s time, despite the fact that it did cost a little money to purchase it.
In 1995, the popularity of the internet exploded (beginning the “dot com” craze). Because of the mushrooming popularity of the World Wide Web, Microsoft Corporation made the decision to create it’s own browser; Internet Explorer. It also supported graphics, but didn’t contain many of the features of the Netscape browser. A huge stride forward was made, however, because IE was offered free of charge.
Beginning in 1997, both Microsoft and Netscape, in an attempt to control the lion’s share of the market, started an advertising war against each other. Microsoft also completely re-wrote their browser, gearing it toward less technical web site owners and designers, while Netscape continued to court “techno-geeks” who tended to be very technical oriented. This was also the year that the final Mosaic browser was released.
Shortly there after, Microsoft began to include the Internet Explorer browser, pre-installed in its’ Windows operating system, which gave it a huge advantage, especially considering that Windows was just becoming extremely popular.
At the same time, other browsers were being designed, for instance WebTV (1996) and Opera (also first released in December, 1996). Many browsers such as the Avant browser were actually designed to use the IE engine, changing little except the branding and appearance.
In late 2002, Mozilla, a company spun off of Netscape Communications Corporation, released a browser named Phoenix, which was later to become FireFox, in 2004. (Netscape was purchased by America Online in 1998.)
Internet Explorer 7.0 was released in October 2006.
Though Internet Explorer continues to own the majority of the browser market, the popularity of FireFox continues to grow, slowly but surely eating away at the market shares controlled by Microsoft.
What will come next? That is anybody’s guess. It is a safe bet, however, that it won’t stop there and that more changes are just around the corner.