Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Browser Wars

We have to take for granted the existence of a navigators war ! And before we choose which side we will be let's take look at the history of that war...
How things got started
In 1993 , it was the first web browser that have ever seen "light". It was the NCSA Mosaic.. But it didn't last for long.. Because June 1994 was marked by the appearance of new Web browser that made an end to mosaic by recruiting most of its developers !

Netscape is taking over !
In 1995 Microsoft was preparing for the big move : Windows95 with launching the "Microsoft Network" .. In the same period of time Internet is moving with big steps.. Specially after the appearance of the JAVA language that made Netscape Navigator more sophisticated.. Microsoft felt the threat of having this navigator taking over so they bought the liscence of the "SpyGlass Mosaic" ( not to mix with NCSA Mosaic) to create the Internet Explorer 1.0 included in the Windows95 Plus Pack in August 1995 .. Three months later , the IE 2.0 was declaring the war with Netscape navigator...

The Real War (I)

The Browsers race went crazy for some years.. New versions were appearing every two or three months. Both Netscape navigator and IE developers were so hurried with making new version and their work lacked many essential details ; many errors and security holes appeared on surface !
The scene of war marked an act made by IE developers while the IE 4.0 release on 1997.. A huge "e" Logo was hanged in the Netscape local.. Netscape employees reacted and posted a huge dinosaur marked with « Netscape 72, Microsoft 18 » ( to show their market dominance).
IE 4.0 was a real turnover in this war.. the IE's marketplace value is boosting and that was a result of a whole intelligent strategy with illegal actions :

  • The economic model of Netscape consisted on offering the navigator and selling other server applications. Microsoft used that point so they sold the same services for free
  • Microsoft signed license contracts with hardware manufactures that obliged them to post the IE icon on the desktop. And would penalize them if they install Netscape navigator on.
  • Microsoft signed a license contract with AOL so they create a IE-only-compatible version of their product
  • Microsoft released a WYSIWYG web page editor (MS.Front page) that only gets along with IE
  • Microsoft used its monopoly on the operating system marketplace to include IE into the windows for free. Actually the Windows revenue was enough to cover the costs of developing IE unlike Netscape navigator which has no other way to cover these costs.

All these actions have as consequences the fall of the Netscape in 1998. But before it falls the Netscape company has bought her code source.

IE alone in the battle field :
After the fall of Netscape navigator, IE has no serious competitors. Therefore, there was no more important browsers innovations. IE 6.0 released in 2001 was a real mess !!
Navigators war (2) !

Late 2004, the flame of war got lit up again by the release of Firefox , based on Gecko ( Netscape navigator source code) The project was lunched by the old Netscape employees who joined the OpenSource Community with their Mozilla Foundation.
Late 2005, after 50 million downloads, Firefox started to take over IE in the marketplace by 10%.
In 2006, Microsoft hasn't updated IE 6.0 yet. It started to provoke Web developers and security managers complaints! which maid the statistics go more to the Firefox side.
Late in 2007, IE 7.0 was released , expert said that it will make another IE get back in his feet in browsers battle !

Finally, we hope this war will still be going on so we can enjoy the fruits of browsers innovations


Anonymous said...

Moot point. There are no longer any "Browser wars". Microsoft has lost their way and people are moving on. A democratic society will gravitate towards the things that give them freedom.
Microsoft and its model is gone.

C said...

1) wasn't IE7 released early 2007 with or just before Vista?

2)I know they're only very small part of it, but i have to mention Safari and the excellent Konqueror!

I remember back in school here in the UK, in 1994/5 when i was 12, i first came across Netscape and IE, when i didn't know much about computers. I've installed Netscape 9 on my laptop as a tribute!

R.I.P Netscape. (hope IE7 and vista crash and burn!)

Lawrence D'Oliveiro said...

Note that Spyglass Mosaic was the same thing as NCSA Mosaic--NCSA sold the commercial rights to Spyglass.