Never give up: how Netscape waged an unequal battle with Internet Explorer


    It is believed that the first browser appeared on December 25, 1990. Its creator was Tim Berners-Lee, a junior fellow at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. According to him, the development did not take much time (about two months), because he used the platform with a special application builder. Tim created the so-called World Wide Web Consortium (W3C for short), which developed standards implemented in software.

    By the end of 1992, besides the very first browser called WorldWideWeb, many others appeared on the market, most of which were based on the library libwww - Line Mode Browser, ViolaWWW, Erwise, MidasWWW, MacWWW and others. The following browsers, released in 1993, were Cello, Arena, Lynx, tkWWW, and NCSA Mosaic.

    Mosaic, a multi-platform browser, was developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). In October 1994, Mosaic was on its way to becoming a world-standard interface. Several companies have licensed Mosaic to create their own commercial browsers, such as AirMosaic and Spyglass Mosaic.

    One of the Mosaic developers, Mark Andrissen, founded Mosaic Communications Corporation and created a new web browser called Mosaic Netscape. To resolve licensing issues with the NCSA, the company was renamed Netscape Communications Corporation, and the browser was renamed Netscape Navigator. The Netscape browser has improved the usability and reliability of Mosaic and has been able to display pages gradually as they load.

    By 1995, thanks to its free for non-commercial use, the browser dominated the network. By this time, several more browsers were released, including IBM Web Explorer, WebRouser, UdiWWW and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

    By mid-1995, the Internet received wide coverage in popular culture and the media. Netscape Navigator was the most widely used web browser, and Microsoft acquired a license for Mosaic to create Internet Explorer 1.0, released as part of the Windows 95 Plus package! in August. Three months later, Internet Explorer 2.0 was uploaded for free download. Unlike Netscape Navigator, it was available free of charge to all Windows users, even commercial companies.

    Newer versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape have been released over the next few years, trying to overtake each other.

    IE History

    The Internet Explorer development project was launched in 1994 by Thomas Reardon. According to a 2003 review by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he used the source code for the Mosaic program from Spyglass, Inc., which is formally linked to the NCSA Mosaic browser.

    The first version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft Internet Explorer, was released on August 16, 1995 and was a revised version of the Spyglass Mosaic browser.

    IE 1.0

    A number of innovations proposed by Internet Explorer were subsequently used by other browsers. Among them are the HTML iframe element, which allows you to embed some HTML documents into others (added in Internet Explorer 3), the favicon icon that appeared in Internet Explorer 4, and the property for dynamically updating the contents of innerHTML elements in Internet Explorer 4 .

    For Internet Explorer 5 was designed XMLHttpRequest, which will allow for HTTP-requests to the server without reloading the page. This version also introduced a drag-and-drop method that was standardized with almost no changes in HTML5 and is now supported by almost all web browsers.

    IE 5.5

    Similarly, the contentEditable attribute was adapted, which was added in Internet Explorer 5.5 and allowed editing part of the page directly in the browser, as well as Clipboard Access with IE6, which gives the browser access to the clipboard in certain situations.

    Internet Explorer 6 was the first browser to integrate the P3P platform, which is a means of ensuring the confidentiality of user data.

    Internet Explorer 7, in turn, included new features designed to ensure the security of the user and protect his sensitive data from viruses and network attacks.

    Windows Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) was released March 19, 2009. The version is supported by the second and third service packs for Windows XP, the second service pack of Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 on 32 - and 64-bit architecture. Microsoft named security, ease of use, and an improvement in support for RSS, CSS, and Ajax IE8 as the top priorities in developing the new version.

    Windows Internet Explorer 9 development began almost immediately after the release of Internet Explorer 8 and the version was released on March 14, 2011. Microsoft first announced the launch of IE9 at PDC in 2009, which focused on the benefits of hardware acceleration in DirectX to improve web application performance.

    Internet Explorer 9 is only for Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, and Microsoft Windows Server 2008. The browser supports some CSS 3 features, native support for color ICC profiles version 2 or 4 through the Windows Color System. The 32-bit version has better JavaScript performance thanks to a module called "Chakra".

    Internet Explorer 9 was the first browser to use hardware accelerated graphics display through the use of Direct2D application programming interface.

    Internet Explorer 10 was released on October 26, 2012 along with Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. For Windows 7, the version became available on February 26, 2013. In Windows 8, the browser is divided into two versions: the first version of the browser, created from scratch for control on touch devices - in the Modern UI interface without plug-in support, the second - the traditional desktop application, in which the ability to expand due to plug-ins is saved. This browser version has improved support for JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5, and hardware acceleration.

    Internet Explorer 11 was released in the Windows 8.1 update, which was introduced on October 17, 2013.
    This release included enhanced zooming for large-expansion screens, HTML5 preloading, mouse movement, hardware-accelerated decoding of JPEG images, and HTML5 full-screen mode.

    image width = 550
    IE 11

    Internet Explorer 11 is the first version that supports WebGL555657 and the SPDY protocol (starting with version 3).
    Microsoft said that SunSpider is the fastest browser for Windows as of October 15, 2013 when passing the JavaScript performance test.

    After the release of Windows 10, developers replaced IE with a new browser - Microsoft Edge.

    History of Netscape Browser

    Netscape Navigator is a browser manufactured by Netscape Communications from 1994 to 2007. The first beta versions of the browser, released in 1994, were called Mosaic, then Mosaic Netscape.

    At the time of creation, the browser had the widest capabilities, which ensured its leadership in the market, despite the fact that it existed then in beta. After the release of version 1.0, market share continued its rapid growth.

    Netscape Navigator 1.1

    Version 2.0 included a full-featured email program. Netscape has evolved from just a browser into a family of web-based software. During this period, the browser itself and the family of programs were one name - Netscape Navigator.

    Netscape 3.0 has become the number one browser in the world. This release also existed in the Gold version containing WYSIWYG, an HTML editor that later became standard on Netscape Communicator. Netscape 3.0 offered many new features, such as plugins, color table backgrounds, and the applet element.

    Netscape 3.0

    With the release of Netscape 4, the problem of the same name of the browser itself and the entire family of programs was solved: the family of programs was renamed to Netscape Communicator.

    After the release of five preliminary releases (1996-1997) in June 1997, Netscape Corp. released the final version of Netscape Communicator. This version was based on the updated Netscape Navigator 3 code, features such as support for some CSS1 elements, an object element, minimal support for various fonts were added to it.

    The Netscape Communicator family of programs included the Netscape Navigator browser, the Netscape Mail and Newsgroups email and newsgroup program, the Netscape Address Book and the Netscape Composer HTML editor.

    In October 1998, version 4.5 was released. The new version has many new features, especially in the mail client. At the same time, the kernel was not updated and in terms of its functionality basically corresponded to version 4.08.

    Netscape Communicator 4.5

    However, the problem of delays in the release of major versions of the program has become more acute. Netscape Communicator 4.x contained a large number of HTML and CSS processing errors, and Netscape did not find support for the document object model (DOM) in W3C, which took as its basis the option proposed by Microsoft, which at that time was the main sponsor of the consortium.

    As a result, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 (and later 5.0) became the new market leader thanks to better support for HTML 4, CSS, DOM, and ECMAScript. In November 1998, work on Netscape 5.0 was discontinued and it was decided to start developing an entirely new program from scratch.

    The new source code was named Mozilla, on the basis of which, with minor modifications, Netscape 6 was created.
    In January 1998, Netscape decided to develop a browser as part of an open source project. An informal Mozilla Organization group was created, which was mainly funded by Netscape.

    The decision to start developing the browser from scratch meant a significant delay in the release of the next version. At this time, Netscape was taken over by AOL, which, acting under the pressure of the Web Standards Project, accelerated the release of Netscape version 6.0: it appeared in 2000.

    Version 7 (codenamed Mach V) was simply called Netscape, the browser in the family of programs retained its name Netscape Navigator. Netscape 7.0, based on Mozilla 1.0.1 code, was released in August 2002 and was a direct continuation of Netscape 6 with the same components.

    Mozilla 1.0

    Netscape 8

    Netscape Browser 8 is based on Mozilla Firefox 1.0 code. Unlike his fire brother, Netscape only works in the Windows operating system family (98SE, ME, 2000, and XP). Eight is no longer an integrated package, leaving only a browser in its arsenal. The basic functionality and most of the user interface elements are inherited from Mozilla Firefox.

    Netscape 8 allows you to use two HTML engines at the same time. The "native" browser engine is Gecko 1.7.5. In addition, the browser can connect the Trident engine used by Internet Explorer 5 or 6. This feature, which was present in the browser from the beginning, provides a 100% chance of the correct display of sites. Using a special manager, you can remember the rules for choosing an engine for each site separately.

    Engine selectionin Netscape 8.1

    The latest browser version is 9.0 called Netscape Navigator. The first beta version was released on June 5, 2007. It was developed by Netscape Communications Corporation on the Gecko 1.9 engine, which is used in Mozilla Firefox 2.0.
    December 28, 2007 the company announced the termination of support and development of the browser.

    Microsoft VS Netscape

    The browser war would be an exclusively commercial business for corporations if the main trick in the fight was not to add specific, non-standard features to the browser. The biggest differences came in support for JavaScript, a scripting language that gives interactivity to documents.

    As a result, many documents were “optimized” for a particular browser and were completely unreadable in another. The W3C accepts many carefully discussed standards (various versions of HTML, JavaScript, CSS and others), but compliance with these standards rests entirely with browser developers.

    In 1997, Internet Explorer 4.0 was released. At a party in San Francisco in honor of the release of the program, the three-meter IE logo was presented. The next morning, Netscape workers, when they arrived at work, found this structure on the lawn in front of their office, with a note "From the IE Team ... We Love You."

    Workers knocked down this installation and in response placed on it a figure of their signature character - a dinosaur, attaching a sign with the inscription "Netscape 72, Microsoft 18" to his paws, referring to the distribution of market shares.

    Internet Explorer 4 has turned the tide of the browser war. It has been integrated into Microsoft Windows. IT experts and industrial critics considered it technologically disadvantageous and saw in this practice the obvious exploitation of the Microsoft monopoly on the PC platform.

    But users did not see the benefits of using competing products because IE "was already" on their PC.

    Here is what one of the developers of IE 5.0 Hadi Partovi told about the “victory” over Netscape:

    In the mid-90s, Microsoft hired the best and most talented programmers to solve the "Internet problem", that is, in the team of developers of the browser (IE) and server (IIS). Vice-President Brad Silverberg, one of the best managers in the history of Microsoft, who before that was involved in the launch of the incredibly successful Windows 95 project, was entrusted with leading two development teams.

    The entire Internet Explorer development team consisted of superstars: “Our work was more than just work. It was a passion and a life-long affair. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the workplace, we worked until late or late at night, ” recallsPartovi. “We had the feeling that a multi-billion dollar company would lose its future if we did not jump on the Internet wave and make browser number 1 on the planet.”

    Internet Explorer 5 was released March 18, 1999. “And we made the browser twice as fast and 100 times more stable than the buggy Netscape Navigator,” writes Hadi Partovi. He is confident that due to the high quality of the program, the market share of Internet Explorer 5.0 has begun to grow, and the browser has won 100% of the comparative tests in the media.

    Microsoft had powerful advantages. The first was resources - Netscape started out with almost 80% of the market and a good reputation, but was a small company that made the main profit with a single product and its additional components and therefore was financially vulnerable.

    Netscape was paid for by commercial companies, but supplied free of charge for home and educational use. Internet Explorer was supplied free of charge for all Macintosh and Windows users, thereby gaining a huge advantage.

    Another Microsoft strength was that Windows occupied more than 90% of the market for PC operating systems. In those days, many PC purchases were the first cases of such a purchase, and many users had not used any browsers before, and therefore had no items to compare and had little motivation to look for alternatives.


    Netscape did not give up without a fight and in 1997 sued Microsoft, accusing the company of monopoly. The main reason for the lawsuit was the integration of Internet Explorer in Windows, which violated the rules of fair competition.

    Microsoft attorneys proceeded from the fact that the browser was added at the source code level, and it is virtually impossible to remove it from the current version of the OS. Netscape insisted that it was a lie, and offered their own way out of the situation - a complete ban on the use of Internet Explorer. Gates had a convincing argument: through the integration of IE, the corporation provides its users with high-quality software, and it would be unfair to prohibit the browser in relation to them.

    As a result, Microsoft promised to release a version of Windows 95 without its browser, but thanks to appeals, the ban on IE integration did not apply to the next version of the operating system, which was to be released soon.
    As a result, the company entered into an agreement with the US Department of Justice, under which it pledged to license part of the development, to allow PC manufacturers to replace software with alternative software and to allow supervision of their documents. The decision was strange, especially when you consider that the court proved the weight of Microsoft at that time.

    Netscape was unable to resist dumping, and in 1999 the corporate browser market ceased to exist - completely free Explorer captured more than 90 percent of the market.

    To be continued

    The first “browser war” ended with the victory of Internet Explorer, which captured almost 100% of the market and cut off all any serious competitors. At the same time, the browser innovation race ended.

    And even in this situation, the Netscape team did not give up and released the source code of their browser under the free MPL (Mozilla Public License). Based on it, new Mozilla Suite and Mozilla Firefox browsers were created. The latter was to "take revenge" on Microsoft.


    Here's how the user of Habr recalls the best times with Netscape:
    I would not be surprised if some of the readers do not know what Netscape was for us 20 years ago.
    In 1994, I studied at a university where the Internet was accessed through an American grant. The entire institute had a channel of 33.6 Kbps. Yes, dear reader, 3 kilobytes per second. When your mobile phone runs very slowly at a speed of 12-20 kb / second on GPRS, it is 4 or more times faster than we had then on all computers in total. And there were at least twenty computers connected to the Internet and quite often all of them were busy.


    We opened Netscape (we didn’t know other browsers), entered notepad URLs, which we usually wrote out of paper magazines (Yahoo will appear only a year later, in 1995, I don’t even talk about Google).

    And they waited. They waited three to five, and sometimes ten minutes, until the page opens. It was a miracle for us to look at a web page that was thousands of kilometers from us. We turned off the pictures so that at least something could be downloaded. Video? Audio? Flash? We did not even dream about this.

    I recorded a Netscape browser on several 3.5-inch floppy disks, brought home and started learning HTML. Soon I made my first web page.

    Yes, the Internet was so ... warm, tube-like for us.

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