Browser wars

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File:Timeline of web browsers.svg
Timeline of major releases from major browsers

Browser wars is a metaphorical term that refers to competitions for dominance in usage share in the web browser marketplace. The term is often used to denote two specific rivalries: the competition that saw Microsoft's Internet Explorer replace Netscape's Navigator as the dominant browser during the late 1990s and the erosion of Internet Explorer's market share since 2003 by a collection of emerging browsers including Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, and Opera.



File:Layout engine usage share.svg
A rough estimation of usage share as of 2006 by percent of layout engines/web browsers

The World Wide Web is an Internet-based hypertext system invented in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee. Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser WorldWideWeb, later renamed Nexus, and released it for the NeXTstep platform in 1991.

By the end of 1992 other browsers had appeared, many of them based on the libwww library. These included Unix browsers such as Line-mode, ViolaWWW, Erwise and MidasWWW, and MacWWW/Samba for the Mac. This created choice between browsers and hence the first real competition, especially on Unix.

Further browsers were released in 1993, including Cello, Arena, Lynx and Mosaic. The most influential of these was Mosaic, a multiplatform browser developed at NCSA. By October 1994, Mosaic was "well on its way to becoming the world's standard interface", according to Gary Wolfe of Wired.[1]

Several companies licensed Mosaic to create their own commercial browsers, such as Spry Mosaic and Spyglass Mosaic. One of the Mosaic developers, Marc Andreessen, founded Mosaic Communications Corporation and created a new web browser named Mosaic Netscape. To resolve legal issues with NCSA, the company was renamed Netscape Communications Corporation and the browser Netscape Navigator. The Netscape browser improved on Mosaic's usability and reliability and was able to display pages as they loaded. By 1995, helped by the fact that it was free for non-commercial use, the browser dominated the emerging World Wide Web.

Other browsers launched during 1994 included IBM Web Explorer, Navipress, SlipKnot, MacWeb, and IBrowse.

In 1995 Netscape faced new competition from OmniWeb, WebRouser, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 1.0, but continued to dominate the market.

The first browser war

File:Browser Wars.svg
Market share for several browsers between 1996 and 2009

By mid-1995 the World Wide Web had received a great deal of attention in popular culture and the mass media. Netscape Navigator was the most widely used web browser and Microsoft had licensed Mosaic to create Internet Explorer 1.0, which it had released as part of the Microsoft Windows 95 Plus! Pack in August.[2]

Internet Explorer 2.0 was released as a free download three months later. Unlike Netscape Navigator it was available to all Windows users for free, even commercial companies.[3] Further new versions of Netscape Navigator (later bundled with other applications and branded Netscape Communicator) and Internet Explorer were released at a rapid pace over the following few years.[4]

Development was rapid and new features were routinely added, including Netscape's JavaScript (subsequently replicated by Microsoft's as JScript) and proprietary HTML tags such as the Blink and Marquee elements. The introduction of new features often took priority over bug fixes, resulting in unstable browsers, shaky web-standards compliance, frequent crashes and many security holes.[citation needed]

Internet Explorer began to approach feature parity with Netscape with version 3.0 (1996), which offered scripting support and the market's first commercial Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) implementation.

In October 1997 Internet Explorer 4.0 was released. The release party in San Francisco featured a ten-foot-tall letter "e" logo. Netscape employees showing up to work the following morning found the giant logo on their front lawn, with a sign attached that read "From the IE team ... We Love You". The Netscape employees promptly knocked it over and set a giant figure of their Mozilla dinosaur mascot atop it, holding a sign reading "Netscape 72, Microsoft 18" representing the market distribution.[5]

Internet Explorer 4 changed the tides of the browser wars. It was integrated into Microsoft Windows, which IT professionals and industry critics considered technologically disadvantageous and an apparent exploitation of Microsoft's monopoly on the PC platform. Users were discouraged from using competing products because IE was "already there" on their PCs[citation needed].

During these releases it was common for web designers to display 'best viewed in Netscape' or 'best viewed in Internet Explorer' logos. These images often identified a specific browser version and were commonly linked to a source from which the stated browser could be downloaded. These logos generally recognized the divergence between the standards supported by the browsers and signified which browser was used for testing the pages. In response, supporters of the principle that web sites should be compliant with World Wide Web Consortium standards and hence viewable with any browser started the "Viewable With Any Browser" campaign, which employed its own logo similar to the partisan ones.

Internet Explorer 5 & 6

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