There are many web browsers in the world today. Some of which include popular ones such as Chrome, Firefox, Opera browser, Microsoft Edge and Safari. But did you know there was the first ever web browser that hit the internet?
Web browsers are software applications that enable users to access information on the World Wide Web. A web browser simply functions by connecting a user to a website’s server and display it’s pages.
Some people will argue that Netscape was the first web browser. But nay, even before Netscape, there were browsers that came on board in the early 90s. Today we will look at a brief history of the first web browser, where it was hosted, who developed it and some of the earliest web browsers in history.
The first web browser in the world was the WorldWideWeb web browser. It is not to be confused with World Wide Web of the internet. It was launched in 1990 and developed by Tim Berners-Lee. The worldwideweb browser was both a browser and an editor. Tim Berners-Lee developed the browser when he was working at CERN, a European Particle Physics Laboratory, Geneva. The browser was hosted on Tim’s NeXT computer in 1993. Thus, the browser was available for NeXTStep Operating System, making it impossible for the browser to run on other operating systems.
Here’s a screenshot of the WorldWideWeb browser and a little note from Tim Berners-Lee about the browser, adapted from www.w3.org.
The WorldWideWeb browser
The first web browser – or browser-editor rather – was called WorldWideWeb as, after all, when it was written in 1990 it was the only way to see the web. Much later it was renamed Nexus in order to save confusion between the program and the abstract information space (which is now spelled World Wide Web with spaces).
I wrote the program using a NeXT computer. This had the advantage that there were some great tools available -it was a great computing environment in general. In fact, I could do in a couple of months what would take more like a year on other platforms, because on the NeXT, a lot of it was done for me already. There was an application builder to make all the menus as quickly as you could dream them up. there were all the software parts to make a wysiwyg (what you see is what you get – in other words direct manipulation of text on screen as on the printed – or browsed page) word processor. I just had to add hypertext, (by subclassing the Text object)
Tim Berners-Lee is accredited as the inventor of the web browser as being the first person to develop and launch a browser.
Early web browsers of the 90s.
Erwise: After the WorldWideWeb of Tim Berners-Lee, another browser came on board. It was named Erwise and was developed by four Finnish college students in 1991 and released in 1992. Erwise became the first web browser to offer a graphical user interface which allowed searching for words on web pages. After its release, Tim Berners-Lee reviewed the Erwise browser and noted some of its interesting features.
“Erwise looks very smart, a strange box which is around one word in the document, a little Lila a selection box or a button. It is neither of these—perhaps a handle for something to come”. Erwise handled different fonts, underline hyperlinks and allowed users to jump to hyperlinks by double-clicking on them, and host multiple windows.
ViolaWWW: ViolaWWW was developed by Pei-Yuan Wei and released in 1992. It was hosted on his Unix computer and written in the Viola programming and scripting language. The ViolaWWW enabled developers at the time to embed scripts and applets in the browser page. However, just as WorldWideWeb, it had its limitations such as: No porting to PC, no HTML printing, no support of Proxy, it’s Http was not interruptable and non multi threaded, as well as it’s language interpreter that was not multi threaded.
Midas and Samba: In 1992, A SLAC Physicist, Tony Johnson developed a browser for the Stanford University community called Midas. The browser became popular at the time especially for physicists as it enabled them display postscript documents. Then two CERN associates, Pellow Gillies and Robert Cailliau developed a browser for the Macintosh computer, the first of its kind. They called it Samba.
Mosaic: Mosaic was described by Gillies and Cailliau as “the spark that lit the Web’s explosive growth in 1993”. Mosaic enabled support for video clips, sound forms, bookmarks and history files. The browser was released inn1993 as X-Mosaic by Andreeson. Then Andreeson had written the X-Browser with help from Eric Bina, an NCSA Unix Expert. Mosaic was popular in that it was a cross platform browser as it was available for the Mac, X and Ms Windows operating systems.