All of those who remember the formative years of the internet and the subsequent developments that nurtured it into the information age will likely remember with some fondness the first web browser applications, NCSA Mosaic and Netscape Navigator. Ground breaking in concept and design they brought the World Wide Web to millions of homes and organizations, allowing users to search mass media content, interact with each other and display text, images, audio, video and information resources. They helped build a new roadmap, the information superhighway, a place few had been before.
With its quirky visuals and hyperlink navigation structure Netscape Navigator brought the world closer together and as a result opened eyes to the huge money spinning potential of web browser application development. Step up Microsoft (don’t they always) with Internet Explorer (IE), a product purchased from Spyglass Inc. which enabled them to enter the market with a solid web browser application that could make a strong push to maximise the growth revenues of this new online community.
Up until 1996, Netscape had established the majority share in the web browser market (85%), then Microsoft started to cleverly (illegally?) integrate IE into their operating systems and software bundles (which incidentally were used by the vast majority of PC’s throughout the Western world). As a result IE became the browser most people used. Granted it was a perfectly functional web browsing application, bringing online information to the masses, but Microsoft were in effect monopolizing a market and dictating the growth of a cultural phenomenon far beyond anything IT had ever seen before. What is more, they made it difficult for any competitor’s web browser (particularly Netscape Navigator) to integrate with Windows operating systems. Of course we can argue whether this was an opportunistic or illegal business strategy, but that ship has sailed. Antitrust litigation and subsequent charges against Microsoft have been paid off or swept under the carpet, and Netscape Navigator as it was has ceased to exist.
Here’s a closer look at the Web Browser wars:
Mozilla Firefox - Customized web browsing at its very best
Opera - The fastest web browser this side of 46222
Web Browser applications - Who delivers the best online experience?