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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday October 14 2014, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the MAX-FORWARDS dept.

Twenty years ago today (13 October 1994), Mosaic Communications Corporation released the Mosaic Navigator, the first commercial browser for the World Wide Web. This was just six months after the company was founded by ex-Silicon Graphics CEO Jim Clark, and Marc Andreesen, a recent computer science graduate of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Andreesen had co-developed the Mosaic Web browser while working for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), on UIUC's campus; Clark, who had been losing a power struggle at Silicon Graphics, the company he'd founded, was restless and looking for an adventure and revenge. Andreesen quickly convinced the band of programmers from UIUC he'd worked with on Mosaic and web server development, to relocate to Silicon Valley.

Both the company and the browser were re-branded 'Netscape' a month after the product was released, settling a lawsuit by the UIUC, who regarded Mosaic as intellectual property belonging to the university.

Andreessen and Netscape moved fast, even by the standards of the personal computing business at the time. After Microsoft entered the game (they jump started development by buying rights to a web browser created by Spyglass), Netscape pumped out Navigator 2.0 a little more than a year later, unveiling JavaScript, frames, cookies, plug-ins, SSL (2.0, the first released version), and integrated mail and news readers. Oh, and client-side integration with a mysterious new language called Java.

Bill Gates broadcast his famous "Internet Tidal Wave" memo to the troops at Microsoft in May 1995. Internet Explorer 1.0 was released in August 1995; future versions of IE were bundled with Windows 95, as Microsoft tried (rather successfully) to "cut off Netscape's air supply", as Microsoft Vice President Paul Maritz is alleged to have ranted at the time. Microsoft's actions against Netscape and numerous other competitors in the software industry became the subject of an antitrust suit brought by the US Department of Justice.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by VLM on Tuesday October 14 2014, @11:47AM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @11:47AM (#105891)

    Its widely believed that blink came in 2.0 but it actually was present in 1.1

    I hope that some day javascript scroll bar hijacking is looked back at with disgust much like the blink tag is looked at today.

    The web of today is at least as hideous if not worse, than the web of 97 or so looks to us today. Its just we're not allowed to perceive or discuss its hideousness, in a Lovecraftian manner its probably best for our sanity.

    Something I miss of the old web is in the olden days "horrific ugly page design of the day" type pages were popular and influential sites. Note... popular and influential, I'm sure there's some never visited corner of the 2014 net. The point is that in '96 or so if you made a total ugly abortion of a UI page design you got flack for it, but in '14 you just get bubble VC money. For awhile.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Marand on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:17PM

      by Marand (1081) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:17PM (#105900) Journal

      Something I miss of the old web is in the olden days "horrific ugly page design of the day" type pages were popular and influential sites. Note... popular and influential, I'm sure there's some never visited corner of the 2014 net. The point is that in '96 or so if you made a total ugly abortion of a UI page design you got flack for it, but in '14 you just get bubble VC money. For awhile.

      I've seen a few modern versions of those sites. The really sad thing, though, is the design expectations have changed so much that they're more likely to praise a terrible, useless, Web2ified site than condemn it for being a design and usability nightmare. They want sites to look pretty, with readability and efficiency mere afterthoughts at best.

      So, if you ever wonder why they stopped being "popular and influential", that's probably the answer.

      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by VLM on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:34PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 14 2014, @12:34PM (#105903)

        hmm had not considered that. One way to look at it is the modern technology / implementation is inherently inferior because it encourage people to implement things in bad taste.

        I have generally operated under the assumption that modern bad web pages are analogous to the worst early days of desktop publishing in the 80s, where a simple one page memo ("The parking lot is being resurfaced on Friday", for example) required elaborate borders and at least 10 different fonts and 7 colors making it look garish and ugly like a hollywood crime movie ransom letter. Because otherwise how would you show off your cutting edge 'leet desktop publishing skills, other than by making things look awful? So by analogy eventually web page designers would tire of putting enormous amounts of effort into showing off that they put in enormous amounts of effort, rather than making useful things. But something got derailed and we seem stuck with Gothic web design semi-permanently.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Marand on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:10PM

          by Marand (1081) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:10PM (#105935) Journal

          Desktop publishing is a great comparison, because if you look at modern sites from a design perspective, it's clear that they're trying to emulate print -- especially magazines. When done well, there are some good aspects to this, such as an increased focus on quick identification of important data, intuitive navigation, and more readable content. So, the focus on making things prettier isn't all bad, because even something as simple as creating a good stylesheet can make a site far, far easier on the eyes than bare HTML. Like how the summaries on this site have more whitespace between paragraphs than the comments have, which makes the comments slightly more difficult to read because the break isn't as clear.

          The problem is that a lot of people mistake "clean, efficient, readable" for "minimal, pretty, shiny" and you get pretty fluff-sites that are hard to use, hard to read, and have more empty space than content. Some people get stuck in that Apple-wannabe minimalism mindset and never recover, to the detriment of all. And it seems like those guys are the ones that make the "THESE SITES ARE GREAT DESIGNS!" sites.

          I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's good that the tools have improved, because when done right, modern pages are nicer to read. Unfortunately, it also means we have more options to shoot ourselves in the foot when designing sites. I'm not sure if the appropriate quote would be "with great power comes great responsibility" or "absolute power corrupts absolutely". Maybe both.

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:02PM

            by Thexalon (636) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:02PM (#105972)

            The problem is that a lot of people mistake "clean, efficient, readable" for "minimal, pretty, shiny" and you get pretty fluff-sites that are hard to use, hard to read, and have more empty space than content. Some people get stuck in that Apple-wannabe minimalism mindset and never recover, to the detriment of all. And it seems like those guys are the ones that make the "THESE SITES ARE GREAT DESIGNS!" sites.

            1. There are lots of people with the attention span of roughly a 5-year-old who simply don't want to read information.
            2. Apple made a ton of money with their mindset. A lot of people want to make a ton of money, so they try to imitate Apple.
            3. The guys who make "THESE SITES ARE GREAT DESIGNS!" websites are basically graphic artists. Therefor, they look at sites like artists rather than like people who actually want information.
            4. Business people see blank space and think "Great, we could totally put ads there!" They see lack of content and think "Good, we don't have to pay people to write a lot of stuff!" They see "shiny" as "Great, we can pull in those eyeballs!"

            So while it's possible to use the Internet for intelligent discussion and information-sharing, most people are looking instead for cat videos, pr0n, or reinforcement of their political beliefs so they can feel a bit happier about their likely-pathetic existence.

            Also, platforms like Twitter function almost as well as Newspeak for limiting the kinds of thoughts that people are able to express.

            --
            Alcohol makes the world go round ... and round and round.
            • (Score: 2) by Marand on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:56PM

              by Marand (1081) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:56PM (#106002) Journal

              1. Legitimate concern but can be accommodated without being devoid of content. It's what I meant about quick identification and intuitive navigation, and isn't mutually exclusive with providing useful information.
              2. You're right about the logic. Of course, imitation without understanding is why that's a problem, and why I criticised it the way I did. You also see something similar with UI design, where people try to copy OS X interface conventions (like Canonical moving window controls to left randomly between versions, or a lot of dock copycats, or just general look-and-feel imitators) blindly and then make something inferior.
              3. Which makes for great advertisements and horrible websites. It's possible to create, and appreciate, a site for being useful and impressive at the same time. It still happens sometimes and it's nice to see when it does.
              4. That reminds me of a lot of TV and newspaper sites since forever. Some things never change.

              Some people still get it, at least. Not every site is useless. Sometimes you find a site, with actual content even, that pleasantly presented. Who knows, maybe it will eventually make its way down to the copycats, too.

          • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:06PM

            by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:06PM (#105975) Journal

            With great tools comes the ability to really fuck things up .. :P

          • (Score: 2) by paulej72 on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:55PM

            by paulej72 (58) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:55PM (#106035) Journal

            OK, you can blame me for that decreased spacing on the comments. I did that back in February, and for the life of me I can't remember why I did it. I was just thinking the other day that it should not be this way and I should fix it. I think I was trying to make the comments not take up too much vertical space, but it does cause readability issue. Also there is a difference right now between two

            tags back to back and two
              tags in a single paragraph, as they do not have the same spacing. I'll bee looking at this soon and will update the css to make it better.

            --
            Team Leader for SN Development
            • (Score: 2) by Marand on Wednesday October 15 2014, @03:33AM

              by Marand (1081) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @03:33AM (#106156) Journal

              Oh, I wasn't trying to blame anybody, it was just a great example of a point, since you had two different rules for spacing within the same page. Easy for anybody to check and verify against my opinion about it, basically. I didn't expect any staff to even notice I mentioned it, so your response is a pleasant surprise.

              I just tend to pay a lot of attention to things like contrast, font sizes, whitespace, use of colour, etc. They're a big part of keeping things readable (especially for people with poor vision or issues like colour-blindness), so it's something I try to watch out for, even with minor projects. I get a lot of use out of kmag (KDE's magnifier) because it has options to simulate types of colour blindness, including achromatopsia.

              Even if you aren't worried about things like red-green blindness, being able to see everything in greyscale (the achromatopsia setting) is a great quick check for contrast problems. Not to pick on SN again, but the subscriber star badge is a good example of the greyscale thing. Take a screenshot of the page, convert to greyscale, and you can see what I mean: the star doesn't stand out against the backdrop. Even a slight squint will make it disappear.

              Or, another example that is more subjective: link text doesn't stand out among normal text because they have similar value. This makes links more difficult to pick out at a glance (bad), but also means they're less distracting while reading (good). Which one is more important depends on the site and the content, so you just have to try finding a good balance. Example: if you change the tag colour to #BD2828 from the current setting of #660000 the links will stand out a bit more, for better or worse.

              Gah, sorry, I started doing it again. This is what I meant, I just look at and notice this kind of thing. None of this is "oh crap this is horrible you need to change it NOW NOW NOW" but it's just the kind of thing I think of when I'm reading a site. I tend to over-analyse stuff :)

            • (Score: 2) by cafebabe on Wednesday October 15 2014, @06:01AM

              by cafebabe (894) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @06:01AM (#106186) Journal

              I quite like the half-line gaps between paragraphs. I just wish it was applied consistently. I haven't looked through the code but I presume that plain text gets up-converted to HTML before being committed to the database. And, specifically, I presume that \n gets converted to <br>\n or suchlike. So, \n\n would get converted to <br>\n<br>\n or suchlike.

              From here, it would be appreciated if there was a regular expression which converts this sequence to </p>\n<p> and make the gaps between paragraphs consistent.

              --
              1702845791×2
              • (Score: 2) by paulej72 on Wednesday October 15 2014, @11:30AM

                by paulej72 (58) on Wednesday October 15 2014, @11:30AM (#106215) Journal

                That is exactly what the code does change new lines to brs. The issue is when I was trying to change that to p tags, I was not fully restarting Slash on my test environment. Thighs caused my changes to not Wouk because the old code was still loaded in memory. Now that I am more familiar with Slash I wast to fix this so we get consistent HTML.

                --
                Team Leader for SN Development
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Sir Garlon on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:08PM

        by Sir Garlon (1264) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:08PM (#105934)

        They want sites to look pretty, with readability and efficiency mere afterthoughts at best.

        This. Web pages of 1997 generally looked like articles in a magazine with low production values. Web sites today look like advertisements in a magazine with high production values. I do not consider this progress.

        --
        [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
        • (Score: 2) by Marand on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:19PM

          by Marand (1081) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:19PM (#105940) Journal

          Web pages of 1997 generally looked like articles in a magazine with low production values. Web sites today look like advertisements in a magazine with high production values.

          I like that comparison. I'd mentioned the magazine influence in another comment, but comparing the fluff sites to the advertisements nails it.

          Also, speaking of print, it's a shame that multi-column text flow doesn't tend to work well with websites. We're stuck in this purgatory of excess whitespace or too-long lines that hinder readability because HTML and widescreen resolutions just don't play well together.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:07PM

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:07PM (#105910)

      in '96 or so if you made a total ugly abortion of a UI page design you got flack for it, but in '14 you just get bubble VC money. For awhile.

      Between 1998 and 2000/2001, you could whip up a website with dancing dog turds in animated gif format, attach some kind of dog turd business plan to it, and VC money would start raining down on you. This ain't nothing new...

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Arik on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:33PM

      by Arik (4543) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:33PM (#105920) Journal
      Javascript is far worse than the blink tag.

      The blink tag could simply be ignored, in any and all cases, with no loss.

      Javascript has enabled the building of entire so-called websites that in reality consist of nothing more or less than a program that must be downloaded new each time (giving the server endless opportunity for mischief - passed a line-by-line security audit last week? so what, we changed the code between then and now muahahahah.) This defeats the purpose of the web from the start - it's almost as if we never built a web in the first place, and we still stuck in the pre-web phase passing around programs - except most of the people involved cannot even cursorily examine the code before giving it control of their computer, and the technology is built to actively discourage doing that.

      --
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:57PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:57PM (#105930)

        *applause*

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:48PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:48PM (#105948)

        One of the great advances in web design since the 90's is the inclusion of better typography so that one can use fonts that are not only attractive, but are easy to read and thus encourage the transfer of information. Before then, we were stuck with horrible looking sans-serif monospace fonts, which though they aid in writing computer code, are horrible fonts to use when you want someone to read your text. Fortunately, there is no longer a need for someone to use such a conversational impediment these days.

      • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Tuesday October 14 2014, @05:08PM

        by Wootery (2341) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @05:08PM (#106009)

        I trust the irony of having to be different even if it's just annoying is not lost on you.

        Like JavaScript, the tt tag has a purpose, but should only be used where there's good reason.

      • (Score: 2) by hash14 on Tuesday October 14 2014, @09:38PM

        by hash14 (1102) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @09:38PM (#106084)

        I have half a mind to put a javascript bitcoin miner in the sites that I manage. I mean, if you're gonna let me do what I want when you don't need to, why shouldn't I?

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by cafebabe on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:38PM

      by cafebabe (894) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @01:38PM (#105922) Journal

      popular and influential

      That was in the days before pre-forking webservers and other solutions to solve the c10k problem [wikipedia.org]. Running httpd from inetd had a noticeable lag. And with clients making four concurrent connections and servers honoring 20 concurrent connections, it took less a dozen people before a site became awkward to access. That created a rubbernecking phenomena because people wanted to see the cause of the commotion.

      Nowadays, servers honor a minimum of 250 connections and - due to the modern selection of content - you're unlikely to raise a big a enough rabble to hit the limits.

      This inadvertent scalability has definitely reduced the consequences of bad design. Previously, if a website had particularly gaudy images, it was likely to exceed its bandwidth allowance (often 100MB per month or less) and so there were financial incentives to fix a disaster. Nowadays, this problem is "fixed" with a CDN subscription.

      Even so, it was easy to work within the limits of available hardware. About 17 years ago, Yahoo's total bandwidth was 8Mb/s. That's now less than the bandwidth of many casual home users. Likewise, servers of that era would typically have 16MB or 32MB RAM. That's now considered a low spec for an embedded system.

      --
      1702845791×2
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:04PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:04PM (#105932)

        Another, unrelated bottleneck was Common Gateway Interface, which was dirt simple to write apps for (in any programming language) but which forked a new process for each client connection.

        I remember all the commercial web server vendors had a proprietary alternative API that didn't fork - Netscape had NSAPI, IBM had ICAPI, etc. There were two problems: the app usually had to be written in C or C++, and a buggy app (a single web page from the end user's POV) could bring down the web server.

        • (Score: 2) by WillR on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:05PM

          by WillR (2012) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:05PM (#106037)
          Another instance of /bin/sh, even.

          CGI is still around, doing helpful things like making "Shellshock" a serious remote code execution vulnerability instead of an interesting design flaw.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mcgrew on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:02PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:02PM (#105931) Homepage Journal

      The web of today is at least as hideous if not worse

      I'd say it's worse. What was bad back then was that most sites were designed by people with no training or experience in design, while today the advertising and whiz-bang bullshit annoy the holy hell out of me far worse than the ugly, content-free sites of the time.

      Newspapers are the worst. I don't want to click your God damned story three times to be able to read it! If you can't stay in business with unobtrusive ads, get the hell out of business. Annoying me is NOT the way to get me to come back to your site!

      --
      Free Martian whores! [mcgrewbooks.com]
      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:11PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:11PM (#105936)

        For some reason everyone is going to this style https://www.yahoo.com/tech/ [yahoo.com] About 5 sites I normally go to have converted to this 'tablet' style.

        My god is that a pain in the ass to navigate. Oh it 'looks' slick. But painful to use because you are accidentally clicking on things.

        Windows 8 is not a good GUI design stop copying it.

        • (Score: 5, Funny) by LoRdTAW on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:36PM

          by LoRdTAW (3755) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @02:36PM (#105944) Journal

          That site made baby Jesus cry.

        • (Score: 1) by Refugee from beyond on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:17PM

          by Refugee from beyond (2699) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:17PM (#105981)

          >link

          I need a '+1 Painful' option…

          --
          Instantly better soylentnews: replace background on article and comment titles with #973131.
        • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Tuesday October 14 2014, @05:11PM

          by Wootery (2341) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @05:11PM (#106011)

          Screwing around with the scrollbar is never slick. It produces ugly disorienting 'jumps' as content loads.

          I'm on a desktop system, Yahoo. Give me a damn web-page, and I'll scroll down it. No JavaScript necessary.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:19PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @04:19PM (#105983) Journal

        So we have a people problem. Where tools enable fools to produce foolishness for foul reading. Some of the core of this is that it moved the focus from content to presentation. Perhaps some social engineering is needed to mitigate this?

        • (Score: 2) by DECbot on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:10PM

          by DECbot (832) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @06:10PM (#106024) Journal

          Perhaps some social engineering is needed to mitigate this?

          While this problem doesn't quite look like a nail, I still think a hammer would be the right tool for the job.

          --
          cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
  • (Score: 2) by buswolley on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:52PM

    by buswolley (848) on Tuesday October 14 2014, @07:52PM (#106052)

    Chrome sure uses its monopoly powers to put Chrome first

    --
    subicular junctures