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posted by hubie on Wednesday September 13, @12:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the Mosaic-browser-not-Mosaic-hops dept.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first text-only WWW browser. Then in 1991 four Finnish college students wrote the first graphical web browser, Erwise, but let it drop and that was the end of that. Two years later, Eric Bina and Marc Andreessen released NCSA Mosaic and, importantly, published it to an FTP site.

The very first web browser was the WorldWideWeb of Berners-Lee, but the first popularized web browser was the NCSA Mosaic Internet Web Browser. Previous web browsers were not user friendly; they lacked an intuitive and inviting way to allow people to navigate the then-new World Wide Web.In 1992 two developers at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois (Marc Andreessen and Eric Brina) began working on a graphical, user friendly web browser they would later call "Mosaic". The most notable features this computer program had that other browsers lacked were the ability to view pictures directly on the page, its ease of navigation, and the way this browser handled hyperlinks. Previous browsers only showed pictures as separate files available for download that were linked to the page, so no pictures were directly visible from any main web page. Other browsers also lacked a smooth graphical interface to help navigate through the page, to include scrolling and the now-standard "back", "forward", and "refresh" buttons. Finally, the Mosaic browser was the first browser to incorporate clickable hyperlinks. Previous browsers gave reference numbers so users could manually type in the new URL, whereas this new browser allowed users to simply click the link directly to get to the desired page.
-- NCSA Mosaic Internet Web Browser: The Complete History

And from NCSA's site:

"To be sure, Mosaic deserves credit for tackling two problems. First, earlier browsers were troublesome to get up and running, while Mosaic was a lot easier, thanks largely to [NCSA developer Eric] Bina's programming skill. Second, Mosaic was the first published browser that automatically displayed pictures along with text, as in the pages of a magazine layout or an illustrated book. That was important because later on it would be the proliferation of pretty pictures that transformed that Web from the domain of scientists and hackers to a cultural phenomenon that captured the interest of the masses."
-- NCSA Mosaic™

In other words, NCSA Mosaic was released in January, 1993, making it 30 years ago this year.

Which browser did you use back when you first started with the WWW?
What would you revive from the WWW as it was when you started and what would you retain from the current WWW?

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by ElizabethGreene on Wednesday September 13, @12:57PM

    by ElizabethGreene (6748) on Wednesday September 13, @12:57PM (#1324412) Journal

    Dylan Beattie has a snippet of a talk that's relevant here. From 12:57 - 18:50 []

    One of the competing proposals to Mr. Berners-Lee was an app called Microcosm, and there's a demo tucked in that video that's neat.

    (I enjoy this chap's talks, but this one lost me around 20 minutes in. This clip is pretty good though.)

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by looorg on Wednesday September 13, @01:20PM (4 children)

    by looorg (578) on Wednesday September 13, @01:20PM (#1324415)

    Technically shouldn't we have celebrated this in January then? Also Lynx doesn't count? I recall using that more then I used (a)Mosaic, both on Amiga at home and on Solaris at university and work. In that regard I don't recall having used Mosaic very much. In some regard I guess the web was just one of many parts of the internet back then instead of THE part or application. I spent more time with IRC and FTP then I did on the www.

    I guess it was mainly Netscape Navigator on Solaris and then Windows. So what Andreessen wrote after Mosaic, due to the university not being to pleased with him trying to commercialize Mosaic. Mostly I recall Mosaic and Navigator crashing a lot, a disturbing amount even by todays standards.

    > What would you revive from the WWW as it was when you started and what would you retain from the current WWW?

    TEXT. Today it seems graphics is the most important part. The more the better and the more it moves and stuff the more common and better. I kind of liked it when it was just, or mostly, text. It was fast and you could search it. It's not that text isn't around today but there is less of it and more of graphics and there are just so many god damn scripts running.

    Also Cookies, Ads and Javascript can go and die in a fire. It brought nothing but trouble with it. In large it's what makes the www slow and sucky today.

    What would I retain of the current www, or I guess bring back in time. Search engines. I want them to be as "good" as they were some years ago but back then. Instead of being like they are today. They are starting to be a bit shit. Shilling for ads and SEO. They are not really as helpful as they once were.

    I guess it could be interesting to have more hand-curated lists of links but you still need to search them somehow cause they would just be so large by now. Yahoo etc started out as being curated lists instead of search engines. The human element that have become algorithmic. That or just more bookmarks, the problem with bookmarks is that I'm shit at curating it myself so they just mostly bloat up as things get bookmarked and then I am supposed to watch them later but I don't for most of them.

    But mainly I want the web to be fast again. Instead of being slow and shit, you can retain some of the speed if you just block a lot of crap but you really shouldn't have to imo. So the current web is like cancer, it's slowly (or rapidly) eroding what was once good to be a commercial platform.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bart9h on Wednesday September 13, @04:07PM (1 child)

      by bart9h (767) on Wednesday September 13, @04:07PM (#1324437)

      Graphics, cookies and Javascript are great. Or could be, anyway.

      They are just misused and abused.

      I agree with searching sucking nowadays. Anyone know of a search engine that respect text in quotes (all words must appear in this order), and basic "and", "or" and "not" logic?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 13, @09:41PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 13, @09:41PM (#1324514)

        No, of course not. It limits the ads they can show you.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Wednesday September 13, @06:08PM

      by Thexalon (636) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday September 13, @06:08PM (#1324456)

      Tim Berners-Lee's browser apparently predates Lynx, which slots in between that and Mosaic.

      Cookies and JS I'm fine with when used properly for things like logins and active page interactions that can be handled on the client side. But the giant JS libraries of doom should die. And of course the ads can definitely go die in a fire.

      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday September 13, @08:35PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday September 13, @08:35PM (#1324499)

      I used a little Lynx in the mid 1990s, and I think Kermit in the late 1980s, but didn't really "get into" web surfing until Mosaic hit my desktop.

      On the other hand, I had a co-worker who didn't really "get into" the web until video sites like YouTube came along, even with pretty pictures - pages of text didn't really "speak to them" the way a video presentation does.

      Україна досі не є частиною Росії Слава Україні🌻
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by DannyB on Wednesday September 13, @01:59PM (2 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday September 13, @01:59PM (#1324420) Journal

    Which browser did you use back when you first started with the WWW?

    Mosaic on a classic Macintosh.

    Before long, I ponied up the $17 to buy a copy of Netscape. Later Netscape became free to download and use.

    Mac had TCP/IP support with a built in control panel. It was easy to add either SLIP or PPP for dial up by drag-dropping in another control panel.

    I figured out how to get Windows 3.1 on the internet with Trumpet Winsock and Netscape. Of course, friends wanted help getting their PC on the internet. Mac friends could do this on their own without any or without much assistance.

    My computer does not impeach programs, it executes them.
    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Wednesday September 13, @04:24PM

      by mcgrew (701) <> on Wednesday September 13, @04:24PM (#1324440) Homepage Journal

      Mosaic, I don't remember if the OS was Windows 95 or DOS 6.2. FOSS but I paid $5 for the floppy. Never did use the awful Internet Exploiter, except at work where that was the only browser allowed.

      "this trip’s a rock show." -- Captain Kelly, Journey to Madness
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, @12:50AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 14, @12:50AM (#1324537)

      Mosaic on a Sun 3/60 fitted with a CG4 graphics card.

      The machine also ran a web server (back when the numbers of them in the UK had just gone into three digits), I could never get the CERN httpd code to run in a stable manner, so opted for the NCSA one and never looked back.

  • (Score: 2) by fliptop on Wednesday September 13, @02:54PM (1 child)

    by fliptop (1666) on Wednesday September 13, @02:54PM (#1324428) Journal

    First time I used Mosaic was to view the pics from the collision of Shoemaker-Levy 9 [] into Jupiter.

    I primarily used Lynx before Mosaic became available. Trumpet Winsock, anyone? Everything seemed so exciting at the time, but now, I'm about done with all of it.

    To be oneself, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity
    • (Score: 2) by mendax on Wednesday September 13, @10:21PM

      by mendax (2840) on Wednesday September 13, @10:21PM (#1324523)

      Oh, Trumpet Winsock! I bought that from its Australian developer using its web page. My first e-commerce purchase! It was also my first experience with a foreign currency transaction fee. Given that this was done before the introduction of SSL or TLS, I'm sort of surprised that fraudulent charges didn't start appearing on my bill.

      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
  • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Wednesday September 13, @03:16PM (1 child)

    by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday September 13, @03:16PM (#1324429) Journal

    I remember when someone told me that there's a new program installed on the university computers. However when you opened it, it just showed a grey rectangle. It took a while to figure out what this program was for.

    The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
    • (Score: 5, Funny) by RS3 on Wednesday September 13, @03:40PM

      by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday September 13, @03:40PM (#1324435)

      Ah. You found the colorblindness test.


  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Wednesday September 13, @04:59PM (2 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Wednesday September 13, @04:59PM (#1324447)

    A browser.

    As opposed to what is today essentially a not-so-thin client running the client-side of ultra-inefficient bloated web apps. Not to mention of course the bits of said code dedicated to exfiltrating your data and tracking the living daylights out of you for "monetization" purposes.

    Come to think of it, it's not really a browser that I'd like to bring back: it's an internet that isn't a hostile playground for giant crypto-fascist big data oligopolies to take advantage of me any way they can. But that's never going to happen.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by ShovelOperator1 on Wednesday September 13, @06:52PM (1 child)

      by ShovelOperator1 (18058) on Wednesday September 13, @06:52PM (#1324467)

      I think fascists may get insulted by this comparison :).
      The problem is in the Internet itself. Recently I was looking for some basic electronics info (exactly how to wire an op-amp a tricky way), and the only place where I got it was the txt file in the backup of someone's "index of" server directory, being a dump of a CD distributed in early 00s with pieces of good websites mirrored on it. The search results, both on G. and other, were filled with "buy an op amp" spam, and the dead forum discussions from 15 years ago ended with "it is everywhere, use Google". Where did these small sites of ham radios gone?

      I found that a "personal webpage" is more and more difficult to maintain and the obstructions are planned and intentional.
      First, my ISP decided to shut down the hosting plan for faster connection. I didn't wanted a faster connection, I wanted a hosting, so I put the server in my house to use the faster connection more efficiently :). These were still times of "Personal webpages" and sites were linking to each other, so it caused... a small storm, let's call it this way, especially when I put an info in a newsgroup about new address after some time of absence and people started to run Teleport Pro on my site (I still remember the rattle of two tired SCSI hard drives seeking from hub to rim all time!). The ISP finally gave up and recommended me to a hosting, which finally gave up too and shifted customers to a "free hosting" platform which, of course, got shut down with all of these services in recent years.
      I had then an opportunity to buy a hosting really cheap, so I did it, and I found a nice domain name too. However, this was the last breath of the Internet of users, not corporations, so re-making a link base took years and never returned to the previously normal level.
      Then, as an owner of a registered domain, I could find what was the problem in many small, hobby and personal websites. The amount of bots trying to blackmail the administrator was enormous (I'm tolerant, bots can be made not only of silicon chips, but meat components too). Someone without technical overview and with respect for law could certainly be scared, as they are quite interesting in their blackmail - technically, the "illegal" things they point out are illegally present in many sites, and indeed they are illegal, but not on a non-commercial website without any line of JS nor server side code.
      I gave up when the domain registrar declared a bankruptcy and decided to sell my domain without approval to some corporation. Yes, like in a day you are not an owner of your domain. Starting it again in the corporate internet makes no sense, as it is equal with writing "to the drawer", without any way of publication. Using links for what they were invented for - to point to the sources, is not used today.
      What I would like to ask for, if someone's hobby website had any practical useful info and is getting unintentionally out too like many of these, it's a good time to donate a static copy to the Internet Archive. Maybe it will be useful for someone?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by sgleysti on Thursday September 14, @03:15PM

        by sgleysti (56) on Thursday September 14, @03:15PM (#1324635)

        Don't forget browsers wanting SSL, which means more and higher fees to get the certs.

        Honestly, I've been buying (often used) books to learn about technical topics recently, finding their content far more in depth and valuable than anything I can find online. I had to design some active analog filters for a project at work recently, and a used book from 1982 blew every app note and webpage I was able to find through search out of the water.

  • (Score: 2) by bart on Wednesday September 13, @07:22PM

    by bart (2844) on Wednesday September 13, @07:22PM (#1324475)

    NCSA Mosaic on a Mac (IIci I think).

  • (Score: 5, Touché) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday September 13, @08:47PM (2 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday September 13, @08:47PM (#1324503)

    Nobody is admitting to downloading binary image files from usenet? Stitching multi-part messages together to get... pictures?

    Україна досі не є частиною Росії Слава Україні🌻
    • (Score: 1) by ssvt on Thursday September 14, @11:30AM (1 child)

      by ssvt (14071) on Thursday September 14, @11:30AM (#1324601)

      I’ll admit to doing that. I miss our org’s T1 that allowed fast ftp.

      My first personal internet account was from IBM using my Win 3.1 laptop and Winsock.

      Great fun!

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday September 14, @12:07PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday September 14, @12:07PM (#1324607)

        I tried to like Slackware in the 1990s, but their PTP or whatever the hell was supposed to do the job of WinSock would run exactly one time, then on reboot it wouldn't work. After spending two days researching the problem, on a Windows computer using WinSock, I decided that the answer was clear: At the time, WinSock worked, Slackware didn't. That Linux stuff just wasn't ready for prime time yet. By 2004 it was back on my home desktop in the form of 64 bit Gentoo (working, when Windows 64 bit wasn't - at least not without fabulously expensive premium licenses and processors), and by 2013 my professional product development was based in Ubuntu, still is today - though Canonical's aggressive license pushing "for security" (you know: the internet is a dangerous place, wouldn't want your computer to get hurt out there, you'd better pay us for protection) is making us take a hard look (back) at Debian, which all the products were based on before 2010...

        Україна досі не є частиною Росії Слава Україні🌻
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by mendax on Wednesday September 13, @10:15PM (1 child)

    by mendax (2840) on Wednesday September 13, @10:15PM (#1324522)

    Which browser did you use back when you first started with the WWW?

    I first started using Mosaic in 1994 during my first year of grad school. It was a termified-binary I downloaded from some FTP site and ran using SLS Linux (with the version 0.99 kernel) in my dorm room on my shiny new 33 mhz 486-based PC. The monitor didn't have the resolution to properly display everything but it was a definite improvement over Gopher. If the old farts here are wondering why I didn't use SLIP or PPP, it's because dial-up Internet was not possible from my dorm room.

    For you youngsters out there, "term" was a protocol that allowed one to enable Berkley Sockets over a serial line. You ran a "term" server on some remote Unix machine that had Internet accessibility. A "termified" app would then communicate directly over the serial line to the server. As I remember, a "termified" C program replaced the socket library #include files with their equivalent "term" files, using macros to rerplace the socket function calls with the equivalent "termified" ones. Then one simply recompiled and linked the program to the "term" library.

    About a year later I got my first taste of the Netscape browser as the university had installed it on its Sun Unix workstations in one of its computer labs. It was innovative in that it could load several images referenced by the current page in parallel at a time when the idea of program threads was just beginning to enter mainstream computing with the introduction of Windows 95. Slow servers and connection speeds gave the user the "joy" of watching each image slowly appear a few pixel lines at a time on the screen. As I remember, there was a configuration option in Netscape that allowed the user to tell the browser how many images to download in parallel. But the thing I remember most about that first Netscape browser was the original Netscape icon, which had an animated in-and-out motion which ran while a page and its images were loaded. (If you youngsters want to see it in action, stream from some platform the first "Mission: Impossible" film.)

    It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by mendax on Thursday September 14, @07:21PM

      by mendax (2840) on Thursday September 14, @07:21PM (#1324698)

      Ah! If you want to read more about "term" and get a bit of an appreciation of what some people had to do in order to get Internet service on their computers, here is a link [] to a very old Linux HOW-TO document. It takes me back to the "good old days"!

      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.