Browser Wars

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There has been a continuous battle over the years with regard to browser market share. Initially, Mosaic enjoyed the largest share of the market, later to become Netscape's Navigator only to be challenged and eventually surpassed by Microsoft with various versions of Internet Explorer. Less well-known browsers such as Opera and Mozilla exist but relatively few people use them. In fact there are literally hundreds of browsers available in minority usage which raises compatibility issues for website creators. One browser, notorious among website creators was the AOL browser which is no longer used.

Early Web interfaces were purely textual, requiring the user to type commands from the keyboard. Then clients emerged that incorporated graphical user interfaces (GUI). The first graphical browser to emerge was Mosaic, developed in 1993 by Marc Andreessen as a college project.

It established an interface with the Web as well as other Internet applications such as email, ftp, telnet and Gopher and with the integration of built-in third party viewers was capable of handling images, sounds and motion video. As more graphical interfaces were released such as Cello, web traffic throughout 1993 grew by some 300,000 per cent. At the time there were a mere 3,000 websites. Ubiquitous GUI's such as Microsoft Windows helped establish Mosaic as the de facto standard in graphical Web browsers. It was known at the time as the Web's killer application (Manger, 1995).

In mid-1994, Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark collaborated with Marc Andreessen to found Mosaic Communications, which shortly after became Netscape Communications. When Netscape 1.0 was released in 1994, it was described on its website as: "the premium graphical navigator to the Internet. Combining the latest in point-and-click interface design with lightning-fast performance, Netscape 1.0 is the must-have application for exploring the new center of worldwide communication." Because Netscape incorporated into their browser, many "extensions" to the HTML specification, it allowed much more creative freedom than contemporary browsers and solidified Netscape's position as the number one choice, with a huge market share.

In 1995, along with Windows '95, Microsoft bundled its own alternative to the Netscape browser: Internet Explorer 1.0 and incorporated its own proprietary HTML tags. For a number of years, Microsoft trailed the technically superior Netscape as the two companies battled for market leadership, but Internet Explorer had one major advantage - It was free.

Internet Explorer version 2.0 was more popular than its predecessor it was its first cross-platform browser, available to both 32-bit Windows and Macintosh users. It also included support for a number of relatively new technologies such as Secure Socket Layers (SSL), cookies and RealAudio. With subsequent versions came the integration of more features such as email and newsgroups, Windows Address Book and Windows Media Player. When Windows '98 was released, Internet Explorer became fully integrated into the operating system. Today, the various versions of Internet Explorer, equipped with ever-increasing numbers of application-supporting software are by far the most widely used browsers, amassing an estimated 90+ per cent of global market share (The counter, 2002).

Because each browser renders HTML differently and because browsers have their own proprietary tags such as Microsoft's <marquee> tag, there is still a compatibility issue facing website creators. No company or organization can design for just the most popular browser because although Internet Explorer is the most popular browser at present, there are still millions of people who are using alternatives.

Publication Date: Friday 6th June, 2003
Author: Ukwdc View profile

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