The Battle of the Browsers, how did it impact us?

Emerging software company Netscape were the first to launch any such thing as a ‘web browser’ and upon releasing it to the public their browser, Navigator, racked up almost $2 billion according to investopedia in its first day of trading. It was this advance by the company that caught operating system giant Microsoft behind the eight ball and from that moment on the worlds largest ‘browser wars’ had begun. I was so oblivious to this catastrophic and well known contest until I watched the documentary The True story of the Internet: Browser Wars making me realize there was much more to the internet and its development than just thinking of an idea and clicking a button.

After researching I learned Netscape’s Navigator was the most popular software for exploring the modern phenomenon of the Internet. In the early 1990s, everyday people checking out the World Wide Web for the first time usually did so with Netscape Navigator. After their game changing invention was realised by Microsoft the race was on and unfortunately for Netscape, its competitor proved to dominate the industry.

As mentioned in The True story of the Internet: Browser Wars documentary Microsoft had a highly profitable operating system (OS) and extensive savings far beyond Netscape’s, this advantage meant Microsoft started constructing its own browser, Internet Explorer, to mimic Netscape’s Navigator and additionally adding it into its’ OS with no extra charge.

Netscape were firmly against giving away their browser for free and this is where they started to stumble. After trying alternatives like offering evaluation copies as a free download or constantly upgrading their software with new features they were continuously being matched by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer at a threatening rate.

Netscape added more exclusive features to Navigator, and Internet Explorer reloaded with more competing features. There were two main problems with the nicknamed featuritis, the features arms race made both browsers slower and more vulnerable. In addition, it split the Internet into two worlds displayed well between Navigator and Internet Explorer.

According to a Vanity Fair article interview with Thomas Reardon the then program manager of Internet Explorer, the two company’s held a business meeting in Silicon Valley, June 1995. The result of this business meeting has never truthfully been disclosed and matched by both parties but in summary an agreement could not be met. It was said by Microsoft representatives that Netscape were on such high horses that they were trash-talking throughout the entirety of the meeting with the most absurd comment by Netscape’s President Marc Andreessen “Windows will be reduced down to being a poorly debugged bag of device drivers.”  Translated into English, windows will be meaningless soon. Pretty much the opposite happened.

A short time after that infamous meeting, Microsoft overtook Netscape’s popularity and essentially ‘won’ the battle of the browsers. I agree with a comment from investepedia’s site that it was most likely because the world’s population needed an operating system and most people bought windows, which came with Internet Explorer. Why would the public buy an equally faulty browser if they were already given one for free?

Netscape was bought by AOL in 1998 and then slowly disassembled. Although Netscape Navigator has been discontinued, its spiritual posterity, Firefox, carries on the browser war with Internet Explorer.

I can’t imagine a world without these internet browsers and their developments, if the original browser wars hadn’t of forced both companies to stretch above and beyond everyone’s imagination who knows where they internet would be standing in present day. In relevance the importance of the internet for research on trending articles about fashion, the ability to keep up with friends and family and cafes/ restaurant creating websites for customers to browse through is very well relied on in my life.

References:

  1. The True story of the Internet: Browser Wars; documentary, Discovery Channel; http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/download-true-story-internet/
  2. http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/09/browser-wars-netscape-internet-explorer.asp#ixzz2Ke2LlWs3
  3.  http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/07/internet200807?currentPage=5
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