Birth of the
World Wide Web
The Web reminds me of early days of the PC
industry. No one really knows anything. All experts have been wrong.
Wired, February 1996
HyperText is a way to link and access information of
various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will.
It provides a single user-interface to large classes of information (reports, notes,
data-bases, computer documentation and on-line help).
We propose a simple scheme incorporating servers already available at CERN...
A program which provides access to the hypertext world we call a browser...
It would be inappropriate for us (rather than those responsible) to suggest specific
areas, but experiment online help, accelerator online help, assistance for computer center
operators, and the dissemination of information by central services such as the user
office and CN [Computing & Networks] and ECP [Electronics & Computing for Physics]
divisions are obvious candidates.
World Wide Web (or W3 ) intends to cater for these services across the HEP [ High Energy
Physics ] community.
Tim Berners-Lee , R. Cailliau . 12
November 1990, CERN
12 November, 1990
World Wide Web: Proposal for a
To: P.G. Innocenti/ECP, G. Kellner/ECP, D.O.
Cc: R. Brun/CN, K. Gieselmann/ECP, R.? Jones/ECP, T.?
Osborne/CN, P. Palazzi/ECP, N.? Pellow/CN, B.? Pollermann/CN, E.M.? Rimmer/ECP
From: T. Berners-Lee/CN, R. Cailliau/ECP
... document describes in more detail a Hypertext
... The project has two phases: firstly we make use of existing software and hardware as
well as implementing simple browsers for the user's workstations, based on an analysis of
the requirements for information access needs by experiments. Secondly, we extend the
application area by also allowing the users to add new material.
Phase one should take 3 months with the full manpower complement, phase two a further 3
months, but this phase is more open-ended, and a review of needs and wishes will be
incorporated into it.
The manpower required is 4 software engineers and a programmer, (one of which could be a
Fellow). Each person works on a specific part (eg. specific platform support) ...
W W Why are they
"Because I see all "W"s
Robert Cailliau: Recently I
discovered that I'm a synaesthetic. Well, I've known it for a long time, but I did not
realise that there was a name for it. I'm one of those people who combine two senses: for
me, letters have colours. Only about one in 25'000 have this condition, which is perfectly
harmless and actually quite useful. Whenever I think of words, they have colour patterns.
For example, the word "CERN" is yellow, green, red and brown, my internal
telephone number, "5005" is black, white, white, black. The effect sometimes
works like a spelling checker: I know I've got the right or the wrong number because the
colour pattern is what I remember or not...
And now wait for it folks: you have all seen the World-Wide Web logo ofthree superimposed
"W"s. Why are they green? Because I see all "W"s as green... It
would look horrible to me if they were any other colour.
So, it's not because it is a "green" technology, although I also like that...
So, here I am: twenty years of work at CERN: control engineering, user-interfaces, text
processing, administrative computing support,
hypertexts and finally the Web.
|According to R. Cailliau the chain
of historical scale events was going by the following way:
CERN: A Joint proposal for a hypertext system is
presented to the management.
Mike Sendall buys a NeXT cube for evaluation, and gives
it to Tim. Tim's prototype implementation on NeXTStep is made in the space of a few
months, thanks to the qualities of the NeXTStep software development system. This
prototype offers WYSIWYG browsing/authoring! Current Web browsers used in "surfing
the Internet" are mere passive windows, depriving the user of the possibility to
During some sessions in the CERN cafeteria, Tim and I
try to find a catching name for the system. I was determined that the name should not yet
again be taken from Greek mythology. Tim proposes "World-Wide Web". I like this
very much, except that it is difficult to pronounce in French...
The prototype is very impressive, but the
NeXTStep system is not widely spread. A simplified, stripped-down version (with no editing
facilities) that can be easily adapted to any computer is constructed: the Portable
SLAC, the Stanford Linear
Accelerator Center in California, becomes the first Web server in USA.
It serves the contents of an existing, large data base
of abstracts of physics papers.
Distribution of software over the Internet starts.
The Hypertext'91 conference (San Antonio) allows us a
"poster" presentation (but does not see any use of discussing large, networked
The portable browser is released by CERN as
Many HEP laboratories now join with servers: DESY
(Hamburg), NIKHEF (Amsterdam), FNAL (Chicago).
Interest in the Internet population picks up.
The Gopher system from the University of Minnesota, also
networked, simpler to install, but with no hypertext links, spreads rapidly.
We need to make a Web browser for the X system, but have
no in-house expertise. However, Viola (O'Reilly Assoc., California) and Midas (SLAC) are
wysiwyg implementations that create great interest.
The world has 50 Web servers!
Some of the other viewpoints on the first
5 years of the WWW
... as Tim Berners-Lee and other Web developers enriched
the standard for structuring data, programmers around the world began to enrich the
One of these programmers was Marc Andreessen, who was working for the NCSA in
In January 1993, Andreessen released a version of his new, handsome, point-and-click
graphical browser for the Web, designed to run on Unix machines.
In August, Andreessen and his co-workers at the center released free versions for
Macintosh and Windows.
In December, a long story about the Web and Mosaic appeared in The New York Times... The (Second Phase of the)
Revolution Has Begun,
By Gary Wolf, Wired 2.10
Meanwhile -- between these generations -- a lot of historical scale events
Eric W. Sink clarifies
some of them:
In the Web's first generation, Tim Berners-Lee
launched the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and HTML
standards with prototype Unix-based servers and browsers.
A few people noticed that the
Web might be better than Gopher.
In the second generation, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina developed NCSA Mosaic at the
University of Illinois.
Several million then suddenly noticed that the
Web might be better than sex.
In the third generation, Andreessen and Bina left NCSA to found Netscape...
Ether Microsoft and Netscape open some new
fronts in escalating Web Wars, By Bob Metcalfe, InfoWorld, August 21, 1995, Vol. 17, Issue
Life in the browser wars was a unique time period for me in my career...
I started work on Spyglass Mosaic on April 5th, 1994.
The demo for our first prospective customer was already on the calendar in May.
... Yes, we licensed the technology and trademarks from NCSA (at the University of Illinois),
but we never used any of the code.
We wrote our browser implementations completely from scratch, on Windows, MacOS, and Unix.
... Netscape didn't even exist yet, but things happened fast.
Just a few weeks after I started coding, Jim Clark rode into town and gathered a select group of programmers from NCSA.
Mosaic Communications Corporation was born. It was interesting to note that certain people on the
NCSA browser team were not invited to the special meeting.
I can still remember hearing about how ticked off they were to be excluded. Champaign-Urbana is a very small town.
Spyglass had the legal right to the "Mosaic" trademark. A few tantrums and lots of lawyering later,
MCC changed its name to Netscape.
We thought we had a nice head start on Netscape.
We had a really top-notch team and we moved the rest of our developers over to browser work quickly.
We were ready to compete with anybody. But Jim Clark was, after all, Jim Clark.
His SGI-ness knew how to work the advantages of being in Silicon Valley.
He provided his young company with lots of press coverage and very deep pockets.
We decided to approach this market with an OEM business model.
Instead of selling a browser to end users we developed core technology and sold it to corporations
who in turn provided it to their end users.
We considered ourselves to be the arms dealer for the browser wars.
Over 120 companies licensed Spyglass Mosaic so they could bundle it into their product.
Our stuff ended up in books, operating systems, ATM machines, set-top boxes, help systems, and kiosks.
It was an extremely profitable business. The company grew fast and ours was one of the first Internet IPOs.
Along the way, we got involved in the standards process.
In fact, I became the chair of the IETF HTML Working Group for the standardization of HTML 2.0.
I learned a lot through this experience.
In May 1994 I went to the first WWW conference in Geneva, Tim Berners-Lee took me aside and shared his plans for
a World-Wide Web Consortium. It didn't take too long for the W3C to become the venue for HTML standards discussions.
Eventually this was A Good Thing. Both Netscape and Microsoft became active participants in the W3C HTML Working
Any group which didn't have their involvement was doomed to irrelevance.
For much of 1994, it seemed like we were ahead of Netscape.
Shortly after we released our 2.0 version, I remember one of the Netscape developers griping about
how their schedule had been moved up by six months. We smiled because we knew we were the reason.
They had not been taking us seriously and they were being forced to do so.
But Netscape was running at a much faster pace.
They got ahead of us on features and they began to give their browser away at no cost to end users.
This made Netscape the standard by which all other browsers were judged.
If our browser didn't render something exactly like Netscape, it was considered a bug.
I hated fixing our browser to make it bug-compatible with Netscape even though we had already coded
it to "the standard". Life's not fair sometimes.
We won the Microsoft deal. I suppose only the higher echelons of Spyglass management really know
the gory details of this negotiation.
I was asked to be the primary technical contact for Microsoft and their effort to integrate our browser into Windows
I went to Redmond and worked there for a couple of weeks as part of the "Chicago" team.
It was fun, but weird. They gave me my own office.
At dinner time, everyone went to the cafeteria for food and then went back to work.
On my first night, I went back to my hotel at 11:30pm. I was one of the first to leave.
Internet Explorer 2.0 was basically Spyglass Mosaic with not too many changes.
IE 3.0 was a major upgrade, but still largely based on our code.
IE 4.0 was closer to a rewrite, but our code was still lingering around --
we could tell by the presence of certain esoteric bugs that were specific to our layout engine.
Licensing our browser was a huge win for Spyglass.
And it was a huge loss. We got a loud wake-up call when we tried to schedule our second conference
for our OEM browser customers. Our customers told us they weren't coming because Microsoft was beating them up.
The message became clear: We sold our browser technology to 120 companies, but one of them slaughtered the other 119.
The time between IE 3 and IE 4 was a defining period for Spyglass.
It was clear that the browser war had become a two-player race.
- Even with our IPO stash, we didn't have the funding to keep up with Netscape.
- What was interesting was the day we learned that Netscape didn't have the funding to keep up with Microsoft.
For the development of IE 4.0, a new Program Manager appeared.
His name was Scott Isaacs and I started seeing him at the HTML standards group meetings.
At one of those meetings we sat down for a talk which was a major turning point for me and for Spyglass.
Scott told me that the IE team had over 1,000 people.
I was stunned. That was 50 times the size of the Spyglass browser team.
It was almost as many people as Netscape had in their whole company.
I could have written the rest of the history of web browsers on that day -- no other outcomes were possible ...
Memoirs From the Browser Wars by Eric W. Sink.
According to Gary Wolf, "Andreessen also
left the NCSA, departing in December 1993 with the intention of abandoning Mosaic
development altogether. He moved to California and took a position with a small software
company. But within a few months he had quit his new job and formed a partnership with SGI
founder Jim Clark.
"At the NCSA," Andreessen explains, "the deputy director suggested that we
should start a company, but we didn't know how. We had no clue. How do you start something
like that? How do you raise the money? Well, I came out here and met Jim, and all of a
sudden the answers starting falling into place."
In March, Andreessen and Clark flew back to Illinois, rented a suite at the University
Inn, and invited about half a dozen of the NCSA's main Mosaic developers over for a chat.
Clark spent some time with each of them alone. By May, virtually the entire ex-NCSA
development group was working for Mosaic Communications (it was an original name of the
Netscape Communications -G.R.G.).
Andreessen answers accusations that corporate Mosaic Communications "raided"
nonprofit NCSA by pointing out that with the explosion of commercial interest in Mosaic,
the developers were bound to be getting other offers to jump ship. "We originally
were going to fly them out to California individually over a period of several
weeks," Andreessen explains, "but Jim and I said, Waita second, it does not make
much sense to leave them available to be picked up by other companies. So we flew out to
Illinois at the spur of the moment."
Since Mosaic Communications now has possession of the core team of Mosaic developers from
NCSA, the company sees no reason to pay any licensing fees for NCSA Mosaic. Andreessen and
his team intend to rewrite the code, alter the name, and produce a browser that looks
similar and works better.
Clark and Andreessen have different goals. For Jim Clark, whose old company led the
revolution in high-end digital graphics, Mosaic Communications represents an opportunity
to transform a large sector of the computer industry a second time. For Andreessen, Mosaic
Communications offers a chance to keep him free from the grip of a company he sees as one
of the forces of darkness - Microsoft.
"If the company does well, I do pretty well," says Andreessen. "If the
company doesn't do well" - his voice takes on a note of mock despair - "I work
The chair of Microsoft is anathema to many young software developers, but to Andreessen he
is a particularly appropriate nemesis...
As I ( Gary Wolf) reviewed my notes from interviews with Andreessen, I was struck by the
thought that he may have conjured the Bill Gates nemesis out of the subtle miasma of his
own ambivalence. After all it is he, not the programmers in Redmond, Washington, who is
writing a proprietary Web browser. It is he, not Bill Gates, who is at the center of the
new, ambitious industry. It is he who is being forced by the traditional logic of the
software industry to operate with a caution that verges on secrecy, a caution that is
distinctly at odds with the open environment of the Web."
The (Second Phase of the) Revolution Has Begun,
By Gary Wolf, Wired 2.10
There are two ages of the Internet - before
Mosaic, and after. The combination of Tim Berners-Lee's Web protocols, which provided
connectivity, and Marc Andreesen's browser, which provided a great interface, proved
explosive. In twenty-four months, the Web has gone from being unknown to absolutely
A Brief History of Cyberspace, by Mark Pesce, ZDNet,
October 15, 1995
Bill Gates : "...an Internet
browser is a trivial piece of software. There are at least 30 companies that have written
very credible Internet browsers, so that's nothing... "
"The most important thing for the Web is
stay ahead of Microsoft."
Steve Jobs. Wired, February 1996,
Microsoft may still be No. 2 in the Internet
race, but it's rapidly closing the gap. What's more, Microsoft has forgotten more about PR
and marketing than Netscape ever learned.
The contrast between the two companies was highlighted the day after Clark induced mass
sedation when Microsoft's group vice president, Paul Maritz, wowed the crowd with the kind
of polished, four-star presentation that the Redmondians seem to be able to do with their
Just like his boss, Maritz promised a lot of stuff that's still not here. But he generated
excitement and energy and buzz. The upshot was to create the kind of halo effect that will
pay dividends when it comes time for developers and corporate shoppers to make their
buying and investment decisions. ....
Of Silicon Valley and Sominex, by Charles Cooper, PC
Week, June 5, 1996.
Is Microsoft Evil?
Magazine, June 26, 1996 © 1996 Microsoft
I dont think it's a matter of good and evil --
Microsoft is a a competitor, and a smart one. Jim(Clark) and I both think it's important
to point out what Microsoft is doing in various areas, since they are very good at using
FUD [fear, uncertainty, doubt] to attempt to paralize the market.
"God is on the side of
the big battalions." said Napoleon.
Very few times in warfare have smaller forces overtaken bigger forces...
by Netscape's Jim Barksdale, Wired
4.03 March 1996
December, 1995: i-Pearl Harbor
"Pearl Harbor Day." Time Magazine reported
it when Bill Gates declared war on December 7, 1995... Jeff Sutherland
February, 1996: 2-year Prediction
Steve Jobs: We have a
two-year window. If the Web doesn't reach ubiquity in the next two years, Microsoft will
own it. And that will be the end of it.
Wire, February 1996, p.162
June, 1996: How many ...?
Question : Netscape has certainly
come on awfully strong.
The turn-point in the
Bill Gates: How many software developers do you think they have?
The world according to Gates By Don Tennant,
InfoWorld Electric, Jan 4, 1996.
The Web Browser Marketshare dramatically changed for a couple of
Data source: Intersé Corporation.
||Microsoft Internet Explorer
October, 1996: How much?
From: Bob Ney
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 1996 18:24:41 -0700
. . . . .
As an ISP, I want to give my customers a software package for their use. I contacted
- They said they would let be customize and repackage their product, if I committed to buy
2500 the first year at $17 each.
I said OK, I can do that.
- Then they said, great please send your check for 50% of the moneys due.
That's $21,250. As a small ISP I dont have that available without dipping into my
I am then contacted by Microsoft and was told they would send me this really nice
customization kit, which will build a release for Win95, Win NT, Win3.1 and install
Explorer 3, Netmeeting, a commercial TCP dialer and stack. And it has a automated user
sign up server built into it.
It will build a CD Rom image, if I want to distribute that way.
It configures with a wizard in about 5 minutes.
It's seamless and a really good piece of software and installer.
I said that it sounded great, how much?
- No charge. Distribute it all you want to your customers.
Microsoft is such a monster company that they can drop multi millions into development of
a product package that they will give away.
Netscape on the other hand actually wants to make a bit of money on their product.
Thinking of myself first, I took the Microsoft software.
So will most other ISP's...
Netscape Navigator market-share historical trend:
2002: How long?
||To be, or not to be: that is the question yet
and Netscape browser still exists
The market war between two
leading browsers is over. Like it or not, but now Internet Explorer is the fully dominant
one. Only about 2 - 3 percentage of the Web surfing people for some reasons (mostly
for the reasons resembling religious ones) still use Netscape browser. But as long
as the Netscape browser still exist, almost all front-end Web developers around the world
are forced to spend about 10 - 15 percentage of their paid time to provide both of
these two browsers with compatible layout & DHTML solutions. Just try to imagine what
the total price of all this essentially worthless work on the world wide scale is.
They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
years later ...
2007, Netscape announced that support for its Netscape
Navigator would be discontinued, suggesting its users
migrate to Mozilla Firefox
First 15 Years of the Browsers
Wars as it looks from the January, 2011:
Source: Data from Net Applications; chart by Stephen Shankland/CNET