20 years ago today, the commercial Web browser was born with Netscape Navigator

20 years ago today, the commercial Web browser was born with Netscape Navigator

There are many landmark moments and key figures who have contributed to the evolution of the internet we see today.

Way back in the late 1960s, Vint Cerf was involved in a project that saw the first ever message sent from one computer to another on the ARPANET, a predecessor to the internet. And Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who created the World Wide Web in the early 90s as a way of accessing information on the Internet, is another such luminary.

Today represents another key milestone in the recent history of this thing we call the Web. On October 13 1994, it was announced that the “Netscape network navigator” browser would be made available to download by anyone, initially as a public beta. Developed by Mosaic Communications Corporation, a Silicon Valley company led by Jim Clark and Marc Andreessen, Netscape was a successor to Mosaic and soon became the pre-eminent Web browser on many PCs.


Andreesen, who is now a prominent Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur, said at the time:

“Making Netscape freely available to Internet users is Mosaic Communications’ way of contributing to the explosive growth of innovative information applications on global networks.We expect Netscape’s ease of use to spark another major leap in Internet usage by making the net a powerful tool for a broader base of users. By incorporating security and advanced functionality, Netscape now lays the foundation for commerce on the net.”

Some interesting little nuggets from the release include: “optimized to run smoothly over 14.4 kilobit/second modems, “continuous document streaming, enabling users to interact with documents while they are still being downloaded”, “multiple, simultaneous network accesses, allowing several documents or images to be downloaded simultaneously” and – wait for it – “native support for the JPEG image format.”

Of course, in the end, Microsoft won the browsers war with Internet Explorer becoming ubiquitous across the PC realm. But today there is a good bit of competition out there, with Chrome, Firefox, Safari and a handful of others vying for your attention.

It might not have been the first browser, but it was the first commercial entity to hit the market aimed at anyone and everyone. Indeed, the words ‘Netscape Navigator’ will bring a knowing smile to anyone who used the internet between 1994 and the turn of the century.

Netscape, Available Now, Builds On Tradition of Freeware for the Net [Original press release, via Poynter]

Image Credit – Wikimedia Creative Commons

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