The Birth of the Web Browser
In fact, it was ready and waiting in the wings. Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim) wrote a program, ‘Enquire-Within-Upon-Everything’ , in 1980 whilst contracted to CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva. He needed some means to collate his own and his colleagues’ information – notes, statistics, results, papers – the plethora of output generated by the mass of scientists both at the institution and located across the globe at various research centres. The seed was sown and upon his return to CERN after other research, he set to work to resolve the problems associated with diverse communities of scientists sharing data between themselves, especially as many were reluctant to take on the additional workload of structuring their output to accommodate CERN’s document architecture format.
By 1989, the Internet was well established, LANs proliferated in business – especially with the introduction of personal computers (PC) – and the adoption of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Window operating system meant a stable(-ish) platform for users to create, store and share information. Tim Berners-Lee submitted a paper to CERN’s board for evaluation, ‘Information Management: A Proposal’, wherein he detailed and encouraged the adoption of hypertext as the means to manage and collate the vast sum of information held by CERN and other scientific and business establishments. Sadly, it sparked little interest but he persevered and in 1990 wrote the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) along with a way of identifying unique document Internet addresses, the URI or unique resource indicator. To view retrieved documents he wrote a browser, ‘WorldWideWeb‘ (Later renamed Nexus) and to store and transmit them, the first web server.
The World Wide Web
CERN remained diffident to his system so Berners-Lee took the next logical step: distribute web server and browser software on the Internet. The spontaneous take-up by computer enthusiasts was immediate and the World Wide Web came into being.
The browser he created was tied to a specific make of computer, the NeXT; what was required was a browser suited to different machines and operating systems like Unix, the PC and the Mac, specifically so that businesses and governments, who were increasingly using the Web to manage their public information, could guarantee their users could use it.
Soon browsers for different platforms started appearing, Erwise and Viola for Unix, Samba for Macintosh and … Mosaic for Unix, Mac and PC, created by Marc Andreessen whilst at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).
Mosaic took off in popularity to such an extent that it made front page of the New York Times’ technical section in late 1993, and soon CompuServe, AOL and Prodigy begin offering dial-up internet access.
Netscape Navigator Birth
Andreessen and Jim Clark (founder of Silicon Graphics Inc.) decided to form a new company, Mosaic Communications Corporation, to develop a successor to Mosaic. Since the original program belonged to the university of Illinois and was built with their time and money, they had to start from scratch. He and Clark set about assembling a team of developers drawn from NCSA. Netscape Navigator was born and by 1996 three-quarters of web surfers used it.
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Article: The Internet Explained: Birth of the Web Browser (Part.3) written by Vincent Zegna and Mike Pepper. Published 23rd November 2005.