Mosaic (web browser)

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NCSA Mosaic
NCSA Mosaic Logo.gif
NCSA Mosaic.PNG
NCSA Mosaic 3.0 for Microsoft Windows
Developer(s) NCSA
Initial release0.5 / January 23, 1993;26 years ago (1993-01-23) [1]
Final release
3.0 / January 7, 1997;22 years ago (1997-01-07)
Written in C [2]
Platform AmigaOS
Classic Mac OS
Unix
OpenVMS
Microsoft Windows
Available inEnglish
Type Web browser
License Proprietary
Website www.ncsa.illinois.edu/enabling/mosaic

NCSA Mosaic, or simply Mosaic, is the web browser that popularized the World Wide Web and the Internet. It was also a client for earlier internet protocols such as File Transfer Protocol, Network News Transfer Protocol, and Gopher. The browser was named for its support of multiple internet protocols. [3] Its intuitive interface, reliability, Microsoft Windows port and simple installation all contributed to its popularity within the web, as well as on Microsoft operating systems. [4] Mosaic was also the first browser to display images inline with text instead of displaying images in a separate window. [5] While often described as the first graphical web browser, Mosaic was preceded by WorldWideWeb, the lesser-known Erwise [6] and ViolaWWW.

Web browser software application for retrieving, presenting and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web

A web browser is a software application that is able to access information on the World Wide Web. When a user tells the browser to visit a particular web page, the browser retrieves the necessary content from a web server, then displays the resulting web page on the user's device.

World Wide Web System of interlinked hypertext documents accessed over the Internet

The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as the Web, is an information system where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators, which may be interlinked by hypertext, and are accessible over the Internet. The resources of the WWW may be accessed by users by a software application called a web browser.

Internet Global system of connected computer networks

The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries a vast range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents and applications of the World Wide Web (WWW), electronic mail, telephony, and file sharing.

Contents

Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) [5] at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign beginning in late 1992. NCSA released the browser in 1993, [7] and officially discontinued development and support on January 7, 1997. [8]

National Center for Supercomputing Applications

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is a state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances research, science and engineering based in the United States of America. NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, and provides high-performance computing resources to researchers across the country. Support for NCSA comes from the National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, business and industry partners, and other federal agencies.

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign public research university in Urbana and Champaign, Illinois, United States

The University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign is a public research university in Illinois and the flagship institution of the University of Illinois system. Founded in 1867 as a land-grant institution, its campus is located in the twin cities of Champaign and Urbana.

Starting in 1995 Mosaic lost market share to Netscape Navigator, and by 1997 only had a tiny fraction of users left, by which time the project was discontinued. Microsoft licensed Mosaic to create Internet Explorer in 1995.

Netscape Navigator web browser

Netscape Navigator was a proprietary web browser, and the original browser of the Netscape line, from versions 1 to 4.08, and 9.x. It was the flagship product of the Netscape Communications Corp and was the dominant web browser in terms of usage share in the 1990s, but by 2002 its use had almost disappeared. This was primarily due to the increased use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser software, and partly because the Netscape Corporation did not sustain Netscape Navigator's technical innovation in the late 1990s.

Internet Explorer web browser developed by Microsoft

Internet Explorer is a series of graphical web browsers developed by Microsoft and included in the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, starting in 1995. It was first released as part of the add-on package Plus! for Windows 95 that year. Later versions were available as free downloads, or in service packs, and included in the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) service releases of Windows 95 and later versions of Windows. The browser is discontinued, but still maintained.

History

Mosaic 1.0 running under System 7.1, displaying the Mosaic Communications Corporation (later Netscape) website. NCSAMosaic1.0Mac.png
Mosaic 1.0 running under System 7.1, displaying the Mosaic Communications Corporation (later Netscape) website.

After trying ViolaWWW, David Thompson demonstrated it to the NCSA software design group. [9] This inspired Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina - two programmers working at NCSA - to create Mosaic. Andreessen and Bina originally designed and programmed NCSA Mosaic for Unix's X Window System called xmosaic. [5] [7] [9] [10] Then, in December 1991, the Gore Bill created and introduced by then Senator and future Vice President Al Gore was passed, which provided the funding for the Mosaic project. Development began in December 1992. Marc Andreessen announced the project on January 23, 1993. [11] The first alpha release (numbered 0.1a) was published in June 1993, and the first beta release (numbered 0.6b) followed quickly thereafter in September 1993. Ports to Microsoft Windows and Macintosh had been released in September. [9] A port of Mosaic to the Commodore Amiga was available by October 1993. NCSA Mosaic for Unix (X-Windows) version 2.0 was released on November 10, 1993. [12] Version 1.0 for Microsoft Windows was released on November 11, 1993. [13] [14] From 1994 to 1997, the National Science Foundation supported the further development of Mosaic. [15]

Marc Andreessen American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer

Marc Lowell Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor, and software engineer. He is the co-author of Mosaic, the first widely used Web browser; co-founder of Netscape; and co-founder and general partner of Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He founded and later sold the software company Opsware to Hewlett-Packard. Andreessen is also a co-founder of Ning, a company that provides a platform for social networking websites. He sits on the board of directors of Facebook, eBay, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, among others. Andreessen was one of six inductees in the World Wide Web Hall of Fame announced at the First International Conference on the World-Wide Web in 1994..

Eric J. Bina is the co-creator of Mosaic and the co-founder of Netscape. In 1993, Bina along with Marc Andreessen authored the first version of Mosaic while working as a programmer at National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

X Window System windowing system for bitmap displays on UNIX-like systems

The X Window System is a windowing system for bitmap displays, common on Unix-like operating systems.

Marc Andreessen, the leader of the team that developed Mosaic, left NCSA and, with James H. Clark, one of the founders of Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI), and four other former students and staff of the University of Illinois, started Mosaic Communications Corporation. Mosaic Communications eventually became Netscape Communications Corporation, producing Netscape Navigator. Mosaic's popularity as a separate browser began to lessen upon the release of Andreessen's Netscape Navigator in 1994. This was noted at the time in The HTML Sourcebook: The Complete Guide to HTML: "Netscape Communications has designed an all-new WWW browser Netscape, that has significant enhancements over the original Mosaic program." [16] :332

James H. Clark American entrepreneur and computer scientist

James Henry Clark is an American entrepreneur and computer scientist. He founded several notable Silicon Valley technology companies, including Silicon Graphics, Inc., Netscape Communications Corporation, myCFO, and Healtheon. His research work in computer graphics led to the development of systems for the fast rendering of three-dimensional computer images.

1994 saw the first commercial product to incorporate Mosaic: SCO Global Access, a modified version of its Open Desktop version of Unix that served as an Internet gateway. [17]

Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) was a software company based in Santa Cruz, California which was best known for selling three Unix variants for Intel x86 processors: Xenix, SCO UNIX, and UnixWare. Eric Raymond, in his book The Art of Unix Programming, calls SCO the "first Unix company". Prior to this, some prominent Unix vendors had been computer hardware manufacturers and telephone companies.

By 1998 its user base had almost completely evaporated, being replaced by other web browsers.

Licensing

The licensing terms for NCSA Mosaic were generous for a proprietary software program. In general, non-commercial use was free of charge for all versions (with certain limitations). Additionally, the X Window System/Unix version publicly provided source code (source code for the other versions was available after agreements were signed). Despite persistent rumors to the contrary, however, Mosaic was never released as open source software during its brief reign as a major browser; there were always constraints on permissible uses without payment.

As of 1993, license holders included these: [18]

Features

Robert Reid notes that Andreessen's team hoped:

... to rectify many of the shortcomings of the very primitive prototypes then floating around the Internet. Most significantly, their work transformed the appeal of the Web from niche uses in the technical area to mass-market appeal. In particular, these University of Illinois students made two key changes to the Web browser, which hyper-boosted its appeal: they added graphics to what was otherwise boring text-based software, and, most importantly, they ported the software from so-called Unix computers that are popular only in technical and academic circles, to the [Microsoft] Windows operating system, which is used on more than 80 percent of the computers in the world, especially personal and commercial computers. [19] :xxv

Mosaic is based on the libwww library [20] [21] [22] and thus supported a wide variety of Internet protocols included in the library: Archie, FTP, gopher, HTTP, NNTP, telnet, WAIS. [7]

Mosaic is not the first web browser for Microsoft Windows; this is Thomas R. Bruce's little-known Cello. The Unix version of Mosaic was already famous before the Microsoft Windows, Amiga, and Mac versions were released. Other than displaying images embedded in the text (rather than in a separate window), Mosaic's original feature set is similar to the browsers on which it was modeled, such as ViolaWWW. [5] But Mosaic was the first browser written and supported by a team of full-time programmers, was reliable and easy enough for novices to install, and the inline graphics reportedly proved immensely appealing. Mosaic is said to have made the Web accessible to the ordinary person for the first time and already had 53% market share in 1995. [23] .

Impact of Mosaic

Mosaic was the web browser that led to the Internet boom of the 1990s [19] :xlii. Other browsers existed during this period, notably Erwise, ViolaWWW, MidasWWW and tkWWW, but did not have the same effect as Mosaic on public use of the Internet. [24]

In the October 1994 issue of Wired Magazine, Gary Wolfe notes in the article titled "The (Second Phase of the) Revolution Has Begun: Don't look now, but Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe are all suddenly obsolete – and Mosaic is well on its way to becoming the world's standard interface":

When it comes to smashing a paradigm, pleasure is not the most important thing. It is the only thing. If this sounds wrong, consider Mosaic. Mosaic is the celebrated graphical "browser" that allows users to travel through the world of electronic information using a point-and-click interface. Mosaic's charming appearance encourages users to load their own documents onto the Net, including color photos, sound bites, video clips, and hypertext "links" to other documents. By following the links - click, and the linked document appears - you can travel through the online world along paths of whim and intuition. Mosaic is not the most direct way to find online information. Nor is it the most powerful. It is merely the most pleasurable way, and in the 18 months since it was released, Mosaic has incited a rush of excitement and commercial energy unprecedented in the history of the Net. [18]

Reid also refers to Matthew K. Gray's website, Internet Statistics: Growth and Usage of the Web and the Internet, which indicates a dramatic leap in web use around the time of Mosaic's introduction. [19] :xxv

In addition, David Hudson concurs with Reid, noting that:

Marc Andreessen's realization of Mosaic, based on the work of Berners-Lee and the hypertext theorists before him, is generally recognized as the beginning of the web as it is now known. Mosaic, the first web browser to win over the Net masses, was released in 1993 and made freely accessible to the public. The adjective phenomenal, so often overused in this industry, is genuinely applicable to the... 'explosion' in the growth of the web after Mosaic appeared on the scene. Starting with next to nothing, the rates of the web growth (quoted in the press) hovering around tens of thousands of percent over ridiculously short periods of time were no real surprise. [25] :42

Ultimately, web browsers such as Mosaic became the killer applications of the 1990s. Web browsers were the first to bring a graphical interface to search tools the Internet's burgeoning wealth of distributed information services. A mid-1994 guide lists Mosaic alongside the traditional, text-oriented information search tools of the time, Archie and Veronica, Gopher, and WAIS [26] but Mosaic quickly subsumed and displaced them all. Joseph Hardin, the director of the NCSA group within which Mosaic was developed, said downloads were up to 50,000 a month in mid-1994. [27]

In November 1992, there were twenty-six websites in the world [28] and each one attracted attention. In its release year of 1993, Mosaic had a What's New page, and about one new link was being added per day. This was a time when access to the Internet was expanding rapidly outside its previous domain of academia and large industrial research institutions. Yet it was the availability of Mosaic and Mosaic-derived graphical browsers themselves that drove the explosive growth of the Web to over 10,000 sites by August 1995 and millions by 1998. [29] Metcalfe expressed the pivotal role of Mosaic this way:

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...

Bob Metcalfe [30] [31]

Branches and descendants

Netscape Navigator was later developed by Netscape, which employed many of the original Mosaic authors; however, it intentionally shared no code with Mosaic. Netscape Navigator's code descendant is Mozilla Firefox. [32]

Spyglass, Inc. licensed the technology and trademarks from NCSA for producing their own web browser but never used any of the NCSA Mosaic source code. [33] Microsoft licensed Spyglass Mosaic in 1995 for US$2 million, modified it, and renamed it Internet Explorer. [34] After a later auditing dispute, Microsoft paid Spyglass $8 million. [34] [35] The 1995 user guide The HTML Sourcebook: The Complete Guide to HTML, specifically states, in a section called Coming Attractions, that Internet Explorer "will be based on the Mosaic program". [16] :331 Versions of Internet Explorer before version 7 stated "Based on NCSA Mosaic" in the About box. Internet Explorer 7 was audited by Microsoft to ensure that it contained no Mosaic code, [36] and thus no longer credits Spyglass or Mosaic.

After NCSA stopped work on Mosaic, development of the NCSA Mosaic for the X Window System source code was continued by several independent groups. These independent development efforts include mMosaic (multicast Mosaic) [37] which ceased development in early 2004, and Mosaic-CK and VMS Mosaic.

VMS Mosaic, a version specifically targeting OpenVMS operating system, was one of the longest-lived efforts to maintain Mosaic. Using the VMS support already built-in in original version (Bjorn S. Nilsson ported Mosaic 1.2 to VMS in the summer of 1993), [38] developers incorporated a substantial part of the HTML engine from mMosaic, another defunct flavor of the browser. [39] the last (4.2) release, VMS Mosaic supported HTML 4.0, OpenSSL, cookies, and various image formats including GIF, JPEG, PNG, BMP, TGA, TIFF and JPEG 2000 image formats. [40] The browser works on VAX, Alpha, and Itanium platforms. [41]

Another long-lived version of Mosaic – Mosaic-CK, developed by Cameron Kaiser – saw its last release (version 2.7ck9) on July 11, 2010; a maintenance release with minor compatibility fixes (version 2.7ck10) was released on January 9, 2015, followed by another one (2.7ck11) in October 2015. [42] The stated goal of the project is "Lynx with graphics" and runs on Mac OS X, Power MachTen, Linux and other compatible Unix-like OSs. [42]

See also

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Further reading