Minh’s Notes

Human-readable chicken scratch

Minh Nguyễn
March 31st, 2008
Web Archaeology


Yesterday’s Web: Netscape and friends

In honor of the inaugural Run Some Old Web Browsers Day, jwz’s valiant efforts at keeping the memory of the original, mid-90s Mozilla alive past Netscape’s demise, and the tenth anniversary of the Mozilla Project, I’ve gotten some ancient versions of Mosaic, Netscape, and the like running on my Mac via Darwine.

Although Mac versions of these browsers were generally made available, I had to emulate the Windows versions instead, since most of these browser versions were released before Apple released Mac OS X and made the switch to Intel-based processors. Although things mostly work, there are some kinks preventing you from seeing these browsers as they were intended to appear. For instance, the emulated programs don’t recognize my computer’s copy of Times New Roman, so they instead default to Marlett, the font that contains Windows’s “close” and “maximize” symbols. This problem is most apparent in NCSA Mosaic (below the fold), since it offers no way to change the default font from Times New Roman to, say, Tahoma.

(Your teacher may forgive you for handing in your homework typeset entirely in Wingdings, but you just try that with Marlett, and said teacher may choose to apply the clue-by-four procedure.)

Here’s NCSA Mosaic 3.0, precursor to the commercial browser that would eventually become Netscape Navigator:

  • NCSA Mosaic 3.0 Splash Screen
  • NCSA Mosaic 3.0 at Startup
  • NCSA Mosaic 3.0 Session History
  • NCSA Mosaic 3.0 Autosurf

Here’s Mosaic 0.4, from before Mosaic Communications was renamed Netscape Communcations:

  • Mosaic 0.4 at Startup
  • Mosaic 0.4 with an Unknkown File Type

The first usable versions of Netscape Navigator came from the 1.x series:

  • Netscape 1.22 and Mosaic Communications website
  • Netscape Navigator 1.22 and Netscape Propeller

I started using Navigator at school at around version 2.0:

  • Netscape 2.02 about: page

When my family finally got home Internet access, Fuse provided us with Netscape 3.0 Gold. (The “Gold” meant Netscape Editor was bundled.)

  • Netscape 3.04 Gold

Jumping ahead, since I can’t get Netscape Communicator working on this machine, Firefox began its eventful life codenamed mozilla/browser and quickly renamed Phoenix:

  • Phoenix 0.5 at startup

Phoenix was renamed Firebird, due to trademark conflicts, and swapped the catchy orange look for a drab, metallic theme called Qute:

  • Firebird 0.71 at startup
  • Firebird 0.71 Downloads Sidebar

About the same time Firebird was chipping away at the Mozilla Application Suite’s usage in the Mozilla community, a few developers began writing a Mozilla-based browser specifically for the Mac. Originally codenamed Chimera, it too had to be renamed, this time to Camino:

  • Camino 0.7 splash screen
  • Camino 0.7 at startup

Hope you enjoyed the trip down Memory Lane. Now it’s time for me to clear some room on my hard disk.

Thanks to Simon Willison for the scoop about Run Some Old Web Browsers Day.