Browser History

General: Main page  Hypertext History  Browser History  Browser Timeline
Browsers: Internet Explorer  Mosaic  Netscape  Opera
Web Editors: Frontpage  Dreamweaver

Summary: Many web browsers have been developed over the years.

A chronological listing of early web browsers is provided below, each of which influenced subsequent browsers and advanced the state of the art:

  • WorldWideWeb. Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first web browser on a NeXT computer, called WorldWideWeb, finishing the first version on Christmas day, 1990. He released the program to a number of people at CERN in March, 1991, introducing the web to the high energy physics community, and beginning its spread.
  • libwww. Berners-Lee and a student at CERN named Jean-Francois Groff ported the WorldWideWeb application from the NeXT environment to the more common C language in 1991 and 1992, calling the new browser libwww. Groff later started the first web design company,
  • Line-Mode Browser. Nicola Pellow, a math student interning at CERN, wrote a line-mode web browser that would work on any device, even a teletype. In 1991, Nicola and the team ported the browser to a range of computers, from Unix to Microsoft DOS, so that anyone could access the web, at that point consisting primarily of the CERN phone book.
  • Erwise. After a visit from Robert Cailliau, a group of students at Helsinki University of Technology joined together to write a web browser as a master's project. Since the acronym for their department was called "OTH", they called the browser "erwise", as a joke on the word "otherwise". The final version was released in April, 1992, and included several advanced features, but wasn't developed further after the students graduated and went on to other jobs.

    Robert Cailliau
  • ViolaWWW. Pei Wei, a student at the University of California at Berkeley, released the second browser for Unix, called ViolaWWW, in May, 1992. This browser was built on the powerful interpretive language called Viola that Wei had developed for Unix computers. ViolaWWW had a range of advanced features, including the ability to display graphics and download applets.
  • Midas. During the summer of 1992, Tony Johnson at SLAC developed a third browser for Unix systems, called Midas, to help distribute information to colleagues about his physics research.
  • Samba. Robert Cailliau started development of the first web browser for the Macintosh, called Samba. Development was picked up by Nicola Pellow, and the browser was functional by the end of 1992.
  • Mosaic. Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina from the NCSA released the first version of Mosaic for X-Windows on Unix computers in February, 1993. A version for the Macintosh was developed by Aleks Totic and released a few months later, making Mosaic the first browser with cross-platform support. Mosaic introduced support for sound, video clips, forms support, bookmarks, and history files, and quickly became the most popular non-commercial web browser. In August, 1994, NCSA assigned commercial rights to Mosaic to Spyglass, Inc., which subsequently licensed the technology to several other companies, including Microsoft for use in Internet Explorer. The NCSA stopped developing Mosaic in January 1997.
  • Arena. In 1993, Dave Raggett at Hewlett-Packard in Bristol, England, developed a browser called Arena, with powerful features for positioning tables and graphics.
  • Lynx. The University of Kansas had written a hypertext browser independently of the web, called Lynx, used to distribute campus information. A student named Lou Montulli added an Internet interface to the program, and released the web browser Lynx 2.0 in March, 1993. Lynx quickly became the preferred web browser for character mode terminals without graphics, and remains in use today.
  • Cello. Tom Bruce, cofounder of the Legal Information Institute, realized that most lawyers used Microsoft PC's, and so he developed a web browser for that platform called Cello, finished in the summer of 1993.
  • Opera. In 1994, the Opera browser was developed by a team of researchers at a telecommunication company called Telenor in Oslo, Norway. The following year, two members of the team -- Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and Geir Ivars°y -- left Telenor to establish Opera Software to develop the browser commercially. Opera 2.1 was first made available on the Internet in the summer of 1996.
  • Internet In A Box. In January, 1994, O'Reilly and Associates announced a product called Internet In A Box which collected all of the software needed to access the web together, so that you only had to install one application, instead of downloading and installing several programs. While not a unique browser in its own right, this product was a breakthrough because it distributed other browsers and made the web a lot more accessible to the home user.
  • Navipress. In February, 1994, Navisoft released a browser for the PC and Macintosh called Navipress. This was the first browser since Berners-Lee's WorldWideWeb browser that incorporated an editor, so that you could browse and edit content at the same time. Navipress later became AOLPress, and is still available but has not been maintained since 1997.
  • Mozilla. In October, 1994, Netscape released the the first beta version of their browser, Mozilla 0.96b, over the Internet. On December 15, the final version was released, Mozilla 1.0, making it the first commercial web browser.
  • Internet Explorer. On August 23rd, 1995, Microsoft released their Windows 95 operating system, including a Web browser called Internet Explorer. By the fall of 1996, Explorer had a third of market share, and passed Netscape to became the leading web browser in 1999.

A wide range of other browsers have also been developed over the years, some of which are listed below:

Historical Web Browsers

Active Worlds







NetManage Chameleon



Enhanced NCSA Mosaic



Quarterdeck WebC



IBM WebExplorer

Spyglass Enhanced Mosaic


TueV Mosaic for X




Note: This page is modified from