The Internet recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, but the browser that really jump-started the consumer rise of the global hypertext system was 1994’s Netscape Navigator—or simply “Netscape,” as it was more commonly known. Its existential threat to Microsoft prompted an epic war that led Microsoft to dominate desktop browsers with its Internet Explorer. But after years of slipping relevance, Microsoft’s Edge browser–a late attempt at a fresh start for the company–has succumbed to the code base of its more successful competitor, Google’s Chrome. The switch marks the end of an era in which Microsoft was obsessed with dominating web access and had the means to do so. In Netscape’s early days, websites were mostly inscrutable text interspersed with slow-loading and static GIFs. But Netscape cofounder Marc Andreessen accurately envisioned a far more capable web that could rival desktop platforms. He predicted a future in which browsers defined the computing experience and Windows was reduced to “a poorly debugged set of device drivers,” the basic software plumbing that allows computer components to recognize each other. (In a 2012 Wired Interview, Andreessen credited Ethernet inventor and 3Com founder Bob Metcalfe with originating that bit of snark.) As… Read full this story
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