netscape navigator web browserThese days, the browser world is dominated by the likes of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer, each one crammed with a host of features that do everything from amp up security and increase overall speed to providing SEO tools and endless hours of entertainment.

But let’s take a walk down memory lane for a second. Do you remember what it was like before a browser gave you access to literally everything?

Despite their limitations, though, old web browsers (going back to the days of CERN and Tim Berners-Lee in the early 1990s) contained elements that are still in use. Take a look for yourself at a few of these forgotten web browsers that helped shape the Internet as we know it today.


WorldWideWeb Browser
WorldWideWeb Browser

You’re looking at the very first browser and editor, written by Tim Berners-Lee while working for CERN. While it had many different features, one of its most interesting was a bookmark function that was the precursor to the actual bookmarking we (often) do today. A user could “bookmark” a link by posting it to his/her homepage, saving it for future use. Multiple homepages could be created, which also acted as an early organizational method for bookmarked links.


ViolaWWW browser
ViolaWWW browser

Though this was one of the original popular browsers, ViolaWWW’s biggest flaw was that it was inaccessible to PC users. However, it offered a number of great features to experienced users (and was very easy to use for basic users), such as embedded scriptable objects, stylesheets, tables and more.


Erwise browser
Erwise Browser

After the CERN browsers, Erwise was created by four Finnish students and became the first browser to offer a graphical interface. It also used a multifont text, underlined links (which a user had to double-click on to visit), multiple windows and more.


Mosaic Web Browser
Mosaic Web Browser

As far as old web browsers go, this is the one that helped make the Internet the phenomenon (and essential part of life) that it is today. Of course, it couldn’t have been created without its predecessors, though its clean interface and reliability (along with being the first browser to show images on the same page as text rather than in a new window) were breakthroughs. The browser itself was easy to install and, perhaps best of all, it was available on both Mac and PC.

Netscape Navigator

Netscape Navigator Web Browser
Netscape Navigator Web Browser

Believe it or not, but Netscape Navigator was the most dominant browser around in the 1990s, in terms of usage share. It was full of great features, including one certainly taken for granted now: text and images would appear on the page as it loaded; every other old web browser would display nothing until everything was loaded, which meant you were staring at a blank screen for a while. Netscape would eventually lose its browser war with Internet Explorer, but not before an antitrust trial that ended with Microsoft’s bundling of its operating system and Internet Explorer being ruled a monopoly.

Perhaps the most compelling thing about looking at old web browsers is the ability to trace the origins of the ones we use today. Many of the features we love in a browser originated with some of the earliest browser incarnations of the 1990s; after all, someone had to take chances and be innovative enough for others to build upon.

Like the very concept of the Internet itself, the rise of the web browser has been a collaborative effort that has taken decades to develop. Different web browsers have always had their own unique features, but each generation has sought to improve upon the previous one.

After looking at some old web browsers, what future innovations are in store for us? And I wonder what browser themes would have looked like on those browsers?

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