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What is this? You are viewing one of our supplemental "Stories." In addition to our core design curriculum, we are constantly building out additional resources. Stories are a collection of real work tasks, design history, UX explorations, and work-throughs. Stories are often off-the-cuff and less concerned with production value.

This is in the works! Would you like to help flesh it out? Let's do it!

History overview

Mosaic (1993)

  • Engine: Native (early web layout engine)
  • Significance: Developed by the NCSA, Mosaic was the first graphical browser, making the web accessible to the general public by supporting inline images and a user-friendly interface. Its innovations laid the groundwork for future browsers.
  • Anectodes:

Netscape Navigator (1994)

  • Engine: Gecko (initially based on Mosaic code)
  • Significance: Spearheaded by Mosaic’s creator, Marc Andreessen, Netscape introduced features like JavaScript and cookies, shaping modern web functionalities. Its success and widespread adoption prompted the browser wars with Internet Explorer.
  • Anectodes:
    • When Netscape Navigator was at its peak, the company adopted a green lizard (“Mozilla”) as its mascot, which later inspired the name of the Mozilla Foundation when Netscape released its source code. This mascot was a symbol of Netscape’s quirkiness and culture.
    • The company faced antitrust litigation over the move, and Netscape decided to open source its codebase and created the not-for-profit Mozilla,
    • Netscape created and released JavaScript, which gave websites powerful computing capabilities they never had before.

Internet Explorer (1995)

  • Engine: Trident
  • Significance: Developed by Microsoft and initially using technology from Mosaic, IE became the dominant browser after integrating into the Windows OS, pushing forward standards but also creating compatibility challenges due to its proprietary extensions.
  • Anectodes:
    • In the late 1990s, Microsoft integrated Internet Explorer into Windows, leading to the first browser wars against Netscape. This integration was a significant factor in IE’s dominance but also led to an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft, significantly impacting its business practices and public image.
    • Was the first to add CSS in v3. (note about how much GREAT things they did do…)
    • For years, China was notably stuck on Internet Explorer 6, long after the rest of the world moved on. This enduring use stemmed from Chinese government websites and many essential services being optimized specifically for IE6, creating a situation where upgrading posed more problems than solutions.

Mozilla Firefox (2002)

  • Engine: Gecko
  • Significance: Spawned from the ashes of Netscape, Firefox championed open standards and security, introducing tabbed browsing and extensions, and revitalizing competition in the browser market.
  • Anectodes:
    • Originally named Phoenix, then Firebird, the browser finally settled on “Firefox,” which is another name for the red panda. This was to avoid trademark conflicts with other products. The name change was accompanied by a rapid gain in popularity, thanks in part to its appealing logo and branding.
    • “Mozilla” was originally coined as a nickname for “Mosaic Killer,” (like Godzilla), reflecting Netscape’s goal to surpass Mosaic as the leading web browser
    • Community Driven: Firefox’s development is notably influenced by its community through Mozilla’s Bugzilla, a web-based general-purpose bug tracking system which allows users to log and track bugs and features. This community-centric approach has helped Firefox rapidly innovate and respond to user needs.

Apple Safari (2003)

  • Engine: WebKit (forked from KHTML)
  • Significance: Launched with Mac OS X, Safari was influential on mobile via the iPhone, emphasizing HTML5 support and leading innovations in mobile browsing experiences.
  • Anectodes: When Apple first developed Safari, they hid its development by using the user-agent string that mimicked Microsoft Internet Explorer to prevent any leaks about the browser development.

Opera (1995, Blink from 2013)

  • Engine: Initially Presto, now Blink
  • Significance: Known for pioneering features like Speed Dial, pop-up blocking, and tabbed browsing. Switched to Blink to stay competitive, maintaining a focus on speed and innovation, especially in mobile markets.
  • Anectodes: Opera was the first major browser to implement features like tabbed browsing, pop-up blocking, and speed dial, many of which have since become standard in all major browsers. Despite never gaining a dominant market share, Opera has been a significant innovator in the browser industry.
  • Pretty much dead?

Google Chrome (2008)

  • Engine: Blink (forked from WebKit)
  • Significance: Chrome focused on speed, simplicity, and stability, using a multi-process architecture. Its rapid development cycle and extension ecosystem quickly made it a leader in the browser market, influencing web standards and performance.
  • Anectodes:
    • Google announced Chrome’s release in 2008 through a comic book drawn by Scott McCloud, detailing the technical features and the innovative aspects of the browser. This unusual method was both informative and engaging, capturing the attention of tech enthusiasts and the general public.
    • Security Focus: Google Chrome was one of the first browsers to implement a “sandbox” feature, which significantly improved security by isolating tabs from each other and the operating system. This approach has since been adopted by other browsers to protect against malicious websites.

Samsung Internet Browser (~2012)

  • Engine: Blink
  • Significance: Popular on Samsung devices, this browser is noted for its features like a dedicated night mode and privacy enhancements beyond what’s typically offered on other mobile browsers.
  • Anecdote: Samsung Internet Browser has been at the forefront of advocating for better privacy controls on mobile devices, including tracking blockers and permission managers that are highly user-friendly.

Microsoft Edge (2015, Chromium version from 2020)

  • Engine: Initially EdgeHTML, now Blink
  • Significance: Originally built to replace Internet Explorer with a modern engine, Edge later adopted Chromium to enhance compatibility and performance, integrating well with Windows 10 and Microsoft’s services.
  • Anectodes:
  • The development codename for Microsoft Edge was “Spartan,” signaling a leaner, faster browser that was a departure from the older and heavier Internet Explorer. This was part of a broader strategy to regain market share and credibility in the browser space.

Brave (2016)

  • Engine: Blink
  • Significance: Focuses on privacy and speed, blocking trackers and ads by default. Brave introduces a unique advertising model that rewards users with cryptocurrency, challenging traditional online ad models.
  • Anectodes: Brave was co-founded by Brendan Eich and Brian Bondy. Brendan Eich, who is also the creator of JavaScript and a co-founder of Mozilla, serves as the CEO of Brave. Brian Bondy, with extensive experience as a software engineer, joined as the CTO

Vivaldi (2016) (who uses this…)

  • Engine: Blink
  • Significance: Created by former Opera executives, Vivaldi offers extensive customization options to cater to power users, along with unique features like web panels and note-taking.
  • Anectodes:

Tor Browser

  • Engine: Gecko
  • Significance: Focused on privacy and security, Tor Browser routes traffic through the Tor network, anonymizing user activity to protect identities and bypass censorship.
  • Anectodes: Tor is widely used for accessing the dark web and bypassing internet censorship. It anonymizes users’ internet activity, providing secure access to unindexed sites and enabling free communication in restrictive environments.

Sizzy (2020s)

  • Engine: Chromium-based
  • Significance: Specifically designed for web developers, Sizzy offers tools for responsive and cross-browser testing directly in the browser, reflecting a niche focus that mainstream browsers do not cater to.
  • Anectodes: Derek uses this so that he can have a project with people logged in as admin, student, teacher, and all those roles – in different tabs instead of having to sign in and out of them every second.

Arc Browser (2022)

  • Engine: Blink (Chromium-based)
  • Significance: Launched by The Browser Company, Arc reimagines the browser as an integrated workspace designed to enhance productivity with features like sidebar apps, stackable tabs, and a focus on minimizing screen clutter. It targets users who manage multiple tasks and projects online, merging browsing with workspace management tools to streamline workflows and boost efficiency.
  • Anectodes: Kills the performance of your whole computer in many cases… but it’s “Cool!”


and we need to also talk about this…

Apple’s Safari and iOS Browsers

  • iOS Browser Engine: All third-party browsers on iOS, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, are required to use Apple’s WebKit engine for rendering. This means that while these browsers may offer different interfaces and sync capabilities with other platforms, their core browsing engine—the part that interprets HTML and CSS, and executes JavaScript—is the same as Safari’s.
  • Significance: This requirement is enforced by Apple ostensibly for security and performance reasons, ensuring a consistent browsing experience across all iOS devices and maintaining stringent control over software that can execute code on the platform.
  • Anecdote: This restriction has been a point of contention, particularly among developers and companies who wish to bring their own engines to iOS. For example, Google’s Chrome on iOS cannot use its Blink engine, meaning it doesn’t have all the performance optimizations and features available on other platforms. This underscores Apple’s dominant position in controlling app standards on its devices, impacting how users experience the web on iOS.
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