The history of the browser wars has been well documented over the years. In recent times, Google Chrome has become the dominant web browser. What was once considered a battle between Microsoft Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox has now turned into a war between Google Chrome and Apple Safari.
Microsoft Corporation originally developed Internet Explorer (IE) in 1995. IE became the default web browser on Windows 95 and later versions of Windows. IE was also bundled with other software such as Office and Visual Studio.
Netscape Communications Corporation created Mozilla Firefox in 1998. Firefox was designed to compete against Internet Explorer. Firefox was released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). However, in 2004, Netscape abandoned Firefox development so it could focus its resources on developing new products for the company.
Mozilla Foundation took over the project and released an updated version of Firefox called Phoenix. The source code continues to be available via the open-source model.
Google Chrome was started by Google Inc. in 2008. It is based on Chromium, similar to Firefox, but not from the same code base. Google Chrome comes preinstalled on all Chromebooks sold by Google.
Apple Safari was first introduced in 2003 as a Mac OS X-only product. Safari replaced Quicksilver as the default application launcher in Snow Leopard 10.6.8.
Browser Wars Timeline
Microsoft, Netscape, and others attempted to create standards-compliant websites in the early 1990s. When they couldn’t develop a standard, they began creating their standards. These included:
Netscape Communicator 4, which came with Navigator 1, was the first major browser to implement a graphical user interface in addition to text/HTML browsing.
Mozilla launched the Gecko layout engine as part of the Mozilla Suite (a collection of applications), and Netscape Navigator 2 implemented the engine.
Microsoft developed Internet Explorer 3.0, which was compatible with Netscape’s then-new Mosaic browser.
The “browser wars” were sparked when Netscape Communications Corporation announced the availability of Netscape Communicator 4 in 1994. On April 15, 1995, Microsoft responded by releasing Internet Explorer 4.0. IE was bundled with Windows 95, while Netscape would later bundle its browser with Navigator 4.0.
On August 31, 1996, Sun Microsystems released Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE). This allowed programmers to write programs using Java, a programming language that runs on any platform.
Netscape decided not to renew the license for Netscape Communicator 4, and Microsoft was permitted to continue developing the product, now called Internet Explorer 5.0.
Internet Explorer 6.0 was available for download on December 12, 1997, but only on Windows NT-based operating systems; this version introduced features such as tabbed browsing. It was also made available for Mac OS X starting with Snow Leopard 10.6.8. A standalone version for Linux was released on July 17, 1998.
Microsoft followed up with Internet Explorer 7, which featured new security measures like protected mode, and it ran natively on 64-bit versions of Windows 2000 and higher. Internet Explorer 9 added support for HTML5 and CSS3.
After many years of fighting and delays, Opera Software released a beta version of what became known as Opera 8 on May 13, 2003. As well as being faster than IE7, it had other significant improvements over earlier releases, including a redesigned address bar, bookmarks manager, history management, and built-in search.
IE8 was available for download on May 22, 2009. It combined some of the best innovations of previous versions into one release, including the ability to use third-party plugins.
In 2007, Google started developing Chrome, which would eventually become the most popular web browser. At the time, Firefox still led the market with around 27% usage share. Then came Safari with about 16%, followed by Chrome with 14%. By October 2010, Chrome overtook Firefox and Safari; by February 2011, it held almost 60% of the market.
In 2008, Apple launched MobileMe, which provided mobile access to email accounts, contacts, calendars, photos, and more, via iOS devices.
Google initially supported IE6 because it was the most widely used browser among corporate customers at the time and could be easily ported from Windows XP or Vista. However, on June 30, 2013, Google announced that it would no longer support legacy browsers for Android, meaning that companies will need to upgrade their sites if they want them to work correctly on Google’s platform.
On September 30, 2016, Mozilla ended support for Firefox ESR 45, effectively ending support for all Firefox versions except the latest stable version.