April 26, 2013

The alpha and omega of the web

Twenty years ago, the Mosaic web browser was released into the wild. There’d been earlier browsers used by Sir Tim and others, but Mosaic was, to many, their first glimpse of what the web had to offer.
The Register marks this milestone with a brief history and a few tests of Mosaic 1.0 against the modern web. (Imagine a 1963 36-HP VW Beetle on the Mass Pike.)
Mosaic was my first browser. We had to compile it ourselves from a kit that we downloaded from the University of Illinois servers. It ran on the DEC workstations, both VMS and, if I recall correctly, Ultrix (DEC’s versions of UNIX).
There wasn’t a lot of content at that time, mostly engineering documents and related geekery. Nevertheless, you could follow a trail of links from morning to night. The most famous coffee pot in the world, the one in the Trojan Room at the University of Cambridge came to the web later in 1993.

The Trojan Room Coffee Pot

From then until now, we’ve heard every breathless, hyperbolic phrase used to describe how the web and its communications underpinnings are ushering a new era of human existence. Those ejaculators are probably right, at least in part.
After all, look how far we’ve come, from a program that allowed nuclear scientists to share research to a video of a cat in a shark costume, sitting on a Roomba, chasing a duckling, with a dog in another shark costume in a stellar cameo performance.