Whatever happened to …


… Netscape?

From the Padlet.

The actual rich history of Netscape, and its browser, can be found in the Wikipedia article.  There’s really no purpose for me to rehash the actual history of the browser here when something more formal exists.  It does have an interesting history including its impact on the use of the web and related technologies.

Instead, I’d like to focus on the impact that Netscape had on me.

When the web was young, I poked around with some of the earliest browsers – Mosaic, Lynx, Internet Explorer, … under Windows.  In our reality, there was no other operating system for computers.  Even though my internet connection was statistically slow by today’s standards, it was fast and almost magical to me.  With a few keystrokes, you could be at any of the few internet websites and were immediately smarter with content.  For the most part, everything was text based and advertisement free.  It was all about the reading; interactivity was just a dream.  It was very different than what we experience today.  My go-to browser was Lynx.

If you really wanted photographs, you had to download them and view them offline in a different program.  The very best of content creators used ASCII art – enjoyable from this collection site.  It’s worth a visit and poke around for a couple of reasons – first, it confirms how far we’ve come and, secondly, if there is any doubt that there are creative people, it comes through with what’s possible given the restriction of ASCII characters.

I was drawn to Netscape for a couple of reasons.  After the amalgamation of school boards, I had to get serious about also using a Macintosh computer which meant finding software for both platforms.  It was a real bonus when you’d find something that was cross-platform and Netscape fit the bill.  The other driving force was a desire from our Director of Education to have a website for the board.  Well, there was a whole new skill set that I had to learn.  Netscape was perfect since it wasn’t just a browser; it was also a web editing program.  Not only that, you could do your email right in the browser rather than a separate program.  What a wonderful experience!

The web was young and developing.  From my perspective, this new web that included images had two players – Netscape and Internet Explorer – the first Browser war.  The odd part was that they had differing standards.  It became very common to see pages labelled with “Best Viewed by XXX” where XXX was a browser.  It actually became necessary to have more than one browser on hand to get the complete browsing experience!  For nostalgia purposes, this Google search gives a nice collection.

Once the board had a website, schools and individual teachers wanted to have their own online identify and, as the prod above says, many of us went about the work of teaching folks how to develop a webpage and then how to upload it to the server.  This was well before the Ministry of Education licensing of Dreamweaver and easy to use systems like FirstClass or WordPress for an identity.

We also ran an interesting project for schools that was labelled “Women in Technology”.  It was the genius of a group of women working at IBM where they would visit a school and work with middle school girls and develop a website.  We weren’t near a city with a big IBM presence so we invited women from the community to work with the girls.  The takeaways were many – just talking to mentors about what they did for a living, developing a website without the boys there trying to take over, and then doing a presentation to the group afterwards to show off their learning.  I would be there to help with the setup but when the event happened, the boys were off to do other things without their female classmates.  I still remember a comment from one young man “This is racist“.  It was a teachable moment to explain what it was and what it wasn’t.

For the purposes of the day, the web tool in Netscape was excellent.  It had a low learning threshold and the results were pretty impressive.  In some cases, the groups went on to develop their own class website and helped out with the school website.  The real message was to not close any doors to the future and consider everything.

If you read the Wikipedia article, you can see that there were a number of takeovers of Netscape and it did become just a fond memory for some users while other browsers rose in popularity.  Today, the Netscape brand is an information portal available here.  A download link will let you have your own copy but it’s not wise.  The web has developed so many standards and, quite frankly, requires a modern browser with all kinds of security built in to it to make sure that you’re safe when online.

These days, we reap the benefits of the early browser wars while the new wars rage on.  Today, I use Opera, Firefox, Chrome, and Edge depending upon the mood and what computer is at hand.  As with Netcape’s beginnings, today’s browser is more than just a browser.  They can do so much more and, with the power of extensions, even more. We all benefit from innovation.  Could you imagine working with just a text browser now?

So, it’s over to you this Sunday morning.

  • Did you ever use Netscape for browsing or as a web editor?
  • What is your choice of browser today?
  • Do you have a web presence?  Do you start from scratch, program your own, or use some form of a content management system?

Please share your thoughts via comment below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts.  They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your ideas.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

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OTR Links 01/29/2017


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.