How Internet Explorer really took over Netscape

In 1994, I had already been covering the internet for years, having the firm conviction that the web was going to change the world. Microsoft, for its part, still hadn’t come to terms with this idea. In the first edition of his book The Road AheadBill Gates barely mentions the internet. In the following edition, the founder of the American giant evolved on the question, devoting a chapter to it before understanding, in May 1995, that the Internet would be a technological tidal wave.

Microsoft then began to rewrite history to pass itself off as an internet pioneer. Recently, Hadi Partovi, CEO of, relaunched this hackneyed tale, in a series of tweets in which he claimed that Internet Explorer “was the first real salvo in the” browser wars. ” I was already covering the world of the web at the time, and I don’t agree.

As Microsoft’s staff put the internet on the back burner, others realized that the company needed to offer something to the many users who wanted a web browser. Their quick fix was to adopt a commercial version, Spyglass, of the first successful web browser, Mosaic. This is how Internet Explorer (IE) 1 was born, launched on August 16, 1995 as part of Microsoft Plus for Windows 95, a set of complementary software for Windows.

Netscape, a formidable competitor … and feared

IE 1 has not been very successful. It also left a bad taste in Spyglass’ mouth. The latter was to receive a percentage of Microsoft’s profits on IE. In fact, Microsoft started shipping IE with Windows starting with the next version of Windows 95 for electronics manufacturers. Microsoft finally made a deal with Spyglass for $ 8 million in 1997. The Spyglass / Mosaic codebase remained integrated with IE until the release of IE 7. The “About” window from IE 1 to IE 6 contained the phrase “Distributed under a license agreement with Spyglass, Inc.”.

Meanwhile, Marc Andreessen, one of the creators of Mosaic, took the code from Mosaic and turned it into Netscape, the first successful web browser. The entrepreneur boasted that Netscape was going to “reduce Windows to a bunch of poorly debugged device drivers.” Microsoft’s response was swift. At the end of a meeting with the American giant, the latter said: “in 33 years of career, I have never been in a meeting during which a competitor insinuated so frankly that we had to either stop competing with him. or die ”.

The latter nevertheless admits having “signed partnerships with all those who helped us, even competitors like Apple and AOL”. Still, Apple was in the red at the financial level, and even allowed other companies to build Mac clones, for example DayStar Digital. For its part, AOL was trying to move from a modem-based online service to a destination website and Internet Service Provider (ISP). These two companies were not rivals of Microsoft, although they had the ability to distribute IE to more customers.

Microsoft is banking on its monopoly

Hadi Partovi recalls that the team behind Internet Explorer was “the hardest working team I’ve ever been on.” And I have worked in several start-ups. It was a sprint, not a marathon. We ate all of our meals at the office. We often had foosball tournaments at 2 a.m. just to give the team back the energy they needed to keep working. Sadly, there have been divorces, broken families and bad things that have come with it. But I also learned that even in a company of 20,000 people, you can make a team of 100 people work as if their lives depended on it ”.

Still, the rise of IE and the fall of Netscape had little to do with all the death markets of programming and everything to do with Microsoft’s monopoly on office automation. What Hadi Partovi recognizes today, who admits that the company “started in an unsustainable” crunch “mode.

In his first tweets, he credits IE 3 as the start of Microsoft’s successful race in the web browser market. “When IE 3 launched 25 years ago, it didn’t win the browser wars, but it made a big dent in the competition, causing Netscape to start worrying. Two years later, we released IE 5, which has become the dominant web browser of its time. “

Insurmountable strike force for Netscape

Why ? “Technical history explains that it is because of Microsoft’s monopoly on Windows, which surely played a role. But this would not have been possible if Microsoft had not also learned to work in the Internet age, ”explains the latter. An assertion that I would like to qualify. In my opinion, although the Microsoft teams have worked very hard on IE programming, it is with Netscape Communicator that the real innovation has happened. For example, love it or hate it, JavaScript is arguably the most popular language in the world, and JavaScript was a creation of Netscape.

The real reason for Netscape’s downfall lies in Microsoft’s strike force, which forced PC vendors to put the new operating system and its browser on all of their PCs. The goal was not so much to kill other PC operating system vendors as to destroy Netscape. All in spite of contradictory decisions of the American justice, for whom the monopoly of Microsoft on the market of the PCs was harmful to the competition … and in particular to Netscape.

Race Result: Netscape staggered, only to die. Years later, his browser code will continue to live in the Firefox browser. For over a decade, Microsoft continued to dominate both the desktop and the browser. It wasn’t until after the launch of the Chrome browser by Google, a full-fledged technological powerhouse, in 2008 that IE faced a business challenge that it couldn’t overcome. Technically, from start to finish, IE has never been the best browser. He won because an illegal monopoly was allowed to continue.

Source: .com

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