On this day in 1971 Marc Andreessen was born – he co-developed the Mosaic browser
Significant among the first twenty or so World Wide Web servers that were established was the one at the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications). But it was a subsequent NCSA development that was to become the www killer-app; it set the World Wide Web on track to justify the word ‘world’ in its title and achieve its global acceptance. Most significantly this development was the catalyst to create most of the browsers used today.
The NCSA was based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and benefited from funding by the ‘high-performance computing and communications initiative’, instigated as part of the ‘Gore Bill’. This bill sought to build on the success of the ARPANET and NSFNet to create what Al Gore popularised (or did he just hi-jack?) as the ‘information superhighway’.
Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina started work in late 1992 using an X-Window System. Given their funding they were able to apply a full-time team of programmers. They came up with the first version of NCSA Mosaic in 1993; it worked with FTP, Usenet and Gopher.
But they went further to make it user-friendly and easy to install; it also had a GUI (graphics user interface). A further innovation enabled it to display images in the same window as text rather than in a separate one.
The other benefit was that while earlier search engines and browsers tended towards being based on UNIX, Mosaic was ported to Windows and Macintosh and others including the Commodore Amiga, Acorn Archimedes…
Wired magazine commented in 1984,
‘Don’t look now, but Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe are all suddenly obsolete – and Mosaic is well on its way to becoming the world’s standard interface.’
The program’s source code in its X-Window format was freely available to all; its other formats were also available following the signing of a simple licence.
In this way Mosaic made the Internet and World Wide Web readily accessible to the non-computer-user and this led to the service flourishing.