How Internet Explorer took over Netscape

In 1994, it had been covering the Internet for years, with the intimate conviction that the web would change the world. Microsoft had not yet accepted this idea. In the first edition of his book The road ahead, Bill Gates barely mentions the Internet. In the next issue, the founder of the American giant evolved on the issue, dedicating a chapter to it before realizing, in May 1995, that the Internet would be a technological tsunami.

Microsoft began rewriting history to pretend to be an Internet pioneer. Recently, Hadi Partovi, CEO of, revived this tired narrative, in a series of tweets in which he argued that Internet Explorer “was the first real salvo in the ‘browser war'”. At that time I was covering the world of the web and I do not agree.

When Microsoft’s top management suspended the Internet, others realized that the company had to offer something to many users who wanted a web browser. His quick fix was to adopt a commercial version, Spyglass, of the first successful web browser, Mosaic. Thus was born Internet Explorer (IE) 1, released on August 16, 1995 as part of Microsoft Plus for Windows 95, a suite of complementary software for Windows.

Netscape, a formidable competitor … and feared

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

Meanwhile, Marc Andreessen, one of the creators of Mosaic, took the Mosaic code and turned it into Netscape, the first successful web browser. The employer alleged that Netscape “would reduce Windows to a set of poorly debugged device drivers.” Microsoft’s response was quick. After a meeting with the American giant, the latter said: “In my 33-year career, I’ve never been in a meeting where a competitor hinted so frankly that we should stop competing with him or to die”.

The latter, however, admits to having “signed partnerships with everyone who helped us, even with competitors like Apple and AOL.” Still, Apple was financially red at the time, and even allowed other companies to build Mac clones, such as DayStar Digital. AOL, on the other hand, was trying to move from a modem-based online service to a destination and Internet Service Provider (ISP) website. These two companies were not rivals of Microsoft, although they had the ability to distribute IE to more customers.

Microsoft is confident in its monopoly

Hadi Partovi recalls that the team behind Internet Explorer was “the hardest team I’ve worked with.” And I worked on several start-ups. It was a sprint, not a marathon. We ate all our meals in the office. We often had football tournaments at 2am just to give the team the energy they needed to keep working. Unfortunately, there have been divorces, broken families and bad things that have come out of 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. ”

However, the rise of IE and the fall of Netscape had little to do with all the deadly gears of programming and everything to do with Microsoft’s office monopoly. This is acknowledged today by Hadi Partovi, who admits that the company “started in an unsustainable ‘crunch’ mode”.

In his first tweets, he attributes to IE 3 the start of Microsoft’s winning career in the web browser market. “When IE 3 was launched 25 years ago, it didn’t win the browser wars, but it did affect the competition a lot, causing Netscape to start worrying. Two years later, we released IE 5, which became the dominant web browser of its time. ”

An insurmountable attack force for Netscape

Because ? “Technical history says it’s because of Microsoft’s monopoly on Windows, which probably played a role. But that wouldn’t have been possible if Microsoft hadn’t learned to work in the Internet age as well. ” A statement I would like to rate. In my opinion, even though Microsoft teams worked very hard on IE programming, it was with Netscape Communicator that the real innovation came. For example, love it or hate it, JavaScript is possibly the most popular language in the world, and JavaScript was a creation of Netscape.

The real reason for the fall of Netscape lies in the power of Microsoft, which forced computer vendors to put the new operating system and browser on all their computers. The goal was not so much to kill other PC operating system vendors as to destroy Netscape. All this despite the conflicting decisions of the US courts, for which Microsoft’s monopoly in the PC market was harming competition … and in particular Netscape.

Race Result: Netscape staggered and eventually died. Years later, your browser code will remain in your Firefox browser. For more than a decade, Microsoft has continued to dominate both the desktop and the browser. It wasn’t until Google, a technology power in its own right, launched the Chrome browser 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 he was allowed to continue an illegal monopoly.


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