CyberNotes
Web Browser Wednesday

Have you ever wondered how browsers have evolved over time? I’m sure many of you can recall using early versions of Netscape as they were pushed out the door, but some of the new features and interface designs have happened so slowly that it may be hard to appreciate the browsers we currently have.

Today I want to revive your memories of old versions of Opera, Netscape, Firefox, and Internet Explorer showing how they have become the browsers we use today. Below you’ll find over 20 screenshots for the popular browsers, some of which have been around for over a decade. For each version I also provide the month and year it was released. Some of them still had release notes available, and in those cases I hyperlinked the release date.

It’s time to open the door and step back into the time machine!

–Opera–

Opera is one of the most powerful browsers available, which makes sense because they’ve had over 10 years to develop it. Thanks to this Opera Fan Site I was able to get my hands on 10 different versions of the browser that have been released over the last decade.

  • Opera 2.12 (February 1997) – The very first public version of Opera. In case you couldn’t tell that’s our site in the screenshot. ;)
    Opera 2.12
  • Opera 3.0 (December 1997) – Wow, that is quite a bookmark list they’ve got there in the “sidebar.”
    Opera 3.0 
  • Opera 3.6 (June 1999) – Looks like some better CSS support is making it’s way into Opera, but our site is still a bit funky.
    Opera 3.6 
  • Opera 4.02 (June 2000) – If I didn’t know better I would say that a tab system is in the works there! And look at that, it almost renders our current site perfectly.
    Opera 4.02
  • Opera 5.02 (December 2000) – You can now get Opera for free instead of dropping $39 on it. The catch … that big banner in the upper right corner.
    Opera 5.02
  • Opera 6.0 (November 2001) – Yay for transparency! Opera now supports full PNG alpha transparency. The interface also got a much needed overhaul, and oddly enough the tab bar was moved to the bottom by default.
    Opera 6.0 
  • Opera 7.1 (April 2003) – M2, Opera’s revamped email/news client, was introduced in this version! Hey look, the tabs are back at the top now.
    Opera 7.1
  • Opera 8.5 (September 2005) – Opera is completely free without any banner ads! Not to mention that the interface is much cleaner, and the browser doesn’t ship with dozens of bookmarks.
    Opera 8.5
  • Opera 9.0 (June 2006) – Is that a widget in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me? Opera is the first browser to develop its own widget platform.
    Opera 9.0
  • Opera 9.24 (October 2007) – This version of Opera comes with Speed Dial, and the infamous Start Bar is disabled by default (smart move).
    Opera 9.24 

–Netscape–

I think we’ve all used Netscape at some time or another because it was the browser for quite some time. Eventually Microsoft got around to launching Internet Explorer which sent Netscape down the tubes, but they have started to return using Firefox as it’s base. Most of the older versions of Netscape I managed to get from their own archive, but the really old ones took some scrounging. ;)

  • Netscape 0.91 (October 1994) – This is the earliest version of Netscape that I was able to get my hands on. It wasn’t very functional by today’s standards, but it opened without crashing.
    Netscape 0.91
  • Netscape 1.22 (August 1995) – Now this is more like a web browser since it actually supports images.
    Netscape 1.22
  • Netscape 2.01 (March 1996) – There’s the big-buttoned Netscape Navigator that we all love. This version added support for frames, JavaScript, Java Applets, and all kinds of advanced stuff.
    Netscape 2.01
  • Netscape 3.0 (August 1996) – QuickTime support was added, and we’ve still got the big buttons. ;)
    Netscape 3.0
  • Netscape 4.79 (September 1999) – Version 4.0 introduced the entire Communicator suite which included a web browser, website authoring program, email client, and newsgroup reader. Oh, AIM, RealPlayer, and Winamp were all bundled with it as well. I think this marked the beginning of the bloated browser!
    Netscape 4.79
  • Netscape 6.0 (November 2000) – Brand new interface that gave new life to the browser. It included an integrated search feature and advanced sidebar.
    Netscape 6.0
  • Netscape 7.0 (August 2002) – Finally offers tabbed browsing and a popup blocker. They’re a little bit behind since Opera has had tabs for several years by this point, but Opera wasn’t free (from both a paid subscription and ads) until 2005.
    Netscape 7.0
  • Netscape 8.0 (May 2005) – This is the first version of Netscape to be based on Firefox 1.0, and with it comes a completely reworked interface. I guess the search bar on the left side of the address bar never took off. :D
    Netscape 8.0
  • Netscape 9.0 (October 2007) – This is based on Firefox 2, which means it has several notable features such as inline spell checking. They’ve also bundled a few things that aren’t included in Firefox which I’ve listed here.
    Netscape 9.0

–Firefox–

Firefox is currently the second most popular browser in the world, and only falls short to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Development on the browser started back in 2002 when it was named Phoenix.

  • Firefox 0.1 (September 2002) – This first version had a primary focus of speed. Oh, and you won’t find any extensions quite yet.
    Firefox 0.1
  • Firefox 1.0 (November 2004) – Better tabbed browsing, several different languages are available, and there’s an extension system. We’ve got a truly great browser on our hands!
    Firefox 1.0
  • Firefox 1.5 (November 2005) – Can you say automatic updates! Firefox can now update itself without needing the users to redownload the entire installer.
    Firefox 1.5
  • Firefox 2.0 (October 2006) – Firefox got a nice new theme, inline spell checking, session restore, and more. What’s not to love?
    Firefox 2.0

–Internet Explorer–

Unfortunately it is pretty impossible to get older versions of Internet Explorer to work in Vista, so I had to pass on that one. Microsoft has created their own Internet Explorer history page that walks you through the different versions of the browser, but here is a screenshot that I took awhile back of Internet Explorer 3 and 5 running side-by-side:

There Are 16 Comments

  1. It’s amazing how far behind the times IE6 was/is. No tabbed browsing, no plugins. Amazing what the other browsers offered that IE didn’t, yet IE was still the most popular.
    Now all we need is for IE, firefox and Opera to render pages the same way and we will all be happy campers.

  2. hi, which plugins do you using to diplay the images.

  3. I’ve been using both Firefox and Opera from the very first versions, and also former-Mozilla (now Seamonkey).

    It’s incredible how IE and Firefox have developed so little. With the exception of extensions (which after all make Firefox so powerful) only a small number of features and enhancements have been introduced — the user interface is still slow, resembling the slow response rates of Phoenix, when accessing menus or pressing buttons.

    Anyway, I see Opera as the true great innovator. Each version is smaller in size, uses less resources, has an extra-fast GUI response rate, and tons of features that Firefox has (or might have in the future) as extensions.

    IE is the worst for me.

  4. Somehow seeing these oldies using the Vista GUI takes away from the retro feel. Very informative, nonetheless.

  5. Chris wrote:
    Now all we need is for IE, firefox and Opera to render pages the same way and we will all be happy campers.

    That would really be amazing, but I think all of the browsers would have to agree upon one rendering engine in order for that to work.

    daniel wrote:
    hi, which plugins do you using to diplay the images.

    I use highslide Javascript, and I’ve customized it to work with our site.

    Cody wrote:
    I see Opera as the true great innovator. Each version is smaller in size, uses less resources, has an extra-fast GUI response rate, and tons of features that Firefox has (or might have in the future) as extensions.

    That’s definitely true. It’s just disappointing that Opera didn’t offer the completely free version sooner because they probably would have gotten a larger market share before Firefox was even available.

    Nosh wrote:
    Somehow seeing these oldies using the Vista GUI takes away from the retro feel. Very informative, nonetheless.

    I felt the same way when I was taking the screenshots, but it’s nice to have all of the browsers running on the same operating system for a true comparison.

  6. Wow…very nice and informative! :mrgreen:

  7. very nice article… brings back memories…

  8. This article has filled me with nostalgia. submiited to stumbleupon and cybermarked. Thanks Ryan

  9. I remember before Netscape 0.91 it was actually a browser called Mozilla. I have 0.89 alpha or beta around somewhere. It does actually support images but inline only, and doesn’t support background colors.

    However, I feel you’re not doing history justice unless you discuss NCSA Mosaic, which I believe was the inspiration for the original “mozilla” moniker – the Mosaic killer. You’ll see even to this day that Internet Explorer talks about how its based on NCSA Mosaic in the “About” box.

  10. Woah, great work Ryan! Stumbled!

  11. Yeah, what Jim said – I surfed for well over a year with NCSA Mosaic on a UNIX box. I remember seeing Mosaic announcing support for any images. Just because M$ ‘bought’ the code to make Interknot Exposer, that doesn’t mean that Mosaic is not a part of PAST events.

  12. really well done post, thanx for your work!!

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