TimBL on the "first graphical browser" in Cringely

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Sat, 27 Feb 1999 21:07:17 -0800

[He's absolutely right, of course. But inline images, while trivial
technically and arguabbly hacked poorly into the infrastructure
(transclusion anyone?), really made the medium. Running with a GUI
and *providing a GUI*, with FORMs and graphics, are different things.
And even there, Mosaic wasn't the first, but it did define a platform
of its own, rather than merely running on a graphical platform. RK]


Tim Berners-Lee checked-in to say I had it wrong when I claimed
Mosaic was the first graphical browser. I'll let Tim tell it:

"I wrote the first GUI browser, and called it "WorldWideWeb" for
NeXTStep. (I much later renamed the application Nexus to avoid
confusion between the first client and the abstract space itself.)
Pei Wei, a student at Stanford, wrote "ViolaWWW" for UNIX; some
students at Helsinki University of Technology wrote "Erwise" for
UNIX; and Tony Johnson of SLAC wrote "Midas" for UNIX. All these
happened before Marc (Andreessen) had heard of the Web. Marc was
shown ViolaWWW by a colleague (David Thompson?) at NCSA, Marc
downloaded Midas and tried it out. He and Eric Bina then wrote their
own browser from scratch. As they did, Tom Bruce was writing "Cello"
for the PC which came out neck-and-neck with Mosaic on the PC.

"Marc and Eric did a number of very important things. They made a
browser that was easy to install and use. They were the first one to
get inline images working -- to that point browsers had had varieties
of fonts and colors, but pictures were displayed in separate windows.
Most importantly, he followed up his and Eric's coding with very fast
24 hour customer support, really addressing what it took to make the
app easy and natural to use, and trivial to install. Other apps had
other things going for them. Viola, for example, was more advanced in
many ways, with downloaded applets and animations way back then --
very like HotJava.

"Marc marketed Mosaic hard on the net, and NCSA hard elsewhere,
trying hard to brand the WWW and "Mosaic": "I saw it on Mosaic" etc.
When Netscape started they of course capitalized on Mosaic as you
know - and the myth that Mosaic was the first GUI browser was

Okay, now everyone knows the truth about graphical Web browsers. I'm
sorry, Tim, for missing your contribution and the contributions of so
many others. But if you think this is bad, imagine how they would
have handled it on "Dateline."