There was a time, that surely many will not remember because of their youth, in which Mosaic browser dominated the web browser industry, as Chrome, Firefox or Edge do now. It is one of those pieces of software that are already part of the history of computing, and that is a myth that is still very present for some who used it in its day.
Do you want to know more about this web browser? And what is left of him today? Here you have everything you should know, since it is a key part of the story.
In 80’s years started some ideas about programs that can be considered the forerunners of today’s web browsers. Some simply implemented functions to perform hypertext jumps, but all of them very rudimentary and based on text, such as HyperBBS and HyperLan, among others. Simple as they were, they have already started laying the foundation for browsers as we know them today.
In 1987, Neil Larson, I would create TransText, a hypertext processor, a very early web browser, but that would be the seed of the current ones. It was based on Neil Larson’s Maxthing concepts, and after that, other similar and increasingly advanced programs were released.
The first web browser for the WWW (World Wide Web) was developed in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee for the NeXT Computer workstations and introduced to his colleagues at CERN in March 1991. Lee would recruit a young student named Nicola Pellow from CERN who was a trainee, and so they wrote Line Mode Browser, a cross-platform web browser.
Then came other web browsers like MidasWWW, which allowed you to view PostScript files on the web, and even compressed PS. Another very popular web browser called ViolaWWW would also appear, along with Lynx, the only one of these projects that still stands today and that it is licensed under the GNU GPL.
Finally, we must not forget that all these projects displayed information on the terminal. In 1992, a student at the University of Helsinki would create the first web browser with a graphical user interface, it was called Erwise, and it was quite a revolution, although it would be suspended in 1994 …
Mosaic browser: history
NCSA developed Mosaic browser, one of the first contemporary web browsers. It was very popular on the WWW, and it came to dominate in its day. In addition to the graphical interface, it also began to implement other advanced functions for the integration of graphics and multimedia in addition to text. In addition, it also began to support other network protocols.
His intuitive interface, reliability, and support made it soon the most popular, and many (given what happened with Erwise) consider it the first graphical web browser, and the first to display inline images with text in the same window.
In 1993 the first official version of Mosaic was released, although its development would begin in 1992. The development was commanded by the NCSA (National Center of Supercumputing Applications). Unfortunately, in 1995, the browser would lose its crown, giving market share to other projects that were flourishing at the time, such as the famous Netscape Navigator.
In 1997 the project was interrupted, passing the license to Spyglass Inc, and later it was Microsoft who obtained the license of Mosaic to create Internet Explorer. In addition, Mosaic Communications Corporation, the company that emerged from this development, would later become Netscape.
The Mosaic web browser featured ports for multiple platforms, among which were UNIX and derivatives, as well as Microsoft Windows and Macintosh, or platforms such as Commodore Amiga, among others.
He was his own successor, Nestcape Navigator, the one that would end up burying the popularity of Mosaic, and finally giving way to other new web browsers that we know today. In fact, in 1995 it reached 53% of the market share, since it managed to penetrate the masses and make it very accessible to all.
Mosaic was a free web browser, although it was not open source. It was based on the libwww library, and supports a multitude of protocols such as HTTP, NNTP, telnet, FTP, etc. It was one of the first collaborative projects, and it never passed a trial stage.
Mosaic is closely linked to the internet boom in the 90s, and it would not only give way to Nestcape, but also to Mozilla Firefox, since the descendant code of Netscape Navigator was the basis of this other project that many of us use today.
Nowadays, Mosaic is not quite dead, there are some projects that continue to keep it alive, also in Linux as you can see in the next section …
How to install Mosaic on Ubuntu
Almost three decades after Mosaic was released, the project is still on some computers, and may be on yours soon. it’s possible install this web browser on Ubuntu in an easy way, since there are Snap packages of it.
Installing it is really easy on Ubuntu and other GNU / Linux distros that have Snapd support. In that case, you just have to go to the terminal and run the following command:
sudo snap install mosaic
Once the process is finished, you will have Mosaic installed on your distro and ready to test. Look for the browser icon between your apps, or in the launcher. You can also launch it from the terminal using the command mosaic.
IMPORTANT: it is obviously a very primitive web browser. You can install and test it, but it is not a modern browser, so it has many limitations. You can find quite a bit of trouble loading some modern websites, especially those with HTTPS, among others.