Evolution of web browsers

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

Q. Each new web browser that enters the market adds new features and makes new promises. It has always been thus, due to the way we develop and market products.

Netscape was not the first commercial web browser. That would be Silversmith, from Taunton Engineering, launched in 1987 and which sold successfully for a few years.

That could not be said of Netscape which was made available gratis in order to develop the market. I can’t expect the new entrants into the market to acknowledge all the contributors that have gone before.

Our experience was that the educational problem coupled with the need to develop web pages presented a significant burden for a small company. We were kept afloat for a while by purchases by the early adopters, the US government and Department of Defense contractors.

Our discussions with Boston VC’s were fruitless. One told us, “No one needs a web browser. If they did, we would have one already!” And another told us, “Go sell 100,000 copies and then come back. We’ll help you sell 10,000,000 more!”

John Bottoms, Concord, MA

A. Thanks for the email John, and the fascinating insight into the evolution of the commercial browser. If only the Boston-based VCs had been a little more visionary history might have been very different….

Q. I read your article and decided to download the IE7 browser, and subsequently made an interesting discovery... I was playing around with IE7, and putting in weird domain names, etc... when I found that keyboard symbol names (e.g. £.com, €.com) actually work now and go through to a site. I don’t remember this being possible with my previous browser, so I guess that Explorer 7 had some new tricks up its sleeve after all (!).

Penny Marshall

A. Yes, its not all playing Firefox catchup….

Q. A quick observation on the merits of Opera and IE from a very unsophisticated and agnostic user of both: Run-time memory usage of IE is of the order of 110 MB; Opera just needs 9 MB. Big deal? Not on my 1GB desktop. But on my old IBM X20 with a mere 300 MB of RAM (max config) and XP Pro, you cannot run anything else once IE is running. Opera is the only answer.

Mind, I use CISCO’s VPN s/w to access the corporate LAN at times. IE senses our corporate proxy, Opera does not. So when I am on the corporate LAN, I can only use IE...

Olaf von Rein

A. You make several interesting points Olaf. Memory usage (and hard drive footprint) can indeed be a serious issue with older PCs and you are quite right, Opera is probably the best browser to run if you are constrained in either way.

Actually I quite like Opera anyway and certainly think the latest version is worth checking out alongside Firefox. But as you also point out, many corporate VPNs (including the Financial Times’) will only run with Internet Explorer.

I have also found that there are still a number of web sites that require IE, or are optimised for IE and do not work as well with Firefox or other rivals.

Backups

Q. My name is Leonard Juska from Costa Mesa, California, and I’m employed by a large data storage firm named Quantum, based in northern California. I read your article (”Back up office data and put it in your pocket”) and I laughed as you probably did in seeing all that “backup” collection.

As a designer for both tape and hard disc solutions (If you tell me the brand name of the Travan drive, I could probably tell you the coder/engineer.), I share the same reactions as many would when trying to figure out what would best serve backup - both at home and at my second “place of worship.” Sometimes the answer is not the same for both.

My E-mail had two purposes. The first was to acknowledge the article and that it is a good judgment to make appropriate backups regularly. This leads me to the second point: ‘Appropriate backups’.

Just for information to pass along, we tend to concentrate on saving or copying the immediate files for storage, but not the infrastructure that allows us to use them. In other words, if we lose our system to some catastrophic event, we must rebuild the basic foundation of the system and then retrieve the files/information needed.

Many users do not consider the option of cold, or what is referred as “bare metal” or “disaster recovery”. To make the world so much easier and reassuring, we recommend intervals of full system backups with a disaster recovery option that always includes an alternate boot solution, either CD or diskette, or even USB. Each backup SW solution has different advantages/disadvantages.

Nothing more to say for now, except to thank you for the article and wish you and your systems well. :-)

Leonard Juska

A. Thanks for the kind comments Leonard. You are of course quite right to draw attention to the need to make full system or “bare metal” backups from time to time along with more frequent partial file backups.

Just in case your hard drive (including the operating system) is trashed or corrupted, it also makes a lot of sense to ensure you have an alternative method for booting or starting up a PC.

Most backup/disaster recovery packages recommend making an emergency boot diskette that can be accessed even if the CD driver is lost along with the operating system. It is also a good idea to store a set of key files (including the CD driver) on a CD or USB key should you run into problems at a later time.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.