In 1993 a team led by Marc Andreessen at the University of Illinois released the Mosaic web browser. It was the first browser with a graphical user interface which made the web accessible to anyone who had even basic computer skills.
The Mosaic team was based in a research center, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). As the Mosaic browser took off, the people who ran the NCSA slowly took control of it. Andreessen was pushed out, so he moved to Silicon Valley and found a job. But then he was approached by Silicon Valley legend Jim Barksdale to make something for the web. Andreessen decided to make another browser. He hired the old Mosaic team back, and they rebuilt a browser entirely from scratch. But this version was better, of course, because they learned from all their mistakes from the first one they made.
The result was the Netscape browser. It crushed Mosaic and it made Marc Andreessen the first of a new generation of young people made unbelievably rich by the internet.
Webpages Needed Interactivity
From the very beginning, it was clear that webpages had a fundamental limitation: They weren’t interactive.
Every time you clicked on a link, the current page you were looking at would go away while a whole new page was fetched from a server and then rendered on your screen. This was because webpages could only use HTML and CSS. They needed something to make them come alive!
Andreessen and Netscape believed that 2 languages needed to be supported in the browser: Java and a smaller, simpler scripting language. Roughly speaking, companies would build sophisticated stuff in Java. Designers, hobbyists, and hackers would build smaller things in this new scripting language that Netscape would create.
The internet was clearly the next technological wave, so everyone wanted in on it. Including Bill Gates.
Bill Gates and Microsoft created Internet Explorer and bundled it with Windows software, which meant that Internet Explorer became the default web browser for most people. Over the next couple of years, Netscape and Internet Explorer battled for market share.
Specifically, they went to ECMA, which used to stand for “European Computer Manufacturers Association”. But now it’s global and is just known as ECMA. ECMA sets standards for technologies so that they can safely and confidently be used everywhere.
Developers Rise Up!
Now asynchronous web applications are completely the norm, but in 2005 this was revolutionary!
Jesse James Garrett had opened the floodgates. Developers started building all kinds of sophisticated JS tools and frameworks. Most notably is JQuery which enables tons of things including easy DOM manipulation and Ajax requests. While the big companies squabbled, developers just got on with building great stuff. Decentralization for the win!
The New Kids on the Block
Two guys, who happened to run a company called Google, took an interest in web browsers. Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired some engineers who had worked at Netscape (and then its spin-off Mozilla) to build a new browser. Larry and Sergey showed it to their boss / babysitter Eric Schmidt who was impressed. They assigned an up-and-coming young star at Google, Sundar Pichai, to run with the idea.
A New Beginning
Among those packages are things like React, Redux, Vue, and Angular. The vast majority of web developers today use at least one of those frameworks to build web apps.
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Sources & Further Reading
Image sources (in order of appearance)