A history of browsing

With Google Chrome now out and about, it got me thinking about my own browsing habits.

I first heard about this new 'www' thing back in college. I had been on the Internet for a couple years by that point, but http-free. Telnet and FTP were my friends. And so was Gopher. The very first browser I ever used was NCSA Mosaic, which was running on a DEC graphical station in one of the computer labs. It was a whonking big piece of software, so I didn't use it much. But use it I did.

Then someone installed a Netscape Navigator version to one of the CompSci machines and that somehow changed things. If I'm remembering right, it was version 0.97, and had the, "pulsing throbbing N" in the upper right corner (in a readme.txt: "And remember, it may be spelled "Netscape", but it's pronounced, "Mozilla."). After the 1.0 version it changed to the 'comet over the earth' logo that would stay with Netscape for the next many years.

The first browser I installed on a machine I owned was a package that I've forgotten the name of. It was a rather cunning use of telnet and the lynx text browser to emulate a graphical browser. This was before my university allowed SLIP or PPP dialups, of course. Once they did that, I could get my own version of Netscape. And did so.

And there I sat for a long number of years. I flirted with Opera a few times. Tried out IE. But, in the end, I stuck with Netscape. Opera just didn't feel right, or render things the way I expected. IE was the evil Microsoft, and I avoided it where possible.

And then... Netscape Communicator got stale. It hung in version 4.7something for aaaaaages. IE started eating Netscape's lunch. And things just got too annoying. At work I started using Opera, version 4.0 IIRC. It worked for the most part, but was still unsatisfactory.

I stuck with Opera for maybe 3 months before moving over to... sigh.... IE. IE5.5 was at the time significantly better than the alternatives. I moved to it exclusively at home, finally ditching Communicator. I believe the reason I moved had to do with IE's 'security zone' architecture, which made a lot of sense for me. Certain sites I wanted to grant 'trusted' status to, and it would just work with no popups. For the rest of the internet I could set different settings. It worked great.

And then I heard about an open-source version of Netscape called Mozilla. I kept an eye on it for a while, waiting for it to become more stable. I installed it on the home Linux machine since obviously IE wouldn't work there. In time, Mozilla matured to the point where it was stable enough for me, and I figured out how to make its security features do what I wanted them to do. I think I formally moved everything to Mozilla shortly after the 1.0 release.

And there I stayed, right up to the point where Mozilla killed Mozilla in favor of Firefox (formerly Firebird). I dutifully switched. And over the course of the next year I got steadily more annoyed with Firefox. Some of which I complained about here. I don't remember how I found out about it, but I learned of the SeaMonkey project that was recreating the Mozilla experience in a fully community-supported way. And that's where I am now.

Unfortunately, SeaMonkey is beginning to look as dated as Communicator was. Firefox 3 may be less annoying than earlier Firefox versions, so I probably have to try it out. Opera is pretty good, and I've spent time using 9.5 already, but the plugin community is weak and it doesn't do exactly what I want when it comes to privacy settings. IE8 is out of the picture since it's Windows-only. And so is Chrome, though I hear that'll be changing.