Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Netscape Navigator 2.01 Celebrates 16th Anniversary

the Netscape browser 'throbber.'As of March 18, 2011 Netscape Navigator version 2.01 has turned 16 years old. Back when it was released in 1996 it was the bees knees. It introduced JavaScript (originally LiveScript), Java support, plug-ins, an email client, auto-dithering, and Live3D. It also provided support for font color, div, wrap, sup, sub and textarea elements/attributes. It even gave us support for the (now cool again) animated GIF.

While I wanted to write this up last year, by the time I remembered to I couldn't get data for 2011 (Navigator 2's 15th anniversary). Now that I let it lapse, however, I have data from 2011 to use for my screen shots.

Top 10 Sites of 1996 in Navigator 2.02

What I have done is gone back and looked at the most visited domains in 1996 — the year that Netscape 2 was making it big (2.0 came out in September of 1995, but factor time for adoption and sites to adapt, and 1996 represents more of the Netscape 2 world). I fired up my copy of Netscape 2.02 (which you can get from the evolt.org browser archive), set it to 640 x 480, and went about visiting the modern versions of the top 10 sites of 1996. You may note that some have gone away. Clicking the image will bring you to a larger size.

Top 10 Sites of 2011 in Navigator 2.02

If somehow you were resigned to using Navigator 2 for your surfing needs today, how much could you get done? Many sites try to serve XHTML and won't even render, other sites rely on JavaScript and won't render. Most sites use CSS so you won't see much layout. And if a site uses PNG images then you won't see many inline pictures, either. I did, however, assume a new monitor for our 1996-era user and scaled the window up to 1,024 x 768. Mostly so you could see a little more of the page. I surfed to the top 10 sites from July 2011 as determined by ads served (so my blog won't be in there).

Bonus for 16 Years of Animated GIFs

As you watch this video from PBS, remember that Netscape Navigator 2 really made animated GIFs possible by adding support for and popularizing it, now re-popularized in some odd hipster fascination with low-tech fun (on JS-only sites, of course).

Please don't say Jiff, it's Ghiff. Otherwise you should call it the Jraphic Interchange Format, and that's just silly. Unless you're a hipster too cool to use the accepted name and too young to remember its introduction.

Conclusion

Browsers from 1996 are fun.

Related

Update: October 14, 2014

Netscape is ten years old now, and Engadget covered it back in May: Whatever happened to Netscape?.

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