It’s hard to imagine a web browser without even the most fundamental features we associate with a web browser of today. Take the URL bar, a back-button or a bookmark — all these ideas had to get invented over an awkward first five years of the web.
AppStorey takes you back to the earliest web browsers ever made, run on the vintage NeXT computers those Apps were created on. We’ll take a look back and see just where and how these innovations we take for granted, first came along.
Between the years of 1990 and 1995, the earliest web was a place of innovation, invention and good old fashioned trial and error. Looking back today, it’s easy to see how the innovation that came from this one computer, singularly created the technologies the mobile world relies upon today.
Now. The Story of NetSurfer, here on AppStorey
Come with us on a trip to the earliest web, you can see the technical ground we walk on get created, step by step.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” — Steve Jobs 2001
These earliest web browsers would hardly be recognizable as the browser we all know and use today.
In fact, there’s a whole lot of different ways to imagine the web browser.
These many innovative ways to imagine a web browser might not only be different, but really could be better than what we’ve come to take for granted today.
NetSurfer, a web browser created in the early 1990’s that predated browsers created for computers outside of the NeXT, was one of the earliest web browsers. At this time, the web was still primarily a NeXT experience, and the concept of how a browser should look or behave was not at all defined.
You’ll notice this browser has a bookmarking and tabulated website browsing system, based on the common UI element on NeXTSTEP called a “Shelf”. A Shelf is where you can drag an icon to sit, much like the Dock on Mac OS X today. The FileView (Todays’ Finder) relied on the Shelf as the way to bookmark a file location on large UNIX networks.
A “Browser” (NXBrowser) — a kind of table view, shown below the Shelf was also a common interface design used to present a set of columnar data.
NetSurfer makes a compelling view of the concept we call bookmarks, even today. This is a totally unique view of the web that has never since been tried.
You’ll notice this version was nearing the end of the earliest web era. NetSurfer has a basic URL bar, a back button — along with some uncommon elements like a drag-well for dragging documents (URLs) in and our of the browser and to or from the bookmark browser window.
This was the wild west of the World Wide Web.
This was the cretaceous epoch where just about every body type was tried in nature, and just about every user interface concept was tried in order to see how the web should be.
NetSurfer was certainly an innovative browser during the earliest web era, and could likely provide some fresh ideas for next-generation browsers of tomorrow.
Our friends at NeXTComputers.org have the binary releases cited NetSurfer binary distributions for NeXT Computers Circa early 1990s You’ll need a vintage NeXT computer to run that program. Don’t have one? That’s ok because AppStorey does, and the engineers who created these inventions are going to show you and tell you all about it.
The earliest web takes us to back to a time that is truly a crux in human history — a time just before the boom of news, photos, content and what is really all of information created by humankind were captured and indexed by computers. The world revolves around the seminal computer inventions that now dominate modern life.
This multi-part series takes a look through the earliest web. Come join us!