How Tabs Saved Our Life: The Evolution of the Web Browser

One tab at a time.

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Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

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The Internet has come a long way. Earlier this week, we covered the story of a man who took a 27-year-old Mac Plus and introduced it to the modern web, and all the little thing could handle was displaying some hyperlinks in black and white. Today, we have websites with huge high-resolution photographs, moving images, and rich colors. Sometimes we even use sites like YouTube as a music player instead of opening Spotify. The web browser has transformed many times in the past two decades, with little improvements here and there that have contributed to the overall experience we have today. Like tabs! Tabs have helped clear our growing collection of windows that spilled across our desktop, and now instead of having 15 windows open, we can have one window with 25 tabs open. Add in some plug-ins, games, and bookmark folders, and our browsers have turned into a full-on beast. 

So, let's take a look back at the evolution of the browser, and how the accumulation of little improvements, like tabs, can make one hell of a difference in the long run.


The WorldWideWeb (no spaces on purpose) was the first web browser, invented in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee.


Three years later, the Mosaic browser was released, and is credited with helping the web become popular. It was the first browser to feature images that were inline with text, and was deemed the web's "killer app." Before, browsers would download the image and open it in a separate window.


The team leader of Mosaic founds Netscape, and launches Netscape Navigator in October 1994, the Internet browser that took off like a bat out of Hell. It owned 86 percent of the browser market by 1996. 


IBM launches its own browser, WebExplorer, in the same year.

BookLink Technologies releases the InternetWorks web browser, the first browser to feature tabs. This is still 1994, mind you. Didn't see that coming, eh?

UdiWWW launches, and is the first web browser to handle HTML 3 features with math tags.


Microsoft releases Internet Explorer in 1995, after Bill Gates said the world wide web was a "passing fad." They packaged the browser with Windows computers, and this decision helped them capture the market from Netscape Navigator within two years.

The battle between Netscape and Microsoft became known as the "browser wars." 


Netscape fails to regain its ground, and is purchased by AOL—but not before they made its browser open-source. Mozilla is formed by a group who used this open-source information, and the Mozilla 1.0 browser is released in 2002. 


That same year, the Mozilla side project, Firefox, is released. Under Firefox, tabs begin to get more popular and accessible. Later, extensions and plug-ins will become popularized by the browser.


TOR (The Onion Reuter) is released in September 2002, with the goal of protecting the personal privacy of users by keeping data anonymous. It would later be used to host websites like Silk Road, which sold illegal goods, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden would use it to send secret documents to The Guardian.


Apple drops Safari onto the world in 2003.


Apple releases the iPhone in 2007, equipped with a mobile version of Safari. The iPhone was the first smartphone to display the web almost as it appeared on the desktop, and as they famously said in an iPhone ad, "This is not a watered-down version of the Internet... It's just the Internet, on your phone."


AOL kills Netscape in 2008. 


Google, the search engine, releases its own web browser in December 2008. Like Firefox before it, Chrome weaved in browser plug-ins, some of which incorporated social media, which was also on the rise.


Google releases a Lord of the Rings Chrome game in 2013, which showcases the future of games on the Internet, and how powerful browsers have become.


TODAY: Browsin' the Internets with 10+ tabs open while bumpin' a music video like it ain't no thang. #YOLO #ADD #DontJudge


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