The Tenth Anniversary of Mosaic’s Netscape: A Fire in the Valley

It feels simultaneously like one hundred years ago and yesterday, but tomorrow, October 13th, marks the tenth anniversary of the first public release of “Mosaic Communications Corporation’s” browser, a product called Netscape 0.9 Beta.

For those of you who weren’t around or who have blessedly forgotten, Mosaic’s Netscape browser wasn’t the first of its kind, nor was it even the first commercial product. It was, however, unarguably the most important browser: It came from remnants of the original Mosaic team out of the University of Illinois, led by a certain Marc Andreessen, and it was being backed by Jim Clark of Silicon Graphics fame.

Within a year of release it had almost 80% share, and the company quickly went public. But the first two year’s of Mosaic’s history were, sad to say, about as good as it would get for the company. It stumbled and bumbled about, becoming arrogant too soon and losing its market lead to an implacable Microsoft with its Internet Explorer. Yes, it did set off the dot-com bomb, but that was something of a mixed blessing.

Nevertheless, a fire was lit in the valley (and on the Internet) ten years ago tomorrow. While the flame has waned now and then, and even threatened briefly to go out, it is still burning today.