- Internet & the Web
10 Most Popular and Forgotten Web Browsers
Are you curious about the top 10 most popular and forgotten web browsers? Today, people are more familiar with Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. But, how many of you remember the old school browsers that paved the way for the ones we have today?
Do you remember Netscape or AOL? Have you ever heard of the Flock browser? Do you know what a browser is?
1. AOL Explorer
- Release Date: July, 2005
- OS: Windows
In 2003, a 7-year contract was signed between AOL and Microsoft, allowing them to use the Trident engine’s layout. This would enable users to download and install AOL Explorer using Microsoft Update.
In 2005, the world was introduced to AOL Explorer, originally called AOL Browser. This browser has been discontinued, with the latest version being released May, 2006.
Version 1.2 – This release introduced the RSS Widgets from Favorites and Tab Explorer. Tab Explorer displayed thumbnails within a full screen window, allowing users to quickly switch between pages. This feature was later implemented to Internet Explorer 7, called ‘Quick Tabs’.
Version 1.5 – This release introduced features such as Visual Themes, Desktop Widgets, among others. Desktop Widgets enabled users to use a side panel as an independent tool separate from the browser.
Additionally, AOL owned Netscape Communications Corporation, the publisher of Netscape browser. More on this browser later in the list.
What's Your Browser?
2. Firefox – Phoenix/Mozilla Firebird
- Release Date: February 2004
- OS: Cross-Platform
Similar to Internet Explorer during the 1990s, Firefox has become a leader in browsers. Although it quickly became more popular than IE, and even Google Chrome it had a fair amount of challenges. It had a rough start with naming issues and branding itself.
Originally, the browser was going to be called Phoenix, but Phoenix Technologies did not want them to use the name. Then, the name was changed to Mozilla Firebird. Shortly after they ran into trademark issues, this time due to the Firebird free database software project. Finally, they found the perfect name, Mozilla Firefox.
In 2002, the open-source browser ‘Phoenix’ was created to be a standalone browser by members of the Mozilla community. It was popular among the community because of the overall security, speed, and potential for add-ons.
In 2004, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 was officially released to the public as a new, more powerful browser.
In 2009, Firefox hit their peak usage with version 3.5. The browser was used by 32% of online users, at the time making it the most popular browser worldwide. However, a decline occurred shortly after due to Google Chrome.
Today, Firefox is the second most popular browser used worldwide.
- Release Date: April, 2005
- OS: Cross-Platform
The Flock browser focused on offering Web 2.0 and social networking features within the user interface. Originally Flock had been designed with Mozilla’s Gecko HTML rendering engine, with a change to using the WebKit rendering engine of Chromium. The browser stopped support in 2011 after being acquired by Zynga.
Version 2.5 had integrated social media and networking features that included Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and many others. Upon logging in the social service, updates would be tracked by Flock, making it easier to stay up to date on the latest social feed.
In 2008, Flock was suggested by AOL as alternatives to Netscape browser after deciding to stop supporting it. Additionally, Flock won the Webby Award for social networking, beating Facebook and others.
- Release Date: 2010
- OS: Windows
Similar to Maxthon, Greenbrowser is another one based around the Trident rendering engine and the core of Internet Explorer and full featured. Developed by Morequick software organization based in China.
It does not take up much memory being compact, which is helpful for those with older computer systems. Some of the plugins built for Maxthon are compatible with GreenBrowser, but it does have its own automated feature by default, like auto form filling, ad filtering, auto save, and auto scrolling.
In 2010, GreenBrowser was among the dozen browsers offered to Microsoft Windows users in the European Economic Area.
5. Google Chrome
- Release Date: September, 2008
- OS: Cross-Platform
Originally, Eric Schmidt CEO of Google was not in favor of releasing a browser due to being a new company, but after co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin hired Firefox developers, the demonstration basically changed his mind on the concept, and Google Chrome was born.
In 2004, the initial rumors emerged that Google was working on a browser of their own. This news came after the release of Firefox 1.0, which quickly gained popularity over Internet Explorer due to better security.
In 2008, Google Chrome was officially released for use on Microsoft Windows operating system, with later releases for macOS, Linux, Android, and IOS. For the release, a comic was created by Scott McCloud to showcase the various features as a unique marketing method. This comic was 38 pages long.
Google released most of the source code for Chrome under the Chromium open-source project.
Version 27 & Prior – Chrome used WebKit layout engine.
Version 28 & After – Chrome uses Blink, a branch from WebKit engine.
6. Internet Explorer
- Release Date August, 1995
- OS: Windows
Developed by Microsoft, Internet Explorer also went through several name changes over time. It was the default browser on Windows operating systems. Originally released in 1995 on Windows 95, with future updates being available for download and on later operating systems. Although discontinued, IE is maintained and used by many.
In 1994, Thomas Reardon began the Internet Explorer project. Microsoft used source code from the Mosaic browser, which had connections with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Spyglass Mosaic was licensed for a quarterly rate, plus a percentage for revenue not directly from Windows OS.
In 1995, Microsoft Internet Explorer was finally released, which was basically a revised Spyglass Mosaic browser which Microsoft had licensed. The browser was included for free within the Windows operating system, resulting in royalties not being paid to Spyglass Inc.
In 1996, Synet Inc. sued Microsoft due to trademark infringement. The lawsuit was finally settled in 1997 in the amount of $8 million.
In 2002, IE had peaked as the most used browser on the web, reaching 95% during 2002 – 2003. Microsoft used the method of bundling to win the first official browser war, overshadowing Netscape browser.
In 2004, Internet Explorer had a new challenger, Firefox. Then, in 2008 Google Chrome was released and created a massive browser war.
Internet Explorer has been discontinued, the latest browser by Microsoft is Microsoft Edge. This is the new default browser for Windows operating systems.
- Release Date: August, 2000
- OS: Windows
Developed for Microsoft Windows, the K-Melon browser is open-source and designed with the Gecko layout engine (Firefox, SeaMonkey). The overall concept behind K-Melon is reliability and speed, with an interface that can be highly customized.
Instead of following Mozilla with the cross-platform XML User Interface Language (XUL), K-Melon went a different route, using the Windows API (application programming interface). This gave it a close feel and appearance that matched the Windows desktop theme.
In 2000, K-Melon 0.1 was officially released, developed by Christophe Thibault. It underwent many development changes over the following years.
In 2003, several developers quit working on the project. The lead developer, Dorian Boissonnade took over the project, who continues to keep the project maintained.
In 2010, the K-Melon browser was among the dozen offered to Microsoft Windows users in the European Economic Area.
There have been many versions released since its initial release in 2000, with the release of K-Melon 75 in 2015, with many new features.
8. Maxthon / MyIE2
- Release Date: 2002
- OS Cross-Platform
Maxthon is a cross-platform browser developed by Maxthon Ltd. It supports both the Trident and WebKit rendering engines. In addition, Maxthon won an award for CNET WebWare, twice. Its headquarters is based out of Beijing China. They are also known for releasing other Chinese based products.
In 1999, Ming Jie Chen, current CEO was the founder of Mysoft International Limited, which distributed the MyIE browser.
In 2005, seed funding was received from Morten Lund and WI Harper Group. They relocated to Beijing.
In 2006, Maxthon obtained additional investment funds from Charles River Ventures.
In 2007, it was reported by TechCrunch that Google had invested in Maxthon, but Chen denied the rumor.
In 2008, Maxthon won the award for CNET WebWave 100, and again in 2009.
In 2010, Maxthon was one of a dozen browsers offered to Windows users within the European Economic Area.
9. Netscape Navigator
- Release Date: December, 1994
- OS: Windows
Netscape Navigator was the original browser for Netscape, which has since been discontinued. During the 1990s, it was a popular browser, but quickly declined and was nearly non-existent by 2002 as Internet Explorer become more popular. Furthermore, AOL bought out Netscape Corporation and decided not to continue sustaining the browser.
In 1994, Netscape Navigator was officially released.
In 1997, Netscape Communicator suite surpassed that of Netscape Navigator, which source code was used for the structure of Mozilla Application Suite, developed by Netscape. Later on, the name was changed to SeaMonkey. Furthermore, Mozilla Suite was used for the spin-off browser, Mozilla Firefox.
In 2007, AOL brought back Netscape Navigator with Version 9. However, by the end of the year AOL decided to stop development of the browser, while continuing security support updates until March, 2008.
- Release Date: April, 1995
- OS: Cross-Platform
Developed by Opera Software, the browser is based on the Blink layout engine. Opera browser is known for being the first to introduce certain features, later adopted by other browsers. These features include pop-up blocker, Speed Dialing, private browsing, even tabbed browsing.
Originally a research project by Telenor, it branched into a separate company (Opera Software ASA) in 1995. The official public release was in 1996 as Opera 2.0 for Windows operating systems. However, it later became a popular browser on Apple computers and other devices.
In 1996, Opera was officially released to the public as Version 2.0.
In 1998, porting Opera for mobile device usage was attempted for capitalizing on the increasing market.
In 2000, Opera 4.0 was released, which was the first cross-platform focused version. With the release of Version 5.0, the purchase after trial requirement was eliminated, converting to being ad-sponsored to continue free usage.
In 2005, Opera fully removed the advertisements in Version 8.5 as the majority of funding came from Google revenue, which is the default search engine by contract.
In 2006, Opera Version 9.1 introduced fraud protection with technology by GeoTrust and PhishTank. Together, creating a digital certificate and tracking phishing sites. Later, Netcraft replaced GeoTrust to improve security. Also, Haute Secure was added for malware protection. Furthermore, Opera Software ASA released the Nintendo DS Browser and Internet Channel for use with the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.
Questions for Readers:
- What browsers do you currently use?
- What browsers have you used in the past?
- Do you know of browsers that should be listed?