evolt.org Browser Archive 20 Years Old
On August 18, 1999, we at evolt.org launched the Browser Archive.
At launch browsers.evolt.org contained 80 different browsers. It started with my personal testing suite built up from 1996, and just kind of went from there.
Those links point to the pages in the Wayback Machine, as close to the launch date as I could get. A few months later it was replaced with an even awesomer design.
Not only could you find Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, but Lynx, iCab, WebTV Viewer, and even WorldWideWeb were all hanging out there waiting to be downloaded. In most cases, multiple versions and platforms for each.
But here, 20 years on, the Browser Archive exists mostly as novelty. A history of when standards were a fight, browsers tried to outdo each other with proprietary features, and users had dozens to choose from.
Today, in an evergreen browser world, individual point releases don’t matter very much. Browser engines matter even less with our WebKit monoculture.
But that novelty hasn’t worn off just yet. There are still plenty of experiments and archeological digs, often driven by web devs of A Certain Age, where we can see how the web might have looked or might look today.
- Earlier this year CERN recreated the first web browser as a web site at worldwideweb.cern.ch/browser/
- Chen Hui Jing and Kheng Meng made The IE3 Challenge and documented the process.
- oldweb.today runs old browsers on legacy platforms, pulling content from the Internet Archive.
- In 2015 the Browser Archive got a quick mention on Hacker News and, just like the old days, people complained it did not have their favorite browser.
If you have time to kill or students to torture, it might be amusing to build a virtual machine and try surfing the web on old browser. Note that you may need to set up a proxy since most of the older browsers can only handle HTTP 1.0.
Perhaps in the future people will do historical reenactments (cosplay) of the browser wars, girded with their preferred version of Netscape Navigator.
I, sir, will be girded about with Konqueror, since, like, it’s the only way I have a hope.
After a bit of a hiatus from web dev I’ve been scrambling to catch up, during which scramble I stumbled across Daniel Tonon’s article pointing to your commentary on sectioning html. Good stuff, one of the things I’ve been pondering.
Wow, this brings back some memories!
Adrian, I’ve only just twigged: you are/were aardvark on evolt, right? I’ve been reading your blog all this time and never realised. Ha. It’s been a long time.
Yup, that is/was me. The handle did not extend well since there were lots of other aardvarks in every other corner of the internet.
I only realize this, too, right now. As for “browsers.evolt.org”… I recall typing this in many times, over quite a few years. It was an institution. Thanks for sharing this anniversary post.