Birth of Mozilla Firefox

by Guruprasad

<Prev Gallery Index Next>

1998.
Software Tycoon, Bill Gates, in a stressful “emotional trauma” during the “United States vs Microsoft antitrust trial” in Aug-Sep 1998.

This was an important event in the history of computer industry considering the fact that the industry was going out of control with respect to intentional monopolistic activities, arm twisting & unethical business practices.

Let me narrate the story behind this. Anybody who has ever used an Internet browser will find this story interesting :)

Most of the old timers would recall that when the internet revolution began in mid 90s, Netscape was the first and the only browser for quite some time (Mosaic was the first browser but it was experimental).
Netscape navigator had taken the internet world by storm and made a big fortune. Within months, they went public and every employee of Netscape could afford a Porsche!!
They began appearing on TIME magazine cover and the whole world was talking about them:
http://www.barewalls.com/i/c/457344_Netscapes-Marc-Andreessen.jpg

This apparently didnt go down well with Bill Gates. Bill was always optimistic about the potential of internet from early 90s but due to his intense focus on delivering windows 95, he missed the bus and Netscape had already taken the crown.
But Bill was not the kind of person to accept defeat. After monopolizing the OS segment, he wanted to monopolize the internet as well.
So he sent an internal mail to his employees to gear up for the “jihad” against Netscape. (yes, he seriously used the word jihad in his mail).

Bill selected some of his best engineers and formed the “Internet Explorer” team. They worked day and night, did a complete reverse engineering of Netscape Navigator (even reverse engineered JavaScript and called it JScript) and got the browser ready for launch.

After IE was ready, Bill bundled it with windows and made it the default browser, effectively pushing Netscape downhill.
Bill was so adamant on making IE as the default browser on every platform. The 1997 Microsoft deal forced Apple also to make IE as the default browser on the Macintosh platform.

http://www.techrepublic.com/photos/photos-microsoft-apple-collaboration-the-10-greatest-moments/479462?seq=9

In order to bring more awareness, Microsoft marketed the browser (and the concept of internet in general) thru ads with catchy tunes like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrwnJDQy0ic

So Microsoft had captured the casual home users (Most of them thought IE was the only way to browse the net and those who were aware of Netscape were now happy that they dont need to buy a browser now), and Mac users. But there were professionals in organizations who still preferred Netscape due to its robustness and features.. So the next thing Bill did was to use his muscle power to twist their arms.

He forced all the organizations into coming to an agreement which said that if they uninstalled IE and used Netscape as default browser, then Microsoft would revoke their windows licenses!!

The US govt had been keeping a watch on all monopolistic activities of Microsoft since 1991 and a spur of these activities triggered them to file an antitrust suit against Microsoft. Bill was totally defenseless because all the facts were out there showing him in bad light. But it was too late for Netscape to revive because the extensive damage was already done (but the netscape brand was acquired by AoL anyway. In 2003, MS had to pay $750 milllion for the damages). Netscape had lost everything. Their employees, marketshare, customers.. But they still had the codebase for their wonderful browser. So they opened up this code to open source community through the Mozilla Foundation. This code underwent lot of changes over the years, leading to Mozilla browser suite, which later was modified and launched as “Mozilla Firefox”.

So, the Firefox browser most of us have been using these days is actually a descendent of Netscape Navigator.
Isnt it similar to the bollywood movies where we see a villain kills a woman. The woman’s son later grows up to be the hero and finally defeats the villain.
Here, Microsoft IE killed Netscape. Netscape’s child grows up to become firefox, gradually capturing markeshare and finally defeats IE.. :)

Timeline of the antitrust case:
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/news/2002/11/35212

A short clip where you can see Bill during the trail:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tr7_T_M0g4

Netscape opens up source code:
http://news.cnet.com/Netscape-gives-up-secret-recipe/2009-1023_3-207660.html

Relationship between Mozilla and Netscape:
http://ilias.ca/MozillaNetscapeRelationship

Advertisements