Browser Wars is a documentary from the four-part series Download: the true story of the Internet. Written and presented by John Heilemann, the video explores the “vicious power struggle” between Netscape and Microsoft, which took place in the mid 90’s.
In the beginning, the World Wide Web was not so worldwide and instead was just pages of text which were only accessible to a specific niche of scientific researches. It wasn’t until 1993 when Marc Andreessen along with a group of young “geeks” from the University of Illinois realised the potential of the internet to be consumed by the masses. They developed the world’s first web-browser, Mosaic, which has been widely accredited for kick-starting the internet revolution.
Looking for a new business venture billionaire Jim Clark made the founders of Mosaic an offer too good to refuse. They joined forces to form Netscape and in 1994 created the world’s first user friendly web browser called Navigator.
Everyday people checking out the World Wide Web for the first time usually did so with Netscape Navigator. It was the most popular software for searching around the emerging internet and in 1995 dominated the market.
Netscape’s success could no longer be ignored and on December 7, 1995, Microsoft C.E.O. Bill Gates having once himself dismissed the Internet as a passing fad sent a memo out to his employees. Known in the industry as Pearl Harbor Day, he named Netscape as a target and outlined Microsoft’s aggressive new approach to the Internet. Along with a team of top-notch programmers he went on to build Internet Explorer with the sole intention of dislodging Netscape.
Although this was an unfair fight and Microsoft had clear advantages in the browser wars, one simply being an issue of resources. Having begun with nearly a 90% market share and a great deal of public goodwill Netscape was a relatively small company and derived the bulk of its income from what was essentially a single product, which left the company financially vulnerable.
Jim Clark states in the 2008 Vanity Fair article How the Web was Won that:
Microsoft was making it very clear that they were going to kill us. We were trying to negotiate deals where Compaq and Gateway and all these P.C. manufacturers would bundle our Web browser. And Microsoft threatened them. Microsoft threatened them that if they did they would revoke their license to Windows. So, needless to say, everyone backed off.
Unfortunately for Netscape, its competitor proved to be too powerful and in 1997 the war was declared over and Microsoft had reigned supreme.
As a documentary, Browser Wars gives a good overview of the events that took place during this incredible social and technological revolution. It did however become apparent through further research that this video fails to credit any of the technological achievements made outside the United States. however having no prior knowledge of the debates surrounding this historical development, Browser Wars was informative and incredible interesting.