Mosaic was an early web browser and the first to display images in the same window as text. Mosaic is often referred to as the first graphical web browser.
Mosaic was developed at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1992 and 1993 and was called Mosaic because in addition to being the first graphical web browser, Mosaic could also be used as a client for other protocols including FTP, Usenet, and gopher. However, it was as a web browser that Mosaic would leave a profound mark on the world.
By the end of 1994 Mosaic's impact on the web was so profound that Wired Magazine pronounced that Mosaic was “well on its way to becoming the world's standard interface.”
The team that developed Mosaic was led by Marc Andreessen, then a student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Following graduation, Andreessen founded Netscape Communications and released Netscape Navigator in late 1994. While Netscape Navigator did not share any code with Mosaic, it was a natural continuation of Andreessen's work on Mosaic.
By 1997 Netscape was used by the vast majority of all web users, and Mosaic's share of the browser market had shrunk to a fraction so small that support and development of Mosaic ceased. However, prior to this, in 1995 Mosaic was licensed to Microsoft and used to create Internet Explorer which would become the next great web browser beginning in the early 2000s, and push Netscape Navigator into decline and eventual discontinuation.
Modern browsers continue to borrow most of their basic structure from the original Mosaic browser including the address bar, and the back, forward, and reload buttons.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mosaic still available for download?
While you may find a copy of Mosaic available for download somewhere online, it would not do a very good job of rendering a modern web page, nor would you want to use it. It is important to use a modern browser when browsing the web, not just so that your experience is as smooth as possible, but also so that you are protected against attempts to exploit browser vulnerabilities. Outdated browsers suffer from many security vulnerabilities that render them inadequate for modern browsing.
How important was Mosaic to the growth of the web?
In November of 1992 there were only twenty-six websites on the web. Mosaic, released in 1993, was nearly immediately the most-used browser, and by August of 1995, there were over 10,000 websites. Mosaic was the platform that facilitated this massive explosion in growth on the web.
Without the availability of Mosaic and the other graphical web browsers created in its wake, public interest in the web would not have exploded the way that it did. With the birth of the graphical web browser in Mosaic, the web became a place that was much more than just a collection of text. Mosaic played a pivotal role in the transformation of the web from an interesting tool used by academics and researchers, into a fledgling and rapidly expanding digital world.