Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Happy 25th Birthday to the World Wide Web

I remember my family's first computer well. It was 1997 and I was an easily-excited 6-year-old boy. This rather large contraption just landed on my dining room table and needless to say, I was very curious. I remember playing Moto Racer with my Dad. I remember being amazed when we purchased our ATI All-In-Wonder Pro TV Tuner video card. We could somehow watch cable television on our PC... while browsing the web! What a wonder!

Google's Homepage on March 12th, 2014
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the web. Google has included a small homage to the beginning of the web that we know and love today on their homepage.

I decided to install Netscape Navigator to see how it stands up against the modern web. This is running on Linux Mint 16, a derivative of the popular Ubuntu. Needless to say, the results are not great. Thanks to the concept of graceful-degradation though, most of the content is still highly-usable despite being arranged a little oddly. in Netscape Navigator on Linux Mint 16
I tried to load a few websites that I frequent to see how well they are displayed. Read on to see more!

The Resistor Network

I will start with my homepage as shown above. The first thing I noticed was that I had to disable JavaScript in the settings menu. My site simply refused to load and I couldn't find any traces of a debug console to see output of the parser/runtime.

Netscape Settings Window
My website did surprisingly well, the content is clearly readable despite the layout of the page being completely broken. One issue is that the navigation menu moved to the bottom of the page, which worked out well in this case.

Huge Navigation Menu!


I frequent r/programming and r/linux on Reddit. I decided to see how well it would fare when placed in the hands of a decade old web-browser.

r/linux vs. Netscape

Reddit did not do so well in this case. Unfortunately, they put all of their navigation panes at the top of the page. This causes the actual content to start somewhere around 40% of the way down the page.

Reddit Stories in Netscape
If you can get past all of the scrolling, you will see that it actually did quite well. There seems to be some artifacts of AJAX use here. Check out the "loading..." strings that are visible in this document. I believe these should be hidden as I have JavaScript disabled.


The Google homepage leaves a little something to be desired. I was expecting an "Upgrade to Chrome" notice.

Google Homepage in Netscape 
The search results page looks absolutely fantastic. This brought back some fond memories.

Google Search Results in Netscape


I decided to give LWN a try. They have a fairly "minimalist" layout that I thought might do rather well in this old browser. I think it actually did pretty well, despite a couple of minor issues.

LWN vs. Netscape

Hack a Day

I have been reading Hack a Day for a number of years. Their homepage did rather well in the face of antiquity.

Hack a Day vs. Netscape

About Netscape

The "About Netscape" page was particularly interesting. It reminded me of when Java was a product of Sun Microsystems and when Flash Player was a product of Macromedia.

About Netscape
This was a fun way to spend an hour. Checking out insignificant portion of the web using an ancient web browser is something any web developer should do at least once.

Thanks for reading!

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