In the beginning, the Web, or WEB as it was known then, was a mystery. Like gopher and archie, it was a character-based internet tool interface that only the proud, the few, and the early internet users knew about. Then, everything changed. First, the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) made it easy for anyone to get on the net, and then two graduate students, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, created the first popular web browser: Mosaic.
Mosaic's first beta was released for Unix operating systems running X Window on January 23, 1993. It wasn't the first graphical web browser. That honor goes to ViolaWWW, a Unix browser, although some argue the even more obscure Erwise should get the credit for being the first Web browser. The early browser Cello takes the prize for being the first Windows graphical web browser. No matter who really gets the credit for being the very first web browser, no one can argue Mosaic was the first popular Web browser.
Mosaic changed everything. Because Mosaic was fast and enabled people to see images within pages, it quickly gained fans. Earlier browsers could only show images in separate windows. Mosaic was also the first "easy to use" browser. It also popularized icons, bookmarks, and a more attractive interface.
That's not to say anyone could use Mosaic. It was far from simple to set up. In those days, getting on the Internet was a major pain in the rump. For instance, Windows didn't natively support the Internet's fundamental protocol, TCP/IP, until Windows 95 appeared. If you wanted TCP/IP on Windows 3.1x, you needed to use the arcane but absolutely necessary Trumpet Winsocket program, and find an Internet service provider (ISP).
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