December 12, 2011

The New York Times
Eighteen years ago this month The New York Times introduced its readers to the Web, and its first killer app, the Mosaic browser.

The newspaper didn’t have an online site yet, but you could find
John Markoff’s story on page D1:

Think of it as a map to the buried treasures of the Information Age.

A new software program available free to companies and individuals is helping even novice computer users find their way around the global Internet, the network of networks that is rich in information but can be baffling to navigate.

….Mosaic’s many passionate proponents hail it as the first “killer app” of network computing — an applications program so different and so obviously useful that it can create a new industry from scratch.

The Mosaic Web browser (Courtesy: National Center for Supercomputing Applications)

….Before Mosaic, finding information on computer data bases scattered around the world required knowing — and accurately typing — arcane addresses and commands like “Telnet” Mosaic lets computer users simply click a mouse on words or images on their computer screens to summon text, sound and images from many of the hundreds of data bases on the Internet that have been configured to work with Mosaic.

….Mosaic was created by a small group of software developers and students at the supercomputer center in Champaign, who set out 18 months ago to create a system for browsing through the World-Wide Web. The Web is an international string of computer data bases that uses an information-retrieval architecture developed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer specialist at the CERN physics laboratory in Geneva.

When Markoff’s article appeared in print on December 8, 1993, many newspapers considered America Online, Prodigy, and Compuserve as the future of online journalism.

But browsers changed the future. Within a few years, most media companies focused exclusively on the Web.

By 1996, The New York Times had a website, and in 2001 they were already looking back nostalgically at the early days of the Web.

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