On bringing light to the darkness…

Yet another post inspired by Facebook discussion. I think I’m beginning to find my muse…

The web is not quite 20 years old (Dec ’91 was when the concept was published). While for most people the Internet revolves around Internet Exploder or Firefox or Safari, there were other products.

In the beginning, there was Mosaic. And it brought light from the darkness, but it was featureless. It begat Netscape, which had features, but crashed a lot, and eventually was bought by AOL who set about to kill it. Marc A set people free by leading a small band through the wilderness to start Phoenix, but they ran afoul of trademark and thus begat Firefox.

Somewhere along this path, Bill Gate-us of Borg beheld Mosaic, and begat Internet Explorer, which being of parentage foul became the source of much pain and suffering and in derision it is named Exploder.

Thus ends the quick genealogy lesson.

…and if the foregoing largely makes no sense, then here is the deal:

You access the Web by way of specialized software, the “Browser.” It allows you to browse content, in much the same way people [used to?] browse the shelves at the library, looking for something interesting to pull down and read.

NCSA Mosaic, Netscape, Firefox, IE, Safari, etc. are all examples of the “graphical browser.” This is the interface almost everyone uses, and for many people, this is “the Internet.”

It’s only a part of the Internet. There are also text-based browsers; Lynx is the most prevalent of these. Why would anyone use a non-graphical browser? Suppose you’re blind, but still want to make use of the Internet. You don’t need to download the pictures (can’t see them anyway). Or, suppose you have limited bandwidth, but need to get some information. One regular reader of this blog always makes disparaging remarks about the US National Weather Service relying on UPPERCASE TEXT FOR ALL WX MESSAGES – but there are both international treaties as well as good solid engineering reasons for having the all-caps text. [Technical rationale – all-caps can be transmitted as 6-bit code, thus saving 25% of bandwidth; while there is a single source for most WX data there are multiple output streams, at least some of which still use Baudot encoding.]

Back to the story… Browsers convert the user’s simple “woodallrvcc.wordpress.com” to the several lines of commands necessary for the webserver (the other end of the conversation) to find the content the user desires; then the browser interprets the content received and displays it…

It’s important to remember the browser does not represent the entirety of the Internet, and also that browsers are not a one-size-fits-all — except for the moment on so-called “smart phones.”So if you’re looking for that extra edge, try another browser.

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