In the era of commercially motivated companies like Google and Microsoft, there began a movement by a few software developers that turned out to be a huge effort to provide internet services to the common public for free. Mozilla Firefox gradually began to cater to 30% of the internet users in just a matter of years from its genesis. The most astonishing feature about this web browser is that it is open-source software, which means it could be enhanced and modified by anyone, given that the code is clearly mentioned. But how did this non-profit effort even start and what were the reasons for its commendable success of reaching 400 million web surfers? Let’s discuss it in detail.
In the early 1990s, Marc Andreessen during his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Illinois university started working for National Center for Supercomputing Applications. It was in the same years that he was introduced to an early form of world wide web being introduced by Sir Tim Berners Lee. Impressed by the new form of technology, Marc and Eric Bina created a browser for Unix named NCSA Mosaic, which was very easy to install and efficient to use. It’s first version being released in 1993, made it a clear competitor to Microsoft’s hopes of dominating the web browser industry which they later tried to do with Internet Explorer. Mosaic, which had ports for both Windows and Macintosh, became quite popular among tech geeks.
After Marc’s graduation, he was approached by Jim Clark who was using Marc’s software and had made money by selling his hardware too. He had envisioned the limitless possibilities of the internet and therefore decided to employ Marc and Eric to start working on software. They named their company as Mosaic Communications, but the name was later changed to Netscape Communications Corporation.
Success, Struggle, and Moral Success
One of the most distinguishing features of Netscape was that it worked the same way on Windows, Mac or even Linux. It’s popularity skyrocketed with it being an open-source software in 1998. So much so that when the first time it went public, the stock started at $28 and went up to $75 after the initial sale. But this initial success didn’t last for long. In 1994, Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer that came default with its Windows. This made a little hard for Mozilla to sustain itself against the financial resources and manpower of Microsoft. Thus, towards 1997 Netscape started running into financial problems and it was in 1998 that they finally decided to make it an open-source software.
Making it open-source
The reason behind making it an open-source software was to harness the expertise of developers from all around the world and match it to the level of Internet Explorer. This was the first of its kind software to be made editable by the public after Linux OS. The project began to be shepherd by Mozilla Organization however it ran into problems when several parts of the software couldn’t be made public due to third party licensing agreements. It was finally decided to re-write the software from scratch. In 2002, Mozilla Firefox was made available for all platforms. The Mozilla Foundation was later financed by various companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems, Red hat and other interested developers who thought the browsers should act as neutral and made available free to everyone as against the monopoly of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. To this date, Firefox has its own cult following who uses it to morally support the software. This is how Firefox went through its ups and downs from being successful until IE came into the picture and then morally getting support from all around the world.
Present and Future
The first three versions of Firefox came in the years 2004, 2006, and 2008 respectively. The updates made it the state-of-the-art software to be used by 30% of all the users on the internet. However, with the advent of Google Chrome in the subsequent years made every other browser look smaller. Chrome started dominating the market since then it still continues to do it today with its unmatchable functions and efficiency to use. As it stands today, Chrome dominates with 70% of the total users and the rest of the market is distributed among Mozilla, Internet Explorer, Safari (Mac) and others with Mozilla catering to about 10% of the total digital population.
Microsoft has also surrendered by adopting Chromium, its own version of Chrome. But what Firefox has succeeded in doing is unprecedented. It has helped in getting together many developers from all around the world and working hard to make a browser available for everyone to use without any charge. But Firefox has done it in the past by competing severely against Internet Explorer and it can surely turn the tables against Chrome, after all, the future for Firefox is not all that bleak.
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