March 31, 2008 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Mosaic Communications Corporation! It was 1994, and the World Wide Web as we know it today was about to be born.

Mosaic Communications didn't invent the web and didn't even invent the graphical browser. The Netscape browser and Netscape server were instrumental in commercializing the internet. mcom.com was one of the standard starting points for anybody on the Web, and this little slice of history can help the young'uns understand what the Web used to be like.

Reconstructed from archived files for your benefit by one jwz, a task epic in the telling.
posted by ardgedee (31 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Tangentially relevant, 31 March 2008 is the 10 year anniversary of the start of the Mozilla project. Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mitchell Baker, talks about this anniversary event here: Mitchell's Blog - Mozilla Turns 10 Today
posted by gen at 3:43 PM on March 31, 2008

Wow, I feel like I have a 386 again!
posted by not_on_display at 4:04 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

You had a 386 in 1994? You poor sap.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:28 PM on March 31, 2008

This guy is my cousin!

I'm sure you're all fascinated.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:30 PM on March 31, 2008

It was all so simple and boring back then wasn't it? No dancing aliens trying to sell mortgage refinancing or spastic windows claiming I've won an iPod. Sometimes, I wish I could go back ... *cry*
posted by parilous at 4:35 PM on March 31, 2008 [3 favorites]

Netscape Navigator 3.x has to be one of my favorite pieces of software ever. Everything since has been bloatware.
posted by boubelium at 4:53 PM on March 31, 2008

In the 'epic in the telling' link commenters are now linking to videos circa 1993-94 about our fabulous internet future. Go look.
posted by ardgedee at 5:02 PM on March 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

The worlds first web page URL: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.htm is sadly "Not Found".
By November 1992, there were 26 servers in the world, and by October 1993 the figure had increased to over 200 known web servers.[1]
I had the lucky privileged of setting up and running one of the "200 servers" in 1993. The server software (the name of which escapes me) was not freely available, had to register and apply with CERN to get a FTP password. At the time the only widely available client was a unix text-based program that was pretty much useless - Gopher was the obvious future. Of course Marc Andreessen changed everything overnight. I remember talking to him via email when it first came out (this was when anyone could email anyone on the net and get a reply - just the fact of having an Internet email made you an interesting person) - I honestly don't remember what we talked about other than I was blown away by his excitement that it would change the world.
posted by stbalbach at 5:10 PM on March 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

When I put my novel online I made sure it was compatible with Netscape 2.0. It still is. There is a clunky paragraph kludge but it was the recommended solution in the day and it still works.
posted by localroger at 5:17 PM on March 31, 2008

3.x has to be one of my favorite pieces of software ever
Speaking as someone who has to use a not-too-distant relative of that every day ... ugh. It's like going back and playing 8-bit games again. The memories are lovely, but ...
posted by bonaldi at 5:24 PM on March 31, 2008

I fondly remember checking comp.sys.www.announce in my summer job in 1993 or 1994 to see what new websites had been posted that day. It's kind of like how I now check metafilter every morning, except back then just having a website was enough to make you 'best of the web'.
posted by pombe at 5:24 PM on March 31, 2008

When I started working at ionet.net in 1995, it was pre-Windows 95, and we were still sending out floppy disks with a TCP/IP stack and Netscape. Windows 95 was so amazing because EVERYTHING WAS BUILT IN! I got to where I could walk someone through setting up Dial-Up Networking with my eyes closed.

I need to setup a 1994-era system in VMWare, complete with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and Winsock...
posted by mrbill at 5:29 PM on March 31, 2008

This is taking a long time to load for me.

*presses turbo button*
posted by dersins at 5:29 PM on March 31, 2008

It was all so simple and boring back then wasn't it?

I clearly remember the first time I saw a company advertising their website's URL: it was a guitar string manufacturer in the back of one of those "hair metal will never die!" guitar magazines (I stopped reading them around the time they printed a letter from some Camaro-driver saying, unironically, "THE ONLY SEATTLE BAND I CARE ABOUT IS QUEENSRYCHE!") in late 1994. The web wasn't even the big thing on the Internet then, at that time it was all about IRC and USENET via shell accounts. If you had told me then how commercialized the web would become and that strip clubs would print their URL on the back of taxicabs instead of their phone number, I'd have never believed you. I'm not even sure Sun or IBM had websites then.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:42 PM on March 31, 2008

The worlds first web page URL: http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.htm is sadly "Not Found".

Copy here
More history
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:46 PM on March 31, 2008

A standard ice-breaker when I meet people older than 27ish is "Do you remember the first thing you ever looked at on the Internet?" If you ask the right people it can become a hilarious and occasionally touching anecdote about the people we used to be 15 years ago. (Mine, for example, is exquisitely dated: Liz Phair lyrics, followed by information about Pete 'n' Pete.)

When I say "the right people" I really mean "not nerds." Yes, I know, the Internet pre-dates the world wide web, and you were on a BBS when you were a toddler...look, just forget I asked.
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:17 PM on March 31, 2008

Best of the Web 1994:
"There were 5100 total votes; most of the winners averaged around 100 votes."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:25 PM on March 31, 2008

"Do you remember the first thing you ever looked at on the Internet?"

I can't remember the very first thing, but I remember writing Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks frontman) an email in early '95 telling him how I idolized him and his music, etc. and if this wasn't actually Pete himself I'd "feel like a fool", and he wrote back saying "You're not the fool: this time." It was totally awesome. I wrote Bob Mould a similar email to the address printed in the liner notes of Sugar's File Under: Easy Listening, but he never wrote back.
posted by DecemberBoy at 7:43 PM on March 31, 2008

I think the very first thing was the bbc homepage, because it was the only address I could remember, and then a Breeders fanpage.
posted by bonaldi at 7:47 PM on March 31, 2008

This post made me curious. The 100 oldest registered .com domains. The only one I found interesting was John Gilmore's Toad Hall (if for no other reason than it has footage of Frank Zappa in Prague in 1991).
posted by tellurian at 8:00 PM on March 31, 2008

Ah, those were the days. I was working in the Physics dept at UIUC then - and had installed the CERN web server on one of our machines (most likely one of our VAXstations). I'm not sure if it was in '92 or '93. But mostly we were interested in browsing the CERNlib documentation. Hypertext was a godsend for trying to find the right math function call, and make sure that you had the latest documentation for it.

At the time, images seem superfluous and a waste of precious bandwidth. Not to mention that most of the images done by the engineers were pretty awful.

I miss the days when pages were tagged with meta-info and the browser got to choose how it was displayed. (Hey you kids, get offa my lawn web!)
posted by nightwood at 8:09 PM on March 31, 2008

Thanks tellurian- and it looks like the oldest registered .com domain has never updated its website.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:06 PM on March 31, 2008

"Do you remember the first thing you ever looked at on the Internet?"

posted by The Card Cheat at 9:22 PM on March 31, 2008

I first "connected" via a friend's university unix account, via lynx; I quickly bought an io.com account because my friend was on there. Didn't know I was surfing the web for a couple of hours until I was like, "hey, this isn't all on their computers, is it? ... what's this http:// stuff... oh, hey, where the hell am I, then? back, back, back... aha, here's io.com. Hey, that was cool! I wonder what else people have left up on their computers?" I didn't even know what a link was, but I was already tabbing away.

It was neat.
posted by not_on_display at 9:27 PM on March 31, 2008

I went to goodwill a couple hours ago. I am now the proud owner of a still-shrinkwrapped 10-license box set of Netscape Navigator 3.0 for Windows, Mac, and UNIX systems.

The first thing I remember looking at once I got web access was this nuclear missile silo tour. I don't think the page has changed much in the past thirteen years.
posted by mrbill at 9:29 PM on March 31, 2008

"Do you remember the first thing you ever looked at on the Internet?"


I read about it in a magazine article about The Internet - I believe I discovered the Church of the Subgenius through that site, actually. It died not many years after and the domain has, now, gone to a link farm as usual. But it was fun while it lasted.
posted by Jimbob at 10:31 PM on March 31, 2008

Do you remember the first thing you ever looked at on the Internet?

Cello. I'm pretty sure I used gopher to find it and ftp to get the software. Hey, I had to build the TCP/IP stack (winsock) by hand, too!

It did take me a while to catch on that the "annotate" feature did not work the way Third Voice did (much later). I must have left dozens of notes for other surfers and checked back on them several times for replies ... all on my own hard disk, of course.

I also remember the first site war, between a guy who had collected as many different kinds of TCP/IP drivers and other utilities as he could find, but had very slow updates, and a guy who had a bigger and more recent selection. The very idea that there might be two (two!) people doing the same thing on the internet seemed shocking (to that first guy).
posted by dhartung at 12:41 AM on April 1, 2008

Being an obsessive organizer of data, I used to maintain a list of books I'd read. I wasn't a voracious reader or anything, but I would get through 1 or 2 a month. The list pretty much stops in 1993, when I came across the internet.

Recently I've been trying to restart that book habit ...

In 1993 I remember having a 286 laptop (with supertwist LCD screen!) and a dialup account (Holonet, I believe). One month I racked up hundreds of dollars in phone charges when the nearest dialup access number was a few counties away (intra-state phone charges were and still are a bitch).

Lynx was/is awesome.
posted by intermod at 4:37 AM on April 1, 2008

First website: Webcrawler, via Lynx.

Weird web synchronicity: Back in 2000 I'd use Newt's cape to download the New York Times Mobile (now sadly gone) page to my Newton before I left for my college classes so I could read it in the back of the gigantic classroom where my American History 106 class met. I went there last week with a friend and her new iPhone and we duplicated the feat wirelessly. My past and present geek self were sufficiently stoked.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:59 AM on April 1, 2008

The source brings back fond memories. I wouldn't be caught dead with a CENTER, B, FONT, or HR tag today. It's really charming 100% HTML code. Adorable, even.

First web site: Some guy's Twin Peaks tribute.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 2:25 PM on April 1, 2008

I had a 386 in 1995. It was too slow to run Win95. I finally decided that it would be easier to learn to use Slackware linux than to keep fighting with a TCP/IP stack on Windows.
posted by Quonab at 3:06 PM on April 1, 2008

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