Wednesday, January 11, 2012

(empo-tymshft) From CERN to NCSA - and a major development

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications was not the first site on the World Wide Web, or even among the first ten. Depending upon how you count, the NCSA was the 26th organization to host a site on the World Wide Web. After seeing the web in action, they signed up:

In 1992, Joseph Hardin and Dave Thompson worked at the NCSA (National Center for Supercomputer Applications), a research institute at the University of Illinois. When they heard about Tim Berners-Lee's work, they downloaded the ViolaWWW browser, and then demonstrated the web to NCSA's Software Design Group by connecting to the web server at CERN over the Internet. The group was duly impressed.

However, a couple of the people were apparently not that impressed with ViolaWWW:

Two students from the group, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, began work on a browser version for X-Windows on Unix computers, first released as version 0.5 on January 23, 1993.

Marc Andreessen duly informed Tim Berners-Lee of the new browser, and Berners-Lee took to Usenet to announce the availability of NCSA's X Mosaic:

Newsgroups: alt.hypertext,comp.infosystems
Path: sparky!uunet!!!!!!!!!mcsun!dxcern!news
From: (Tim Berners-Lee)
Subject: New "XMosaic" World-Wide Web browser from NCSA
Message-ID: <>
Sender: (USENET News System)
Reply-To: (Tim Berners-Lee)
Organization: CERN European Lab for Particle Physics
Date: Fri, 29 Jan 1993 12:22:43 GMT
Lines: 106

An exciting new World-Wide Web browser has come out, written by Marc
Andreessen of NCSA. Using X/Motif, and full of good features, it
installs very easily, as the binary is completely self-sufficient.

The release note is appended to this message. The sources and
binaries are available by anonymous FTP from
as described below, and also from as files

/pub/www/src/xmosaic-0.5.tar.Z The sources

/pub/www/bin/decstation/xmosaic_0.5.Z binary (ultrix)
/pub/www/bin/sun4/xmosaic_0.5.Z binary (sun4)
/pub/www/bin/snake/xmosaic_0.5.Z binary (hp 700)
/pub/www/bin/sgi/xmosaic_0.5.Z binary (sgi)
/pub/www/bin/rs6000/xmosaic_0.5.Z binary (ibm rs6000)

- Tim Berners-Lee WWW project CERN

Begin forwarded message:

Date: Sat, 23 Jan 93 07:21:17 -0800
From: (Marc Andreessen)

By the power vested in me by nobody in particular, alpha/beta version
0.5 of NCSA's Motif-based networked information systems and World
Web browser, X Mosaic, is hereby released:


This release of X Mosaic is known to compile on the following

SGI (IRIX 4.0.2)
IBM (AIX 3.2)
Sun 4 (SunOS 4.1.2 with stock X11R4 and Motif 1.1).

Binaries for these platforms are available on in
/Web/xmosaic/binaries-0.5. More binaries will be supplied as I am
able to find other Motif-configured platforms to use (DEC MIPS
probably within the next half hour).

Although this is alpha/beta software, I'm looking more for feedback
design and functionality than bug reports right now -- down the road
the bulk of the program will be rewritten in C++ anyway, so don't
the current code too seriously. But bug reports are welcome too.
releases will probably come out about every 7-14 days until 1.0

A list of current and future capabilities of X Mosaic follows this


Marc Andreessen
Software Development Group
National Center for Supercomputing Applications

Current capabilities

Motif interface.
Multiple toplevel windows.
Save/mail/print document (plaintext or HTML).
Document source- and URL-viewing windows.
History list per window with GUI interface.
Option for new window per document (TurboGopher interface).
On-the-fly font selection.
Many common document choices accessible via menubar.
Keyword search capability.
Hotlist capability -- keep list of interesting documents,
add/remove items, list is persistent across sessions.
Smart handling of documents too big for single X window --
virtual document pages via inlined hypertext.
Interruptable at any time via SIGUSR1 signal.
No config or resource file installation required;
self-contained executable.
Hypertext help.
Integration with NCSA Collage and NCSA DTM to broadcast documents
into real-time networked workgroup collaboration sessions.
Stable! :-)

Future capabilities

Asynchronous collaboration functionality.
(annotations, references, revision control).
Hypermedia interface to scientific data.
Visual hyperweb/hierarchy layout and navigation.
3D/immersive interface.

Although not present in version 0.5, the future capability to integrate non-textual items, such as graphics and sound, led to a revolution in the young World Wide Web. Within a few short years, there would be a multitude of pages of flying angels with directly-loading bad MIDI tracks. Some of these pages, or their direct descendants, still exist today.
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