The Stagnant History of the Browser Interface: A Retrospective

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Since the 1993 introduction of Mosaic, the browser widely credited with popularizing the Web, the number of hosts on the Internet has grown from a little over one million to over 750 million. But despite that exponential growth, one part of the Web hasn't changed that much: the look and feel of the browsers we use to access it.

Over at the official Google Chrome blog today, Product Manager Brian Rakowski celebrates the browser's second birthday by reflecting on how much has changed in just two years: javascript is 10 times faster and HTML5 support is now critical. Just as striking, though, is how similar the latest version of the browser looks to the one released two years ago. And Chrome isn't alone. While there have obviously been design upgrades -- buttons now have shadows, gradients, and different colors and sizes, and toolbars have appeared and disappeared -- the basic interface remains the same, a row of buttons: new, open, back, forward, print, reload, stop, etc.

Under the hood, Mosaic is primitive by today's standards, but it's design is recognizable. Sure, it's all black, white and gray with flat buttons, but it would take absolutely no time to adjust to it. Everything is in the right place; the way we interact with browsers has barely changed.

Here's a look back at a few major browser releases, starting with Mosaic.

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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.
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