Chapter 11. Browsers

The idea of a hypertext browser is not new. Many word processing packages, such as FrameMaker, and formats, such as PDF, generate or incorporate hyperlinks. The idea of basing a hypertext browser on common standards, such as ASCII text and Unix sockets, was an advance first made by the Gopher client and server from the University of Minnesota.

Gopher proved to be extremely light and quick, but the links were presented in a menu separate from the text, and Gopher did not have the ability to automatically load images. The first drawback was solved by the invention of HTML, and the second was solved in the first graphical HTML browser, Mosaic, produced in 1993 at the University of Illinois National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Many of the original students who developed Mosaic were among the founders of Netscape the following year.

An effort by the University of Illinois to commercialize Mosaic led to the founding of Spyglass, which licensed its code to Microsoft for the creation of Internet Explorer. Netscape and IE have been at the forefront of browser advances in the last few years, but the core function of the browser, to retrieve and display hypertext and images, has remained the same.

How Browsers Work

The basic function of a browser is extremely simple. Any programmer with a good knowledge of Perl or Java can write a minimal but functional text-only browser in one day. The browser makes a TCP socket connection to a web server, ...

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