The year was 1997. It was my final semester of college. After 16 years, I was pretty much done with school and just wanted to get the hell out. For the most part, I had a courseload of cupcake classes that Spring, so I spent a lot of my free time there goofing off. I spent much of that goofing off time in the computer lab.
At that point in my life, my knowledge of computers didn’t extend much beyond the old Apple IIe’s that were present from the time I was in grade school, through high school, and even the college’s physics lab still had them in 1994! I had taken a FORTRAN computer language class in the Fall of 1996, and the work I had to do in the computer lab for that class helped make me more familiar with these new-fangled machines that were on the frontier of the World Wide Web. Prior to 1997, I had never spent a minute of time on the internet… I had seen web addresses start to pop up everywhere in the previous years… in commercials, comic strips, in newspapers… but with no home computer, I’d never been introduced to this fascinating new “information superhighway” I’d been hearing about.
So with four months to kill and nothing to lose, I spent my free hours on campus taking a trip down the main drags and back alleys of this spiffy new World Wide Web. And back in 1997, if you were one of the lucky ones who could surf the internet in that day, you probably had today’s Flashback Friday image tickling your peripheral vision as you browsed the Web’s wares….
Long before Google Chrome, way before Firefox, and even way back before Internet Explorer gained a foothold in the web browser market, Netscape Navigator was leading the way in getting people onto the superhighway. I remember very little about the browser itself, and since I wouldn’t get my own computer until October 2002, much of Netscape’s features were long since rotted out of my brain. But the cool looking animation…. how could you forget that? The never-ending shower of shooting stars raining down around Netscape’s N logo… it was quite cutting edge for 1997!
The funny thing about that animation was how it was a good way to tell how fast your connection was running at the time. When the stars would slow down, you knew the computer was also bogged down, and the insanely long dial-up times of that day would take even insanely longer. You didn’t need a spinning hourglass or whirlpool icon to let you know you could take a bathroom break while your webpage loads….
So what happened to Netscape? Well, like with most computer technology that was not developed by Bill Gates, Microsoft happened to it. If you’re a bit more computer literate than I am, you can probably get a good read on what happened in the Wikipedia entry on Netscape, but in short, by the late 90′s, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had cut way into Netscape’s previous domination of the browser market.. and by late 1998, AOL had bought out Netscape. Netscape browsers in some shape or form were still released as late as February 2008, but are sadly extinct today…. not that they’d probably have the cool shooting star logo anyway.
Thanks for introducing me to the WWW back in the day, Netscape! While IE and Firefox have each had me for about 5 years each, neither of them provided the visually pleasing atmosphere you achieved with your state of the art GIF!