Come back with me to the turn of the century, circa 1996. Your humble narrator was working for campus police at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, creating FileMaker databases for their police reports. It wasn’t uncommon then to see DOS machines sitting beside Windows 95 machines and the web was a primitive and strange thing. There were only two browsers of note, Netscape and Internet Explorer, and firing either up was neither particularly comfortable or interesting. But, hidden deep behind Netscape’s bland carapace, was Mozilla. When you typed “about:mozilla” in the Netscape address bar, for example, you got:
And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days.
from The Book of Mozilla, 12:10
Pretty badass stuff, especially when most websites were dedicated to kittens and burgeoning corporate identity. I was hooked instantly. This was the browser for me and it slowly became the browser for everyone with self-respect and a brain.
Fast forward to 2004: Mozilla and Netscape were on the rocks and it looked like the browser wars had been won. IE was the victor. In order to combat bloat and “feature creep,” however, a ragtag team of coders led by Dave Hyatt and Blake Ross built something they called “Phoenix,” then “Firebird,” then, on November 9, 2004, Firefox 1.0 was born. This turned into the Mozilla suite – Firefox and Thunderbird – were born.
On this, the fifth anniversary of that momentous occasion, let’s all tip out a little Jolt for Netscape and toast to the future of Firefox, the best browser in the world. Best of all, the book of Mozilla is still being written and any time you type ‘about:mozilla’ into Firefox you get a red screen and a potent reminder of the early days of the Internet.
Happy birthday, Firefox.