Most people might not remember that websites once had icons that said, “This site has been optimized for Internet Explorer,” but, two decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon.
Just like today’s battle between Web 2.0 monopolies and Web 3.0 communities, at the beginning of the early consumer internet, there was a similar battle waged over who would own the portal to it: A closed-source global monopoly, or an open-source nonprofit.
A battle for the soul of the internet
Long before Web 3.0, the browser wars defined the early internet. Netscape Navigator was the first consumer browser in the market and the browser of choice for the first users of the web. For many, it was synonymous with the dawn of the internet.
Slowly but surely, however, Microsoft leveraged its monopoly position in the OS space to push its closed-source alternative: Internet Explorer (IE). It was able to outcompete Netscape and become the default choice for users simply by packaging the browser with Windows.
In 1998, Netscape open-sourced its browser and helped create the Mozilla Foundation that supported a free software community made up of its contributors. By 2002, the Mozilla Firefox browser, based on open-source principles, launched under the initial codename ”Phoenix,” in reference to how it rose from the ashes.
A battle ensued for the soul of the internet. Internet Explorer was closed-source; Firefox was open-source. Internet Explorer was launched by a monopoly; Firefox was run by a foundation.
Firefox broke Microsoft’s closed-source stranglehold, paving the way for Chrome, which was built on the…