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home.netscape.com in 1997 (archive.org)
157 points by codetrotter 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 78 comments

If you set your http proxy to be "theoldnet.com" port 1997, and (important!) add an exclusion for web.archive.org, then you can browse the entire web from 1997.

You can also change the port number to your preferred year.

This is really fun on retro systems / web browsers.

Detailed instructions: https://theoldnet.com/docs/httpproxy/index.html

This is such a clever, fantastic use of port numbers.

You can kinda tell when an idea grows directly from a core joke, pun or other clever play.

Unfortunately it will stop working some time in the 656th century.

It's crazy that by that time IPv6 may be too small. Lazy googling suggests there are less than 50 billion devices connected to the internet today. That mean even if devices _just_ double every century IPv6 would be saturated by 130th century.

What do you think will be easier to do by then: More port numbers, or a new calendar?

Judging by the IPv6 translation: new calendar.

In the 656th century we will be behind 50 layers of NAT.

NAT Mille Crepe cake

Now that’s a fun fact! Thanks for sharing this blast from the past

Is there something like that to translate the modern web into some lo-fi HTML 3 to view on an old computer?

FrogFind will make things into about html2 and change any links on the page to go through FrogFind as well.

It is lo-fi, not trying to mimic the orginal page, unlike those that do the giant image trick.

Just paste your URL to the end of this URL to use it: http://frogfind.com/read.php?a=

EDIT: example using a random MDN page: http://frogfind.com/read.php?a=https://developer.mozilla.org...

You could use WRP, which renders web pages into giant imagemaps. https://github.com/tenox7/wrp

There's also Browservice: https://github.com/ttalvitie/browservice

That is awesome!

The animated Navigator icon with the stars always gave me a sense of actually navigating cyberspace. Same with the BBSes

These days we're just browsing glossy magazines.

That icon was called a "throbber". The name came from the original icon used back when the browser was called Mosaic NetScape (and the early Netscape Navigator days): a simple blocky purple N with a 90s pixel bevel effect on it. When animated the bevel would alternate between "sticking out" and "going in" to the plane of the screen, causing the N to appear to "throb". The name stuck, and all browser icons that animated to indicate network activity came to be called "throbbers".

I liked throbbers because they signalled "ok, I'm going to the network to fetch what you asked for" as opposed to the hourglass cursor which indicated ordinary computer activity. It was Windows 98 that ruined the experience and thrill of "going to the network", because Microsoft decided that the web and the local desktop should merge into a single, seamless experience. They seemed not to understand that the network was fundamentally different, and in many ways more dangerous, than the local PC because it is almost always, as we say today, someone else's computer; and that the end user should be made aware of and encouraged to respect that difference.

I think the nostalgia for the feeling of navigating cyberspace is part of what inspires art movements like vaporwave, with its incorporation of 90s GUI elements in its aesthetic. In the 90s, there was always this ambient feeling of "this boxy beige Macintosh isn't a sleek Ono-Sendai cyberdeck, but it's an acceptable interim substitute until you get a cyberdeck which could be any day now". We were sort of roleplaying at being a part of sort of a beta version of Gibson's tragically hip cyberfuture, not realizing that we were ultimately being sold the shitty parts of that future without any of the cool parts. It's kind of like the joke about Bill Gates in hell: the cool stuff was just the demo.

I couldn't have put it better myself. I always felt like the netscape throbbers[0] really captured the mysteriousness and wonder of what it felt like to navigate the early web.

jwz's favorite throbber (also my favorite) captured this feeling particularly well since it is literally an animated compass[1].

I actually got really into the history of browser throbbers back when I was in college — I ended up archiving all I could find from the mozilla ftp and internet archive[2].

[0]: https://www.jwz.org/doc/about-jwz.html

[1]: https://www.jwz.org/compass2.gif / https://www.jwz.org/doc/about-compass-anim.gif

[2]: http://cs.gettysburg.edu/~duncjo01/archive/browsers/throbber...

While I used to maintain an SeaMonkey (Mozilla Suite) xpfe complete theme with a properly animated throbber, I actually still use the jwz throbber through my unfinished xpfe userChrome.css in Firefox to this day.

Sadly, there are no css dynamic css classes above the #PanelUI-menu-button element in chrome://browser/content/browser.xhtml, so it's not possible to properly animate it without javascript; for now, it animates when you hover over it.


FYI you should open these links in a new/private/incognito browser session, because jwz hates this Orange Hell.

> It was Windows 98 that ruined the experience and thrill of "going to the network", because Microsoft decided that the web and the local desktop should merge into a single, seamless experience.

One weird side effect of this was that Internet Explorer and Explorer itself were integrated. At a time, you could set your desktop wallpaper to an HTML page. There were even "HTML apps" introduced around the same time* which I believe is still being somewhat continued today for Windows 10 widget development

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML_Application

Honestly I sort of miss the late-90s web/desktop integration features of Windows. There were so many different ways to hack on it. You could make an Explorer folder be a web page, of course, but it went way beyond that because there was so much magic and so little safety. You could program the browser in any language installed in your Windows Scripting Host, including VB and JS but also Perl and TCL and whatever else you wanted to use. You could invoke any Windows facility using its magic {UUID}, so you could embed the Control Panel in a web page. It was all fully integrated with the Windows database features, so depending on what databases you had installed you could achieve a lot. Access was common, if you had Office Professional, but anything you could describe to ODBC would work.

Yes, local directory windows and such were rendered with the IE engine in Windows 98 as I recall. Files and directories became "hyperlinks" and Microsoft made a big stink about how they could be navigated with one click instead of a double click, "just like the web". "Push" was the fad; instead of visiting Web sites, in Soviet Russia websites would come to you. That motivated Active Desktop.

I thought it was stupid and potentially dangerous because it misled users to treat the web and local resources equally, and put the same amount of trust in each. Of course nowadays, not treating local resources with the same amount of distrust we give the web is a major security fail, and that's why we must notarize and sandbox everything.

That was Active Desktop

Related nostalgia: websites that didn’t specify a bgcolor, so they got defaulted to gray. And the tables with the default embossed look.

Grey on Netscape, IE's default background was white.

also : text in black not the today's crap look.

I will never understand why people think grey text on a white background is a good idea.

Related tragedy: font-weight: 300 used on webpages. In combination with low contrast (the most absurd thing I have seen was #999 on white) it's completely unreadable. I have actually written a bookmarklet to fix it: https://paste.debian.net/1207934/

I also have (partially outdated) custom stylesheet that fixes that for websites I {used to,} visit often: https://jenda.hrach.eu/w/blackweb

the following explains the 'why':


no idea to what extent, if at all, it is true. I can imagine there being a grain of truth in there but that implementing this correctly is much more difficult and nuanced than it might seem at first glance - most "digital designers"[1] probably don't get the budget/freedom to properly tackle accessibility in their commercial projects, I can also imagine that the majority of digital designers are 'young' and have close to 20/20 vision making it that much harder for them to truly put themselves in the shoes (eyes?) of people with lesser than perfect vision[2].

as someone with only a laymans' understanding of all this stuff I'm probably guilty of talking out of my **; I welcome someone with real graphic design credentials putting me straight :D

[1] "digital designer", a person working in/with visual design, who started employment, or was born, after the release of the first iPhone ;-) (alternatively someone working in the design industry who never had the privilege of buying a copy of "The Face" for the simple fact they we not born in 1985)

[2] a category I begrudgingly have to admit to being part of more and more ;-/

What about not setting color of text (especially when it's dark text on light backgroud - the "default") at all and leave it to the user? There is a setting in web browser exactly for this: https://user-media-prod-cdn.itsre-sumo.mozilla.net/uploads/i...

Ugh, that #444 in the article is horrific to try to read.

I use the Firescape Navigator[0] add-on that adds the Netscape throbber to my Firefox toolbar. It reminds me of when I was still using Netscape daily and had just started switching to Firefox.

[0] https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/firescape_nav...

Was thinking the same thing! Miss those feels.

Netscape Communicator 4.76 running on a QEMU emulation of the SPARCstation 20 and Solaris 8. It took a while to find a site that would render.


I wish somebody would update the old Netscape to add XMLHttpRequest support. We could write a gateway to translate the web relevant today to be usable on old computers.

That good old CDE-look is making me feel seriously nostalgic :)

CDE runs fine on modern Linuxes.

In fact, they just had a release:)

Didn’t know that. Next step is to get it supported by a couple major distros.

Is it just me, but my mind immediately relaxed and I started to have good feeling vibe after seeing the Netscape logo and all this simple blue background and text... I guess I just came back to my childhood and the simple sense of wonder and exploration. Nowdays the internet is mostly stress inducing FOMO feeling of another tech article, new languages/framework, bad news everywhere...

I felt exactly the same thing. It was like a harkening back to a simpler time.

Same bro

One of the working links on that page refers to Netscape Visual JavaScript.

That sounds interesting ..

Netscape Visual JavaScript helps make it practical and easy to develop sophisticated crossware applications through drag-and-drop components and simple visual programming. You can easily incorporate sophisticated functionality and database connectivity into web pages without writing code. Netscape Visual JavaScript enables you to deliver finished applications to users quickly and easily.


Amazon still have copies available of both the Official Netscape Visual JavaScript Developers Guide[1] and Netscape Visual JavaScript For Dummies[2] books.

[1] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Official-Netscape-Visual-JavaScript...

[2] https://www.amazon.co.uk/Netscape-Visual-JavaScript-Dummies-...

Yeah, I saw that when I was reading some of the columns from Marc Andreessen [0]. I can't find any details on Visual JavaScript; does anyone have an old screenshot or video of the product experience?

[0] https://web.archive.org/web/19970613210940/http://home.netsc...

Cool, so almost an early version of Firebug / Developer Tools.

"now reaching more than 2 million seats"

Isn't that amazing? One of the most widely used telecommunication programs in the world at the time, every continent, claiming some two million users. That number does not raise much of an eyebrow now, but it blew my mind. I first used the Internet in 1996-7 at the local public college. Netscape Navigator, on the Power Macintosh. I was only in middle school, but already interested in computers.

One could stream video even then if you had the bandwidth. From NASA, from people with webcams pointing at their office parking lots. I was blown away. A multimedia world of millions of people. And mostly academics and some fellow geeks, back then. Being able to stream a video of repairs in orbit, from a computer in another country, on a machine I was already starting to learn to program myself, is a vivid memory. That experience changed me, and I got hooked online, for better and for worse.

Clicking the "What's your DOMAIN NAME?" ad returns a MIPS binary? From 'string' output it seems like the the cgi-bin binary handling the redirect and writing a log file to /d/adserv/netgravity/logs/AdServer_log. I wonder how that got indexed.

Interesting that they would have used old-school CGI in 1997. Netscape invented NSAPI, which was basically FastCGI before that existed. It had been around 2-3 years prior to 1997.

Edit: There's an online disassembler here that can grok the downloaded file: https://onlinedisassembler.com/

I'd say at some point the cgi-bin/ handling got disabled on the server, so it just started serving the binaries.

And it was running on a big SGI Challenge server, too :)

That "N" used to astound me when it animated :)

I have strong memories of swapping that out for an animated "smoking camel", as well as the Guiness fish on a bicycle (If we're talking the animated "N" in the top right of communicator..).

Life was great when we could mod everything!

I worked at a large corporate bank during the late 90s, and they[1] rolled out a branded version of Netscape with the animated 'N' logo swapped out for rotating 'Golden Keys' which was their logo[2]. I've still got the image files for it somewhere.


[1] I say 'they' I mean 'me' - I did application packaging at the time.

[2] Upvotes for those who guess the bank! :D

> Upvotes for those who guess the bank! :D

Does it still count as a guess if I clicked on your username, visited the website you listed on your profile and read the CV that you have on said website? :p

I think you deserve an up-vote just for doing all that!

Thanks :)

My pub quiz trivia knowledge thinks UBS have crossed keys, although a search shows the current logo is black, not golden.

Ah.. from July 9. I was hired there on July 1. Good times!

I clicked on that little ABC News scroller and went down a rabbit hole of news stories from a Tuesday July 8th, 1997.

Topics include:

  -mars rover
  -global warming
  -The P.R.I. losing their elections in Mexico
  -clashes in Northern Ireland
  -Congressional hearing into Chinese political influences
  -Feds puzzled by low inflation (https://web.archive.org/web/19970709022322/http://www.abcnews.com/sections/business/ap_fed704/index.html)
Last one is way too ironic.

Simple. Focused. 5 key points, that's it, a button to click for more news. No scrolling required to read the main content on the frontpage. I like it.

And it works perfectly on mobile.

I remember being mad when they went to 'Communicator'. Like: no! I want to use a web browser, not a pile of other garbage bolted on, and I already have an email program, and what the hell is this?

I liked Composer though. It wrote readable, reasonably compliant (for the time) HTML. It was an invaluable learning tool for me, writing WYSIWYG in one window and seeing the source in another...

Whenever I hear of Netscape around this time frame I think of this 21 year old blog post by Joel Spolsky (among other things, founder of Trello).

I still use it as a reference anytime someone recommends making the same fatal software product mistake that Netscape did.


going back further, here's the original mosaic homepage from the ncsa snapshotted in 1996 (this look and homepage was in place since the the early 90s): https://web.archive.org/web/19961220005222/http://www.ncsa.u...

and here's the netscape homepage but with the old netscape "mosaic communications" domain: https://web.archive.org/web/19980109011204/http://home.mcom....

JWZ (and friends?) resurrected the home.mcom.com from 1994, so you don't even need the archive.org URL to load that version.

PSA: copy and paste the link URL (or otherwise make sure you won't send the referrer containing news.ycombinator.com), otherwise it redirects you to a nsfw page.

In 1996 I got online for the first time with dial up, it creeped my mother out "why do people talk to each other over the computer why can't they use the phone?" lol

I think it creeped my parents out when I, at 14, had the sysop from one of the local BBSs come to my house to pick up cash for access.

Heh. "Son, explain to me why you need to drive you over to this older man's house with a boxful of floppies?" "It's for school, Dad!"

I love that the rotated headlines from ABC News were in gif format. I did a double take when I saw the headline about landing a rover on Mars.

Ahhh the feels, Netscape was my first browser.

an elegant weapon for a more civilized age

reminder to resize your browser to something like 640x480 when looking at older sites for real nostalgia

Sure does load fast…

I wonder if Jim Clark chose that boat for the logo.

Oh wow, I found the full documentation for the ill-conceived and ill-fated IFC -- Internet Foundation Classes.


Check out that jaggy squinched text in those diagrams! Somebody resized a GIF file smaller to save some bandwidth, and so it would fit on a 640x480 screen. 1997 web design at its finest!

Pro Tip: Never name a user interface toolkit after "MFC" with "M" crossed out and "I" written in -- that doesn't make it sound very appetizing, and wrongly sets expectations that you can actually write a viable application with it, given enough pain and suffering. Just as you should never name a component system after "COM" with "XP/" written before it, for the same reason.


And while you're at it, you should never name a company after "Microsoft" with "Micro" crossed out and "Sun" written in, because it makes it look like you define your company in terms of your biggest competitor instead of having your own identity and mission, which is what losers and foaming-at-the-mouth libertarian Trump supporters like Scott McNealy do.


Marimba was much better at naming things, thanks to Kim Polese, who came up with the name "Java" when she was at Sun, then left Sun with several of the finest Java engineers to form the drum-themed Java start-up company, "Marimba". Their product "Castanet" literally cast a net to deliver interactive content over the internet, and their Java-powered HyperCard-like user interface builder "Bongo" actually let you interactively edit Java scripts to handle events, by calling the Java compiler at runtime (which was unheard-of at the time, but normal for IDEs to do now).


I wrote a comparison of Bongo and IFC about a year before that Netscape page was captured in 1997.


>Wow, a blast from the past! 1996, what a year that was.

>Sun was freaking out about Microsoft, and announced Java Beans as their vaporware "alternative" to ActiveX. JavaScript had just come onto the scene, then Netscape announced they were going to reimplement Navigator in Java, so they dove into the deep end and came up with IFC, which designed by NeXTStep programmers. A bunch of the original Java team left Sun and formed Marima, and developed the Castanet network push distribution system, and the Bongo user interface editor (like HyperCard for Java, calling the Java compiler incrementally to support dynamic script editing).


>While I was working at Interval Research Corporation in 1996, after playing around with and reading over the source code and documentation, I wrote up a deep comparison and analysis of Internet Foundation Classes (IFC) versus Marimba Bongo (which was written by Arthur van Hoff, who worked on Java, wrote AWT, and before Java wrote another user interface system for NeWS similar to Bongo and HyperCard in PostScript, called HyperLook), and other related user interface component technologies.


>This is a comparison of two component frameworks for Java, IFC and Bongo.

>IFC (Internet Foundation Classes) is from NetScape, and is similar NeXTStep, which was written in Objective C. It was written by some former NeXT developers, whose company NetScape bought because they needed a Java toolkit.

>Bongo is from Marimba, and is similar to HyperLook, which was written in NeWS object oriented PostScript. Marimba was founded by some of the original Sun Java developers, who left Sun to form their own company.

>[That also compares IFC with Microsoft's ActiveX/OLE/COM/MIDL stuff, and gets into some Java/JavaBeans/J++/CORBA/OpenDoc politics, and includes some comments by Arthur about IFC, AWT, Bongo, JDK 1.1, etc.]


>Date: Mon, 06 Jan 1997 13:27:40 -0800 To: hopkins@interval.com (Don Hopkins) From: Arthur van Hoff <avh@marimba.com>

>Hi Don,

>Although I am pretty biased I would like to make one or two comments.

>We decided to build a very AWT friendly GUI toolkit. What this means is that there are as few gratuitous differences as possible. We did this for two reasons. One is that we don't want our developers to relearn what they know about the AWT, and secondly we are anticipating the integration of JDK 1.1 functionality sooner rather than later.

>The IFC has made a huge mistake in reinventing classes like the Event, Graphics, and Color classes. This makes it extremely hard to integrate IFC components into existing AWT applications (and visa versa). We think this is a great advantage of Bongo.

>We also focussed on mimicking the PC look&feel whenever possible. We've had very positive feedback on this feature. It seems to be what people want. If you want you can still create your own look and feel, but at least the default is familiar to most users.

>I strongly believe that JavaBeans is the right way to go. It is big, and it is not a framework for building widgets, but at a slightly coarser granularity it solves the problem of integrating components from other vendors very effectively.

>Over the next few months we are going to put effort into the following areas:

>JDK 1.1 integration

>JavaBeans support

>Extend the widget set with new business oriented widgets

>Extend the builder with better layout functionality

>Make the builder more content oriented

>Add better support for time based media

>Add some paint/draw functionality to the builder

>Further improve our support for PC-look alike widgets

>Have fun,

>Arthur van Hoff


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