We built our own browser because we didn't want to depend on another company for a critical application.
We built our own browser engine because we wanted to use the technology in more things than a browser.
We built that engine small and fast because Bertrand Serlet would have shot me if I had done otherwise. :)
You have to remember that Mac OS X itself was smaller in those days. Not iOS small, but considerably smaller that it is now.
After the initial success of Mac Safari, there was a time when I was second-guessed by some for choosing KHTML and KJS as the basis for WebKit. When we decided to do the iPhone, I was suddenly a genius again. :)
That's just the way it works in the real world.
To drive home Don's point about how secret Alexander was: I was given official access to Marklar months before Alexander. Since there was no Rosetta at that time the Intel builds of OS X had no bundled web browser (and porting Chimera or Mozilla were clearly nowhere on that team's priority list at the time, for obvious reasons). I was eventually given access to Alexander largely because I was doing enough Intel related work that it was necessary to have access to a browser on my Intel machines.
I believe, in retrospect, Apple's Maps.app will be considered in the same league as Safari. It may have had a rougher start than Safari, but I think it's a great program.
And to continue the parallel, it would have probably been better for apple and everyone else if apple had just used the gecko engine for their browser.
In what way?
WebKit seems to have enjoyed some success since then... since Chrome toppled both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
It's goal was "bug-for-bug compatability with IE" so that you could run Mozilla / Netscape on websites that weren't updated / weren't ever going to be updated.
KHTML / Konqueror was effectively "strict-mode-only" not caring (as much) if sites broke, but implementing things "as sanely as possible".
Firefox was Mozilla with a sane UI on top of it.
Mozilla UI was trash because goofballs in suits kept ruining it by pushing for "site-specific-themes paid for by advertisers" which caused the "chrome" to be incredibly buggy / slow / etc.
WebKit / Safari was Apple delicately picking up KHTML, making the "hard" decisions to implement some things poorly / hackily / different / more quickly than the "purist" open source KHTML volunteer developers had envisioned.
They actually handled it overall quite well, as opposed to their other forays into open-source land (kernel / darwin, cups, etc).
WebKit is excellent now because it didn't have to start with that bridge step, and had speed / correctness / isolation as a focus from the start. So even though WebKit is the current "leader", it owes a lot to Mozilla for doing the hard grunt-work that allowed it to take cover behind the big lumbering dinosaur and come out unscathed on the other side.
Either way according to Wikipedia, Don had forked KHTML/KJS in 2001 (which pre-dated the first public release of Phoenix by a year or so), so his choices were to hack SeaMonkey into something suitable or to start from somewhere else.
You can change the world from a growing startup without having to fear for your career at every turn. You can have fun without being afraid. Imagine that!
Apple was an excellent place to work and I had a great relationship with Scott, Bertrand, Avie and Steve. Nobody was going to shoot me. AFAIK. :)