How Did The Browser Wars Of The 90s Lead To Better Security Today?

This is an article about the security of browsers and not the browser wars themselves.

The browser wars start sometime in the 90’s and it was something people at the time took very seriously.

Netscape and Microsoft were fighting for the title of the main browser to the internet and this battle led to a serious lawsuit and even the Justice Department stepping in.

Now we have the big three that we use but the problem is not one of market share anymore.

The problem is that when it comes to the web, security matters more than ever.

In the past, there were threats out there but the browser was not expected to stop it.

Now there are several types of threats that are executed in the browser itself.

When people look at a browser to use they wonder which one is the safest one.

They know that the browser has to be the first line of defense for any attack that might be out there.

So let’s take a look at the history of the security of some of these browsers and how it matters to the end user.

the tribulations of the 90s actually led to more secure web browsers

the tribulations of the 90s actually led to more secure web browsers

When Did Security Start To Matter When It Came To The Browser?

Security started to matter when it came to the browser around the time of  the antitrust battle between Microsoft and the government.

Netscape was dead and Internet Explorer 6 was the biggest browser on the market at the time.

Internet Explorer had an unheard of 98% market penetration even though they had just battled the government over monopolistic practices.

Since they had such a big lead over the competition it seemed to me that they decided that they were not going to try and improve the browser anymore.

They made a big announcement that the Internet Explorer 6 would be the last in the series for a long time.

Meanwhile, at the same time that they were announcing this, there was a new crop of malware starting to form that took advantage of the browser and in Internet Explorer this was a big deal because their browser was so tightly coupled with the operating system itself.

Black hat hackers had found out that they could exploit the whole operating system through the use of the browser.

Microsoft had given them the golden ticket and they didn’t even know it.

While this was going on the Mozilla Corporation had opened sourced what had previously been the Netscape browser.

They figured that they had lost the war to Microsoft already and that open sourcing the code was no big deal.

In fact, this decision helped changed the world of browser security forever.

Programmers who were tired of the flaws that came with Internet Explorer 6 took up the cause and started to develop the browser for prime time usage.

They made some changes and all of the sudden; Firefox has now been released onto the landscape.

This was a more secure browser, first because it was new and ran a different rendering engine than Internet Explorer, and also they had brought something to the table that Internet Explorer did not – they brought plugins to the table.

This allowed third party users to modify the browser to how they saw fit.

A lot of these third party users created security plugins for the browsers.

There was a whole new crop of JavaScript based exploits being released to the public and the plugins for the browser was able to stop them.

Now people in the know when it comes to using the computer would switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox because of all the new features and the fact that it was safer.

Now that Microsoft started to see that it was getting a bad rep when it came to the security of its system they started to innovate with their browser once again.

No company wants to be thought of as the unsafe choice so Microsoft really started to take their time and make sure that their product would close a lot of the bugs.

Also, thanks to the ruling by the Justice Department and also realizing how unsafe it really was, they started to decouple the operating system and the browser.

No longer were the two so intertwined.

Now, with their latest offering, Internet Explorer 9, people are starting to say that it is just as safe as the other alternatives, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.

Microsoft has come a long way from how they used to be.

Instead of this being a market that is dominated by one browser, we now see that there are several alternatives out there.

And when browser makers created these products, the first thing that is on their mind is the security of these products.

Hopefully this will be able to keep us all more secure on the internet.

About Lee Munson

Lee's non-technical background allows him to write about internet security in a clear way that is understandable to both IT professionals and people just like you who need simple answers to your security questions.


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  2. […] come with the open source tag these days. One of the biggest projects is the one that is known as Firefox. It is a web browser that allows you to browse the internet. Another piece of software that is open […]

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