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Lesson 3Pre-browser technologies
ObjectiveImportance of pre-browser Internet technologies.

Pre-browser Technologies

Mosaic Browser's Functionality

Mosaic was a simple browser by today's standards, but powerful for its time. Mosaic had the ability to display:
  1. Hypertext providing links to other files in a nonsequential order created by the designer
  2. Electronic text in an enormous variety of fonts
  3. Text in bold and italic
  4. Layout elements such as paragraphs, bulleted lists, and quoted paragraphs
  5. It is mostly distinguishable by its support of multiple hardware platforms and the WWW HTML (hypertext markup language)
  6. Sounds and graphics GIF, JPEG)
  1. GIF: Graphical Interface Format: A format for encoding images (pictures, drawings, etc.) so that a computer can read the file and display the picture on the computer screen. The GIF format contains 256 colors. Photo-realistic graphic formats such as JPEG contain thousands of colors. The more color, the more realistic, but larger file size.
  2. JPEG: Joint photographic experts group. A compression technique used primarily in the editing of still images to be used in graphical arts and Web site development. It reduces the size of the images, allowing the images to load faster on Web sites. JPEG files are generally more photo-realistic than the GIF format, containing thousands of colors rather than GIF.

Mozilla and Firefox (Post-dotcom Browser)

The Mozilla initiative, in existence for more than seven years now, is the divine spawn of the Netscape Corporation. Several years spent in planning and restructuring have lead to some incredible products, including the Mozilla Suite, Firefox, Thunderbird, and many other smaller projects. Several of these projects are currently official releases, with Firefox being the flagship, standalone browser. The key to the Mozilla community is that it is now an official nonprofit international organization with many volunteers who help in debugging, hacking, and documenting the interface and features. The community of people who use and create for Mozilla is tremendous, and as large as it is, it still requires the assistance of all users, basic or experienced, to find and submit bugs that may come up or to submit requests for options that are currently not available. While you might hear a lot about the Mozilla organization, this book also covers the other supporting sites and individual initiatives, such as the XULPlanet, MozillaZine, MozDev, Extension Room, and Extension Mirrors sites. All of these help users and programmers support the Mozilla efforts by hosting web forums, extension homepages, and independent projects.

Pre-browser Interfaces

Here is what a Telnet screen looks like:
Telnet Interface
login: elanay
Last login: Thu Dec 2 16:18:45
from dhcp-10-10-10-14
Telnet interface was used for communication prior to the arrival of browser technologies.

Finding ourselves in Virtual Space

A network with the breadth and reach of the Internet quickly surpassed the ability of users to keep track of the location of information. With 50,000 networks, keeping track of files and IP addresses quickly became impossible. Soon computer scientists began writing software to help users find and transfer files. One of the most popular was Gopher, released in 1991 by Paul Lindner and Mark P. McCahill from the University of Minnesota. Gopher, and its descendents, allowed users to search through "Gopher space" for files to transfer via file transfer protocol (FTP). Gopher was an Internet protocol that provided menu-driven file-and-data retrieval from remote computer servers (Anklesaria, et al., 1993). Gopher sites organized files for retrieval and were set up to be searched by users. Although they were text based, these early versions of internet searching software greatly simplified the problem of finding files on the Internet

Gopher Protocol

The Gopher protocol is a TCP/IP application layer protocol designed for searching and retrieving documents over the Internet. The Gopher protocol was oriented towards a menu-document design and presented an alternative to the World Wide Web in its early stages, but ultimately HTTP became the dominant protocol and the Gopher ecosystem is often regarded as the effective predecessor of the World Wide Web.
Gopher offers some features not natively supported by the Web and imposes a much stronger hierarchy on information stored on it. Its text menu interface is well-suited to computing environments that rely heavily on remote text-oriented computer terminals, which were still common at the time of its creation in 1991, and the simplicity of its protocol facilitated a wide variety of client implementations. More recent Gopher revisions and graphical clients added support for multimedia. Gopher was preferred by many network administrators for using fewer network resources than Web services.
Gopher's hierarchical structure provided a platform for the first large-scale electronic library connections. Gopher has been described by some enthusiasts as "faster and more efficient and so much more organized" than today's Web services.

Explain Importance of pre-browser Internet technologies.

Prior to the introduction of the graphical Web browser in 1993, the Internet was accessed through text-based interfaces such as ASCII[1] green screens and the UNIX command line interface. Finding that these were unfriendly to the typical user, universities and researchers began developing more usable tools for searching the Internet.

Search Technologies

Search technologies like Gopher , Veronica , and Archie offered users on client machines a means to search and retrieve documents and files located on servers. Other advances in search tools included retrieval of documents by title, as well as file location and identification.

Question: What are some of the weaknesses in search technologies ?
Even with search technologies, searching for information was a time-consuming process. Once a search was done, users needed to download the file and then read it to see if the content was relevant to their needs. Bandwidth issues frustrated users and left researchers wanting more efficient and useful tools.

Communication/collaboration technologies

Collaboration on the Internet became widespread. Research facilities around the world were able to exchange, distribute, and categorize their research. Virtual communities began to take shape using tools like electronic bulletin boards,Email, newsgroups, and the famous AOL chat room.

Foundational Components of the World Wide Web

  1. Gopher: A document retrieval system from the University of Minnesota. Through Gopher, a user can access files from many different computers by looking through hierarchical menus to find specific topics. Gopher sites can now be accessed through the World Wide Web.
  2. Veronica: An acronym for Very Easy Rodent Oriented Netwide Index to Computerized Archives. Veronica is a search and retrieval program that works with FTP sites and software like gopher to better index and display retrieved information from a variety of FTP sites.
  3. Virtual communities: These are on-line communities where individuals gather together to share common interests, exchange ideas, etc.
  4. Archie: This is a pre-graphical interface software program that helps one find files available through ftp. Tell Archie what you want, and Archie tells you the location of the directory that contains the file.
  5. Electronic bulletin boards: These are electronic message databases that allow people to log in and leave messages. Messages are typically split into topic groups called news groups. Like email, electronic bulletin boards are asynchronous.
  6. Email: Provides the ability to send and receive messages via a network connection. Each person and institution on the network has an electronic address. As long as you know the person' s address you can send and receive files. Email is asynchronous.
  7. Newsgroup: A forum, or discussion group in which Internet users can participate through posting and responding to messages. Comparable to posting a message on a bulletin board.

[1] ASCII: American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Pronounced ask-ee, ASCII is a code for representing English characters as numbers, with each letter assigned a number from 0 to 127. For example, the ASCII code for uppercase M is 77. Most computers used to use ASCII codes to represent text, which makes it possible to transfer data from one computer to another. Nowadays, Unicode is used for representing text on the web.

Browser Networking