by Daniel J. Horgan

This Date in IT History August

Aug 01, 20032 mins
Enterprise Applications

1996 A month that shall live in infamy—sort of. The war of the browsers begins—Microsoft marches directly into Netscape Navigator territory with the release of Internet Explorer 3.0 on Aug. 12. To win over the browsing public, Microsoft includes free subscriptions to online services such as Hollywood Online and The Wall Street Journal. More than 32,000 users download the app within the first six hours. Netscape counterattacks one week later with Navigator 3.0, an upgrade of its existing browser that previously held a 75 percent market share. One day after that, it ambushes the Redmond juggernaut by publicly releasing a letter it sent to the Justice Department accusing Microsoft of monopolistic business tactics, including shady incentive offerings to computer manufacturers and ISPs in exchange for their use of Explorer. Microsoft denies the claims, but when it goes to court to answer to antitrust allegations in May 1998, Netscape’s letter becomes a framework for the prosecution’s game plan. The battle of the browsers rages on until March 1999, when America Online acquires Netscape, but Microsoft’s increasing dominance proves too fierce for the underdog Netscape, which slowly withers away until it is swallowed whole by AOL.

Other Notable Events

1 Nasdaq’s e-trading network goes down for 34 minutes in 1994, after a squirrel chews through power lines outside a data center in Trumbull, Conn.

2 Father of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell dies in 1922. During his funeral, all telephone traffic in the United States and Canada is silenced for one minute in Bell’s honor.

9 Netscape’s IPO opens to buyers in 1995 for $28. The price peaked at $75 per share before closing at $58.

16 Compaq agrees to post warning labels on its keyboards in 1994, following a slew of lawsuits from achy-fingered typists suffering from repetitive stress syndrome.

24 Windows 95 is released in 1995, and a Harry Potter-esque shopping frenzy ensues. It sells more than 1 million copies in four days.

30 The first computer to serve as the backbone for the Arpanet is shipped to the University of California in 1969. This is the first stake in the ground in what eventually becomes the Internet.

Sources: Canada’s Digital Collection, History Channel, New Zealand NetGuide, University of Surrey.