Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Questionable Fact: The Origin of the Mosaic Browser

The Changing Story:
In Bend, Not Break, Fu Ping did not directly describe how the idea of Mosaic browser was originated. But she gave conflicting accounts in her media interview.

In 2006, while interviewed by Kathleen Schalch on NPR, she stated that Marc Andreesen did not know the concept of browser when she introduced the idea:
SCHALCH: This may sound far-fetched, but Fu is serious. And she's come up with some pretty good ideas in the past. She once led a research team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. One of the graduate students she hired was Mark Andreesen.  
Ms. FU: And he didn't like mathematics. So he asked me what project could he work on. I said how about a browser? He said, what browser? I said, well, a browser is a graphic use interface from which people can access text, images, songs, videos, whatever, and then he said, cool.  
SCHALCH: That's how Netscape was born.
She repeated the same tale in 2010 in a speech at UNC:
I just happened to hire this student his name is Marc Andreessen. He didn't really want to work in heavy math and wanted something simpler. So I said, "how about a browser?" He said, "what browser?" So we talked about a multi-media browser.
But lately in January, 2013, she seems to be pulling back when interviewed by Leopard Lopate on WNYC:
Lopate: How did you get involved with the Mosaic browser? 
Fu: I was at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. I hired this student whose name is Marc Andreessen. We were doing supercomputing applications at the time. Marc and some other younger programmers came to me with this idea of writing a browser. I supported them to do that.
The Debunking:
Although Mosiac turned out to be revolutionary, the idea of the browser was not new even at that time. A few earlier products already exist, but not in the multi-media and fully graphic form as Marc Andreessen eventually created.

Fu Ping seems to be taking credit of planting the idea of browser in Andreessen's head in her earlier interviews but somehow acknowledged it being Andressen's own idea in 2013. We may never know the full truth here, but suffice to say that Fu Ping seems to be the only person insisting her own contribution in this historical breakthrough.

1 comment:

  1. Mosaic Web Browser – Wikipedia

    Development of Mosaic began in December 1992. Marc Andreessen announced the project on Jan 23, 1993. The first alpha release (numbered 0.1a) was published in June 1993, and the first beta release (numbered 0.6b) followed quickly thereafter in September 1993. Version 1.0 (NCSA Mosaic for X 2.0) was released on November 11, 1993. A port of Mosaic to the Commodore Amiga was available by October 1993. Ports to Windows and Macintosh had already been released in September.[11] An Acorn Archimedes port was underway in May 1994.


    Berners-Lee, Tim (ca. 1993/1994). "A Brief History of the Web". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved 16 August 2010.

    Andreessen, Marc; Bina, Eric (1994). "NCSA Mosaic: A Global Hypermedia System". Internet Research (Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Publishing Limited) 4 (1): 7–17.

    NCSA X Mosaic 0.5 released

    The History of NCSA Mosaic