In Pictures: The 10 most important milestones in Web browser history

Okay, say you have this shiny new car. It looks great, it performs like a demon, it features all the latest safety gadgets, and it's crawling with creature comforts. Just one problem, though. The local tinkerer, clearly consumed by jealousy, comes by sometime during the night to disassemble the entire thing. Sitting in the middle of a zillion bits and pieces the next morning, you quickly realize how totally useless this marvelously complicated car has become. This is the Internet without a browser. Far more than the blank slate it appears to be, a Web browser is ridiculously sophisticated and entirely capable of morphing the code-crazed reality of the Internet into the Matrix-like façade we now can't live without.

Firefox 1.0, 2004 Internet Explorer pwned the browser world through the dawn of the new millennium and beyond, yet satisfaction with the product was far from universal. Some felt Explorer was unnecessarily ponderous. Others were concerned over security issues or the way it was "forced" upon users as part of the Windows package.

It wasn't forced, of course, but when a promising open-source challenger appeared in 2004, the disillusioned had a viable place to turn. Firefox 1.0, with its roots in the remnants of Navigator and built by Netscape spin-off Mozilla Foundation, was far from perfect, but time has established it as a key turning point. Going forward, Firefox would stick and the browser biz has been a far more competitive place ever since.

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