I installed it under the Windows emulator in Ubuntu, partly because I just didn't feel like booting my MSWindows laptop, and partly because I didn't want to find out what hilarious and possibly viral effects this fourteen-year-old installation binary of mine would produce in a non-virtual MSWindows setup. In any case, the emulation ran flawlessly.
First, I want to say that it's very very strange to be alt-tabbing and to see this:
* * *
Now, here we go, starting with a blank screen:
To take you to the browser's homepage, you can click the M logo (for Mosaic Communications Corporation, before there was that legal trouble and they had to change it to Netscape Communications Corporation). But that homepage is 404. You can hit any of those "Guided Tour" etc buttons, but they are 404. In fact, they all take you to mcom.com addresses that all redirect [Big ol' edit: No, they all work now! Because...] and emit a 404 page which, incidentally, has an HTTP header of "Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8". This early version of Netscape doesn't know how to parse ";..." constructs, so it thinks that "text/html; charset=UTF-8" is one big MIME type string, and so it says:
It says that a lot now, because apparently most servers are configured to emit that as their default HTML charset setting. Similarly, it can't even make sense of "text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1" for the Content-Type, which is ironic, because ISO-8859-1 is the only encoding that NS 0.9b can actually understand.
Moreover, NS 0.9b is like many early browsers in that it doesn't send a "Host: ..." header (lacking in HTTP 1.0, but now mandatory in HTTP 1.1), so that makes accessing most current web sites even harder. So I can't access Amazon, Google, or Wikipedia. IMDB pages actually load, if you hit Stop at strategic times. Still, the crashing; and also inexplicable DNS failures and network hangs.
Between the Host problem and the Content-Type problem, I can't even look at enough web pages such that I could make this NS 0.9b crash as much as I remember it being prone to. Or maybe it's just that Wine is more forgiving of wonky system calls than MSWindows 3.11 and/or Winsock were.
But some things work, sort of:
(Obviously it has no idea about " ", and since it has never heard of a <style> </style> element, it skipped over the tags and revealed the content.
It occurred to me to think of what web server would happily speak HTTP 1.0, requiring no "Host:", and emitting no adventurous Content-type type. Then I remembered— it was one I had written myself, podwebserver! And it basically works! Here it is, browsing The RTF Cookbook:
Despite its real problems communicating with most web servers, it renders local files just fine:
I got it to render another web page:
And there's an interface for directory browsing (here hinting at the fact that this program only understands "8.3"-filenames.)
Now, when I said that those nav buttons under the "Location" bar don't work, I lied: one works, the Newsgroups button. Hitting it the first time says that it sees no newsrc for you, so it makes one, starting out with you subscribed to these groups:
Hitting any of those brings up a whole mostly-working interface for reading newsgroup topics...
The elaborateness of the news interface contrasts with how rudimentary the mail interface is:
Pick Help : About Netscape and it brings you to "about:", which shows this page:
And if you know to key in the location "about:authors", you get:
But enough with the Sartre.
And that's it for Netscape 0.93b, from 1994.
Now it's fourteen years later, and to post this message, I'm using Firefox, basically a distant descendant of Netscape.