Opera Turns 15, Claims Title of World's Oldest Web Browser

By  |  Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm

Opera LogoThe folks at Opera are celebrating the fifteeth anniversary of their Web browser today. They’ve got some fun celebratory items up, including memories from cofounder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner, a secret origin in comic-strip form, some predictions for the future, and a list of fifteen reasons to use Opera.

The company’s saying that Opera is the oldest browser that’s still extant, and while that’s a defensible interpretation of history, it’s subject to debate. It’s marking its fifteenth birthday not on the anniversary of the first public release of the browser–that didn’t happen until 1996–but on the anniversary of the beginnings of coding on the first version, which was a research project at Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor. If you determined the oldest remaining browser based on general availability, Internet Explorer, which was released in 1995, would predate Opera. And IE was originally based on code from Spyglass Mosaic, the commercial version of NCSA Mosaic, the first graphical browser–but I don’t know if there’s any Mosaic code kicking around in today’s IE 8.

Firefox, meanwhile, is a descendant of Netscape Navigator (which first appeared in late 1994 and was officially discontinued in 2007). But work on Netscape began in mid-1994–after Opera development was already underway, apparently.

Meanwhile, there’s at least one dark-horse candidate for the title of Oldest Browser Still Standing: Lynx, a text-only browser which I used myself back in the early 1990s. Here’s an OS X version posted at Apple’s site a little over a year ago, and here’s source code from 2007 with a note that a new version is under development.  Lynx supports neither graphics nor JavaScript, and I suspect that most modern sites are simply unusable in it–let’s not even talk about Flash here, folks–but it’s a browser. And if it’s gone to browser heaven, it did so only recently.

Anyhow, Opera is one of a handful of popular Internet apps of the mid-1990s that’s still with us, still evolving, and still doing interesting things–especially on alternative devices such as phones and gaming consoles. Long may it wave…


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. bud Says:

    I still used to seek out Lynx and use it for sites that had actual text content I wanted quickly, without having to wait for flash ads to load, at whatever bandwidth. RSS sort of takes up the slack there, but not completely.

  2. DaveZatz Says:

    Al Gore still edits in vi, just like when he invented the Internet and Gopher.

  3. Louis E. Says:

    If all you want is to READ a website,Lynx is still the best there is.(Scroll down on that “Source code from 2007” link and you’ll find 2009 and 2008 versions).

  4. Yikes Says:

    Von Tetzchner and Ivarsoy began coding Opera back in April 1994 but the first alpha of Omniweb was announced a month earlier. Omniweb 1.0 for NEXTSTEP was released in March 1995 and is still extant today. 🙂



  5. JGurtz Says:

    Just another comment on text-only browsers here…

    Another text-only browser, “Links,” arose in 1999, offering the nice feature of supporting html tables and horizontal scrolling. Javascript heavy social networking web 2.0 sites may not work, but most others do (news, forums, etc…). Development stopped in 2004, but the ELinks fork is still being actively developed…

    I’m always amazed that on my modern DSL connection it seems like I’m once again browsing on dialup in the mid 90’s with how slowly some pages load. Browsing text-only can be a huge relief!

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